Combating the menace of plastic waste pollution has become a global environmental challenge. Plastic pollution is capable of affecting land, waterways and oceans as a large percentage of marine and land creatures have died due to the fact that plastic is non-biodegradable and it causes hazards to soil. It also emits toxic gasses when exposed or heated up. It blocks drainage lines and fill up land space causing floods and erosion thereby causing deterioration of the Nigerian roads. Plastics wastes are also harmful to human health; they may contain harmful acids which may lead to death. Nigeria, which is the biggest oil exporting country in Africa, relies mainly on the proceeds of the oil trade for its GDP and based strategy in growing her economy. However, with the declination of oil prices and increase in plastic wastes, the world is tending towards energy and sustainable development. Therefore, an urgent need for recycling plastic wastes into a solution for wealth creation is fundamental in Nigeria. This paper therefore seeks to identify favorable methods for recycling plastic wastes in Nigeria as a tool for solution to diversification and implementation. Evidence based examples are illustrated in the article with viable solution recommended for implementation.There exist a large number of polymers around us that are taken for granted and are so familiar of which some are generated from human activities. Natural polymers include products of glucose which are cellulose and starch, while rubber and proteins are derived from isoprene and amino acids respectively. Examples of polymers created by man’s activities includes polyurethane, Teflon, Lucite, nylon, silicones, Dacron, Orlon, polyethylene, epoxy, polyester, boat resin and vinyl. Without doubt, polymers have had a huge impact on our culture and continue to do so. With the creation of these materials, challenges occurred with their application. Although most are not biodegradable, but they contribute a meaningful amount to the refuge created by man, plus their component raw materials still serve as a huge resource for man’s need. Recycling of plastics is a relevant technique of waste reduction, energy and useful raw materials recovery process, for instance, Fleece clothing produced from recycled products has been available for purchase for many years . Plastics can be categorized into four namely:
1.1. Natural plastics
They are natural substances which are classified as plastics due their property which permits them to be molten, molded and shaped easily when subjected to heat. For instance, amber is a fossil pine tree resin that is commonly used in the production of jewelry.
1.2. Semi synthetic plastics
These are plastics obtained from the combination of natural materials with other substances. For instance, cellulose acetate is the product of reacting cellulose fiber with acetic acid which is widely applied in cinema film production.
1.3. Synthetic plastics
These types of plastics are obtained when the molecular structure of carbon-based materials such as coal, crude oil or gas undergoes decomposition or ‘cracking’ process. This process which involves the subjection of such materials to pressure and heat forms the basic procedure used in petrochemical refineries for manufacturing most of the plastics commonly found around today. There are two other categories of synthetic and semi-synthetic plastics. These are classified based on the manner or way a standard plastic material will react after heating. These two categories are;
Any plastic materials whose property allows it to get soft and melt under heat and to be shaped or reshaped by taking the shape of a desired designed mold when cooled. The most distinguishing property of thermoplastics is that when reheated they can molten again. Styrene’s and acrylics are the most common and perhaps the largest occurring examples of thermoplastics which were discovered in school workshops.
1.5. Thermosetting plastics
unlike thermoplastics, thermosetting plastics cannot be softened or molten when reheated, although at the first instance they will mellow and melt under high temperature. When molten they can be molded into shapes into which they were placed before cooling but afterwards they become permanent in the shapes into which they were set and any attempt to further subject them to heat will only make them brittle or burn. The commonest examples of these plastics include polyester resins which are used largely for glass reinforced plastics work and those mostly employed in the manufacture of Formica for kitchen work surfaces such as melamine formaldehyde.
As stated in previous paragraph, plastics are synthetic or semi-synthetic materials which could molded into any object and still retain its plastic characteristic. Given their numerous good qualities such as low specific gravity, resistance to rust, ease of fabrication, low thermal and electrical conductivities, plastics have attracted wide interest in executing industrial and structural projects. In addition, most plastics possess variety of colours which is making them become a major resource for decorative functions . In Nigeria today, there are more than a hundred plastic producing factories generating a-tons of plastic products which are commonly used by people due to the fact that they are easy to use, relatively cheap and very convenient . Plastic are also used in making polytene bags which are used in carrying groceries or packaging food items. Plastic bottles are also products of plastic wastes. They are mainly used in packaging liquids and very a common waste in the streets of Nigeria; however, these forms of plastic are known as Polyethylene terephthalate commonly abbreviated PET or PETE. An estimate of over a billion plastic (poly) bags and PET bottles are used yearly in Nigeria, the local markets, food sellers, grocery stores, traffic food hawkers etc. however, without the suns ability to melt this plastic materials and a proper disposal system, these plastic lay wastes on the soil, carried by wind to drainage or simple just fill up land space thus making them a hazard to the environment.
The rapidly developing economy of Nigeria boasts as the highest crude oil exporting country in Africa. This was followed the country’s strategy to maximize the production and export of petroleum to drive its growth. However, given the country’s unstable economic growth rate and the constant fluctuating world crude oil prices, Nigeria has not been able to maximize the huge opportunity to break out of the underdevelopment status despite the availability of large amount of human and natural resources at its disposal. For the years it has relied solely on its huge crude oil resources as the major source of revenue, while practicing a monolithic economy despite facing numerous developmental challenges. The most unfortunately part of this is the fact that the country have not even been able to manage the major resource . Howbeit, with the world tending towards sustainability and the county’s plastic wastes increase, it is essential Nigeria finds an alternative to improving its economy thus, a need to see plastic wastes as a solution to wealth.
Certainly, there is no gainsaying that plastics are becoming a major available resource in our environment. Although, problems are inevitable when they are poorly used or handled. In the process of plastic production and use major disposal problems arise which leads to poor aesthetics, fire hazards, health hazards, and energy shortages. Plastic waste recycling is definitely the most efficient approach to managing municipal waste, plus this can be perceived as a recent illustration for actualizing the model of industrial conservationism . However, there are no wastes within a natural environment there are only products. Moreover, plastic waste recycling is an approach where its negative effects on nature and the prevention of asset exhaustion can be decreased and harnessed as a means to wealth creation.