Pollution and the Advance of Technology

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Pollution and the Advance of Technology

Technology is a major part of everyone’s life. Everyday we encounter technology at home, school and at work. We use this technology to better our lives. But do we really? With the advancing of technology also comes the issue of polluting the world we live in. We take the automobile for granted, but as we use it, we contribute to the growing pollution problem. Now in the year 2000, car companies have recognized the pollution problem, and have advanced their own technology to help make a difference. For example, Honda has already produced and offered a gas/electric car to the consumer.

In this paper I want to address how the advance in technology has actually helped to limit the pollution being pumped into the place we call home. I will address agricultural chemicals, plastics, and the food processing industry. These three areas directly effect us everyday here in the Midwest and I feel are the most important when it comes to finding technological advancements to help with the pollution formed by these products.

Living in Iowa and the Midwest we know how important agriculture is to sustaining a stable economy. Agriculture is the basis of a vast renewable resource and it is gradually being recognized that with careful development it could help to supplement the use of oil for fuel and non-fuel products. The chemicals we use to help produce these crops are in ways a major hazard on the land. These chemicals which are mainly used in our area are pesticides and fertilizers.

In fertilizers and pesticides there are many elements used. They include nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and other trace materials. The major area of concern specific to the use of fertilizers and pesticides is the effect of leaching of nitrate on the environment.

The reality of this problem is that of maintaining soluble phosphates for the plant to use before they are locked up in the soil as insoluble calcium phosphates. It is the application of nitrogenous fertilizers at the wrong time, which produce the leaching of nitrate and a majority of the pollution problem. With the advancement of technology a technique has been developed to prevent the build up of excess nitrate in the soil. The most effective method of making the best use of the fertilizers is the timing and control of the application. By understanding the exact nutrient requirements at different times in the life of the crop, and by developing easy-to-use methods of identifying application timing for each crop it should be possible to minimize input while the same time reducing the quantity available for leaching.

Another approach is that of targeted dosing. Farmers already make some allowances for the different requirement field by field, by the use of yield mapping and field mapping along with remotely controlled tractors and application equipment it is possible to selectively apply different quantities of chemicals to different areas of the field. The use of aerial and satellite photography can obtain both field and yield mapping. By combining the info from the mapping it is possible to regulate the use of chemicals to obtain optimum yield while at the same time minimizing input into the environment. It can be seen that is wasting less, using less and thus requiring less material to be made, the fundamentals of clean technology are applicable even to the use of agricultural chemicals.

Plastics are a huge part of our lives. At the corner shop, in the supermarket or in the mall, we see a lot of consumer goods in plastic. What are these plastics? What are they used for? What are some cleaner technologies in plastic production?
There are 2 major plastics: Thermoplastics and Thermosets. Thermoplastics that are in common use are polyethylene, polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride, and polystyrene. Some of the major uses for these Thermoplastic plastics include toys, flexible containers, food packaging, carpets, cereal packet linings, automotive parts, cups, plates, window frames and rigid pipes.

The other major plastic is Thermosets. Thermosets include such polymers as phenol formaldehyde resins, vrea or melamine formaldehyde resins, unsaturated polyesters, alkyd resins, epoxy resins and polyurethanes. It is not possible with all these materials to melt and shape numerous times. Major uses for Thermoset plastics are used in the following objects: sports equipment, boats, ovens, automotive parts, gaskets and seals.

What are some cleaner technologies to produce these plastics? Reduction of waste at source is one way. In packaging application the weight of plastic used to make vessels for food and chemical products will continue to be reduced by innovative use of design and material. For example, an item such as a 125-g. yogurt container made from polystyrene resin would have weighed 6.5 g. in 1965; today that container is produced at a weight of only 3.5 g.

Another cleaner technology to produce these plastics is primary re-cycling. This means returning clean plastic manufacturing waste to the process for reuse. Efforts should be made to keep this to a minimum as recycling cost money in terms of energy and effort. It is advantageous to design items with minimal waste.

Post-consumer recycling is the final way to cleaner technology in plastic production. One of the problems with plastics is that there are so many different types and if one wants to recycle the solution must be environmentally sound. In the USA and Europe a numbering system for the identification of different plastics is in place. By recycling, plastics are shipped back to the plant to be incinerated, where they are identified and separated. With the advance of technology, incineration has now turned into an energy recovery process.

The aim of the food industry is the efficient production of safe food. The scope of the industry is wide, and extends from the farm, where food is grown, to the factory where it is processed, and then to the shops where it is sold. Each of the stages involves an environmental cost. What is some clean technology for food production? In cleaning and hygienic technology, the industry has developed efficient solutions. The industry has concentrated on the production of food with minimal contamination from the environment; this involves separating the food from the environment, and extensive cleaning. The design of plants that minimize the waste they produce at which incorporate energy, water and product recovery is now becoming widespread. Over the years the problems faced by the food industry will become more severe, but if the topic of “clean technology” reaches beyond the major food companies the pollution problem caused will decrease significantly.

Overall, our technology is changing and so is the impact we have on the earth through pollution. The year is 2000 and we have already figured out how to control pollution through the advance of certain technologies. Just think how far we could come by the year 2010.


Bibliography:
Sources
Ausubel, Jesse, and Sladovich, Hedy. Technology and Environment. Washington D.C.: National Academy Press, 1989
Harrison, Roy. Pollution: Causes, Effects and Control. Cambridge. The Royal Society of Chemistry, 1996
Kirkwood, R.C. Clean Technology and the Environment. New York: Blackie Academic and Professional, 1995
Soares, Claire. Environmental Technology and Economics. Massachusetts: Butterworth-Heinemann Press, 1999