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A Plastic smile-Say HDPE!

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This article just goes to show how recycling of milk bags can be done at home instead of tossing them into a trash can.

Say it with a Smile- A Plastic smile?


A warm smile is the universal language of kindness? But when the smile is plastic that language of kindness takes a crude and cruel turn.

HDPE or High density polyethene is used to manufacture milk bags, detergent bottles, toys, and food packaging. It is resistant to temperature as high as 120oC. It can be recycled into truck beds, park benches and picnic tables.

When petroleum is cracked under controlled conditions of temperature and pressure in the presence of a catalyst the process is called “ Cracking”. Cracking of petroleum produces ethene gas. This ethene will attach by addition polymerization to generate long chains of the polyethene polymer. The polymerization takes place under fairly low pressure(10-80 atm) and temperature(360-420K) conditions in the presence of Ziegler Natta catalyst or Phillips catalyst. Thus unbranched long chains of polyethene polymer known as High density polyethene (HDPE) is manufactured. The polymer initially has a sludgy appearance but after subjecting it through a series of moulding processes it takes the form of the strong material that is used for the desired application. Usually Hydrogen gas is added to control the chain length of the polymer.

This polymeric plastic or High density polyethene (HDPE) is the one that puts a smile on the faces of both the maufacturers - polymer as well as food, alike. It is cheap, safe and the most convenient form of plastic that can be used to pack milk and food. Food and milk can be stored for a prolonged period of time in the HDPE container or bag as it is resistant to microbial contamination. However, it is not a biodegradable polymer.

Not all of us our sound in science or chemistry to understand this. Our alarming populations in the third world nations dictate that the governments feed the masses before they can look at the ecology and animal kingdom around.

When convenience and comfort are brought into the lives of us humans we become insensitive to our responsibilities. Maybe it is the ignorance of the end user or the lack of sufficient warning by the manufacturer or perhaps the negligence of the governing powers of the third world nations whatever be the reason –plastic of any form can have a back sided attack thrust by us, the consumers, on the meek animals that live harmoniously or are enslaved by us for our own selfish luxuries. How ironical, the cow’s milk is marketed and packaged in a safe plastic bag and it is the same cow who dies of an intestinal obstruction due to foraging on plastic bags!

Rarely is an animal especially a herbivore greedy- it will seek food only when it is hungry. This means it has been under fed or over worked, otherwise it would not seek the plastic pasture of dirt and filth to look for food.

Living in urban cities we become so absorbed in our own self importance and gloat on our technological advancement that we forget to see the spills of fallacies or consequences of our technologically advanced selfish behavior.

A major problem with the recycling of the HDPE milk bags is they need to be cleaned up before they can be recycled. Although different governments have come up with different schemes to recycle the bags and make it mandatory for the dealer to collect the empty bags the mandate has never been implemented in reality. As end user we as consumers continue to use the comfort of a plastic packed milk bag every morning impervious to the gratitude that we should have towards the animal that was milked and au contraire back stab by releasing it in the bin each day.

Yes, HDPE bags are safe, they deliver food and milk fit for human consumption but the fact is HDPE is not biodegradable!

Rich profits are earned by the manufacture of this polymer and so the economy is good for the third world. The consumer is happy with the luxurious convenience. Who takes the back seat is the animal kingdom as they have no priority in this profit and gain transaction of the selfish third world. When the well being of the human population is a concern we have become insensitive to towards the ones who provide for us.

Recycling of the plastic bags happened for a short while after which recycling was not profitable as cleaning of the HDPE bags and containers was a problem.

If you observe all major environmentally friendly sites suggest that you recycle the plastic containers and bags at home. How many and how long?

But maybe you could make bigger storage bags or raincoats and help out those on a rainy day in the shop or store. Kind deeds small or big are always rewarded that is the Law of Nature!

A large plastic bag from many small milk bags

A large plastic bag from many small milk bags

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