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Chemistry of Recycling 1


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Chemistryof Recycling

Chemicalreactions are performed with the sole purpose of obtaining variousproducts. However, during the reactions, some by-products end upbeing produced.

Reactant+ reactant –product + by-product

Mostof these by-products are harmful to the environment and as such theirproduction must be controlled. Some of these by-products are eitheruseful in the same reaction or other reactions. As such, recycling ofvarious chemicals is introduced. Recycling mainly helps avoidpollution of the environment. Also, it is highly economical. In thesubsequent paper, we shall discuss recycling in details. To clearlyelaborate this, we shall consider the manufacture of ammonia, nitricacid and polymerization.

Plasticsor polymers can either be synthetic or natural. The natural polymersare degradable and therefore are able to decompose. However,synthetic or artificial polymers are non-biodegradable. This meansthat they are not able to decompose regardless of the period of timegiven. Such polymers include polyvinylchloride (PVC),polychloroethene, and polyethene among others (Brown and Holme, 2014,pg 153). Since they cannot decompose, there is need for recycling.Once these plastics wear out, they can be taken back to the factoryand manufactured into new products. The polymers undergo a processcalled cracking. Cracking is a process whereby long chains ofhydrocarbons are broken into shorter chains (Brown and Holme, 2014,pg 153). The newly formed shorter chains of hydrocarbons are thenconverted to other compounds.

Letus now consider the Haber process. The Haber process involvesmanufacture of ammonia. In the reaction, nitrogen (obtained from thefractional distillation of air) and hydrogen (obtained from crackingof alkanes) are reacted together in the ratio 1:3 (Stamell, 2011, pg56).

N2(g) + 3H2(g)&lt2NH3(g)

Duringthe process, only 15% of the reactants will react to form ammonia.The remaining 85% are considered a by-product of the reaction(Steinborn, 2012, pg 47). Nevertheless, the by-products can berecycled back into the reaction chamber so as to form more ammonia.After every reaction, there is 85% of unreacted nitrogen andhydrogen. The unreacted gases will in turn be recycled back into thereaction chamber until 98% ammonia is formed (Stamell, 2011, pg 57).Therefore, in these process, unreacted nitrogen and hydrogen arerecycled every time back into the reaction chamber so as to obtain ahigher percentage of ammonia.

Considerthe Ostwald process. The initial process is the oxidation of ammoniato obtain nitrous (IV) oxide (Gutzow and Schmelzer, 2013, pg101). The

4NH3&nbsp+5O2&nbsp&nbsp↔ 4NO + 6H2O&nbsp

2NO+ O2&nbsp&nbsp↔2 NO2

Thenitrous (IV) oxide is then reacted with water to obtained nitric acidas the main product and nitrous (II) oxide as the by-product(Stamell, 2011, pg 57).


Nitrous(II) oxide is harmful to the environment thus cannot be disposed ofcarelessly. However, it can be recycled back into the process. Thenitrous (II) oxide produced as a by-product, is recycled back intothe process and oxidized to form nitrous (IV) oxide which is thenreacted with water forming nitric acid.


Theabove are just, but a few examples of chemical processes whichincorporate recycling of products. Through recycling, harmfulchemical products are not released into the atmosphere. Therefore,recycling is a great way of protecting the environment againstpollution.


Brown,L. and Holme, T. (2014).&nbspChemistryfor engineering students.1st ed.

Gutzow,I. and Schmelzer, J. (2013).&nbspThevitreous state.1st ed. Berlin: Springer.

Stamell,J. (2011).&nbspExcelHSC chemistry.1st ed. Glebe, N.S.W.: Pascal Press.

Steinborn,D. (2012).&nbspFundamentalsof organometallic catalysis.Weinheim: Wiley-VCH.