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491 Dangerous Chemicals Found In Recycled Plastics –Researchers

“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.”

According to the United Nations Foundation, two-thirds of the more than 430 million tons of plastic products generated annually are discarded as rubbish after only one use. This results in an enormous amount of plastic waste that overwhelms both our land and oceans.

As such, plastic recycling today is an essential part of waste management and environmental preservation initiatives. Recycling plastics minimizes the environmental impact of plastic manufacturing, conserves energy, and helps lower the need for new raw materials.

A crucial sustainable process

However, a new study is putting a damper on this crucial sustainable process. Researchers from the University of Gothenburg investigated recycled plastic pellets gathered from 13 different nations and discovered they contained hundreds of hazardous substances, including pharmaceuticals and pesticides.

“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,” said Professor Bethanie Carney Almroth, of the University of Gothenburg.

Among the organic chemicals suspected to be in the pellets, 491 were confirmed while 170 more were tentatively annotated. These substances belong to a number of classes, such as industrial chemicals, plastic additives, medicines, and insecticides.

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“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,”

This is despite the fact that plastics are thoroughly cleaned in the recycling process. Plastics are carefully washed to remove impurities such as labels, adhesives, and contaminants partially because cleaned plastics are more suitable for recycling and help produce higher-quality recycled materials.

After they are shredded and melted, recycled plastic pellets can then be used in the manufacturing of a variety of products, including containers, packaging materials, textiles, and more. Consumers are encouraged to support the market for recycled products by choosing items made from recycled materials.

Unsafe for consumers

This is because the success of plastic recycling depends on factors such as public participation and the development of markets for recycled materials. However, the new study could thwart such initiatives as it indicates that recycled plastics are not suitable for most uses due to their high content of toxic chemicals that make them unsafe for consumers.

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This research will most certainly impede efforts to establish a circular economy and brings rise to a crucial question: what can be done about the overwhelming problem of plastic garbage?

There is one key solution that can be implemented. Consumers could be encouraged to use alternatives to single-use plastics, such as reusable bags, water bottles, and containers, reducing the amount of plastic waste produced. Many disposable items can easily be replaced with more sustainable options.

Study abstract:

Plastics are produced with a staggering array of chemical compounds, with many being known to possess hazardous properties, and others lacking comprehensive hazard data. Furthermore, non-intentionally added substances can contaminate plastics at various stages of their lifecycle, resulting in recycled materials containing an unknown number of chemical compounds at unknown concentrations. While some national and regional regulations exist for permissible concentrations of hazardous chemicals in specific plastic products, less than 1 % of plastics chemicals are subject to international regulation. There are currently no policies mandating transparent reporting of chemicals throughout the plastics value chain or comprehensive monitoring of chemicals in recycled materials.

Source: IE

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