This article will briefly discuss the thermal recycling of plastic solid waste (PSW) as an environmentally sustainable method for the disposal of PSW, including the advantages and disadvantages that it presents.
Due to the increase in global population, the consumer demand for plastic products has steadily increased over the last forty years due to their versatility and relatively low cost (Panda, 2010). This consumer demand inevitably caused increased production, consumption and waste generation rates of PSW over the last few decades (Al-Salem, 2009). The various sources of PSW include domestic items such as food containers, packaging foam, disposable cups, plates, cutlery, compact disc boxes, electronic equipment cases, drainage pipe, carbonated drinks bottles, plumbing pipes and guttering, flooring and cushioning foams (Panda, 2010). Such plastic items now form a significant component in a diversity of waste streams (Keane, 2007).
The adverse environmental impacts of PSW, including production energy costs, stricter regulations, limited lifespan, increasing landfill content and inability to biodegrade, present an important challenge in the pursuit of sustainable consumption as a precursor to achieving sustainable development (Ritch, 2009). In fact, governments, such as the one in Kenya, have collaborated very closely with the United Nations Environment Programme in respect of the serious environmental problem that PSW presents (Njeru & Njeru, 2006) that is clearly not addressed by recourse to landfilling (Keane, 2007). Indeed, the suitable treatment of PSW is one of the key questions of the sustainable waste management (Panda, 2010).