Skip to content

Big Problem With Recycled Plastics

Plastic household products From: Wikipedia

Some bad news about using recycled plastics in consumer goods . Scientists found that recycled plastics contain hundreds of toxic chemicals -  everything from pesticides to pharmaceutical medicines. In other words, the chemicals the plastics were originally exposed to or made up of are still sticking around.

European researchers analyzed samples of plastic pellets (High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) pellets) that were collected from plastics recycling facilities from countries in Europe, South America, Asia, and Africa. They found 491 chemical compounds in the plastic pellets, including pesticides, pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals, and plastic additives. Also "forever chemicals" such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

The study results were especially worrisome because polyethylene is such a commonly used plastic, one that is considered OK. It's even in clear wrap used to wrap food, as well as milk and juice containers. But...keep in mind that all plastics leach chemicals even when they are "virgin" (used for the first time). Recycling plastics just adds more chemicals to them.

Very important points from the research: 1) About 13,000 chemicals are currently known to be used in the production of plastics materials and products [2].

2) Several of these chemicals have hazardous properties while thousands of the chemicals lack data, even basic toxicological data. (In other words - no one knows if these chemicals are toxic.)

3) Non-intentionally added substances may further contaminate plastics during production, when it's used, and even during the recycling process. This results in recycled plastic materials that contain unknown numbers of chemical substances in unknown concentrations.

In other words: User beware. No one is looking out for you and making sure the stuff is safe. Efforts need to be made (laws passed) that hazardous chemicals are not used in making plastics. [Researchers stressing this.]

From Science Daily: Scientists found hundreds of toxic chemicals in recycled plastics

When scientists examined pellets from recycled plastic collected in 13 countries they found hundreds of toxic chemicals, including pesticides and pharmaceuticals. Because of this, the scientists judge recycled plastics unfit for most purposes and a hinder in the attempts to create a circular economy.

The results are published in a study led by scientists at the University of Gothenburg. Delegates, scientists, and health and environmental advocates from around the world are traveling to Nairobi, Kenya for next week's meeting of the third session of the Plastics Treaty Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-3). There scientists will urge delegates to heed the latest science showing that because toxic chemicals are used to make all plastics, and plastics will adsorb other chemicals during use, there are no plastics that can be deemed safe or circular.
"Plastic recycling has been touted as a solution to the plastics pollution crisis, but toxic chemicals in plastics complicate their reuse and disposal and hinder recycling," says Professor Bethanie Carney Almroth, of the University of Gothenburg.
Over 600 chemical compounds identified. In a recently published study in Data in Brief via ScienceDirect, led by Carney Almroth, plastic pellets from plastic recycle plants in 13 different countries in Africa, South America, Asia, and Eastern Europe were found to contain hundreds of chemicals, including numerous highly toxic pesticides.

In total, 491 organic compounds were detected and quantified in the pellets, with an additional 170 compounds tentatively annotated. These compounds span various classes, including pesticides, pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals, plastic additives.

There are few regulations on chemicals in plastics, and international trade in plastics waste complicate this issue.
In a correspondence published this month in the journal Science researchers from the University of Gothenburg, IPEN, Aarhus University, and the University of Exeter noted that: "The hazardous chemicals present risks to recycling workers and consumers, as well as to the wider society and environment. Before recycling can contribute to tackling the plastics pollution crisis, the plastics industry must limit hazardous chemicals." More than 13,000 chemicals used in plastics with 25% classified as hazardous.
Scientists state that "no plastic chemical [can be] classified as safe."polyethylene

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *