Specification Point 4.47:
Explain problems in the disposal of addition polymers, including: Their inertness and inability to biodegrade, the production of toxic gases when they are burned

Addition Polymers

Formed by the joining up of many small molecules called monomers. Addition polymers are unreactive so don’t easily biodegrade.

Problems with the disposal of addition polymers:

Disposal of polymers, Edexcel IGCSE Chemistry

The disposal of polymers in landfills


  • Waste polymers are disposed of in landfill sites but this takes up valuable land as addition polymers are non-biodegradable so micro-organisms such as decomposers cannot break them down.
  • This causes sites to quickly fill up


  • Polymers release a lot of heat energy when they burn and produces carbon dioxide which is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.
  • If incinerated by incomplete combustion, carbon monoxide will be produced which is a toxic gas that reduces the capacity of the blood to carry oxygen.


  • Polymers can be recycled but different polymers must be separated from each other.
  • This process is difficult and expensive.

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Author: Jamie

Jamie got a First class degree in Chemistry from Oxford University before going on to teach chemistry full time as a professional tutor. He’s put together these handy revision notes to match the Edexcel IGCSE Chemistry specification so you can learn exactly what you need to know for your exams.