Companies often promote the use of recycled plastics as a means to save the environment, but the ‘eco-friendly’ initiative can be harmful to human health.
Some plastics contain toxic chemicals, such as man-made bisphenol (BPA), and during the overall recycling process, these hazardous chemicals are transferred into the recycled material used to make new bottles, boxes, and other containers.
These toxins can cause liver damage, thyroid disorders, impaired fertility and cancer.
The warning comes from a report by Greenpeace, a nonprofit campaigning for environmental protection that has been touting a plastic-free world for at least seven years.
Plastics project leader at Greenpeace Kate Melges told DailyMail.com that the best alternative is to “move away from single-use plastics” and move to other materials made from paper, beeswax or bamboo.
Some plastics contain toxic chemicals, such as man-made bisphenol (BPA), and during the overall recycling process, these hazardous chemicals are transferred to the recycled material used to make new bottles
Greenpeace’s report, ‘Forever Toxic: The Science of health threat from plastic recycling’, highlights “three toxic routes for recycled plastics” that accumulate toxic chemicals.
The first is “direct contamination from toxic chemicals in virgin plastic.”
“The plastics are often made from toxic chemicals, then they are recycled and go into the recycled plastics,” Melges said.
The second route is the leaching of toxic substances into plastic waste.
“That could be containers for pesticides, detergents, engine oil,” Melges said. “All those things that aren’t super safe for human health can end up in the recycling chain and contaminate other types of plastic, like the recycled material used to make milk cartons.”
The last toxic route harms personnel working in recycling plants.
‘Plastic is heated in the recycling process. This could create new toxic chemicals similar to brominated dioxins,” Melges said.
She went on to explain that all plastics are melted down and chopped into small pieces, made into pellets and then heated and cooled into new containers.
More than 98 percent of plastics are produced from fossil carbon coal, oil and gas.
More than 98 percent of plastics are produced from fossil carbon coal, oil and gas. There are also more than 3,200 toxic chemicals mixed in the process. These toxins can cause liver damage, thyroid disorders, impaired fertility and cancer
The synthetic material is then combined with “additional chemicals that are incorporated into polymers to impart specific properties such as color, flexibility, stability, water repellency, flame retardancy and ultraviolet resistance,” according to a 2023 study.
The synthetic material is then combined with “additional chemicals that are incorporated into polymers to impart specific properties such as color, flexibility, stability, water repellency, flame retardancy and ultraviolet resistance,” according to a report. Study from 2023 by a team of international scientists led by Boston College.
They include carcinogens, neurotoxic agents and endocrine disruptors such as phthalates, bisphenols, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), brominated flame retardants and organophosphate flame retardants.
“They are integral components of plastic and are responsible for much of the damage plastics do to human health and the environment.”
The report reveals that miners and oil and gas field workers who extract carbon raw materials for plastic production suffer from cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer.
However, those who work in plastic-producing factories “are at an increased risk of leukemia, lymphoma, hepatic angiosarcoma, brain cancer, breast cancer, mesothelioma, neurotoxic injury and impaired fertility,” the study said.
“The story of how our plastic cycle is not the solution to the plastic pollution crisis and is harmful to human health,” said Melges.
Coca-Cola currently uses 100 percent recycled plastic in its bottles – including the caps
Melges and the Greenpeace team bring their report on recycled plastics to the United Nations (UN) and urge the organization to implement the law-binding Global Plastics treaty to limit and phase out plastic production.
In the run-up to the negotiations, more than 100 scientists and civil society groups have issued a letter urging the UN to prevent the fossil fuel industry from undermining the negotiations.
Nearly 30 celebrities, including Jason Momoa, Jane Fonda and Alec Baldwin, wrote a letter calling on the Biden administration to support a legally binding treaty that limits plastic production.
“We are seeing a crisis, a climate crisis,” Melges told DailyMail.com. ‘Plastic is made from oil and gas, which fuels climate change.
‘We really need to reduce plastic production, and that is to say: away from single-use plastic packaging.’
Nestlé says it is “committed to designing 100 percent of our plastic packaging for recycling,” with 2025 to see 95 percent of its containers this way.
Unilever also wants to use 25 percent recycled plastic in its packaging by 2025, and Coca-Cola currently uses 100 percent recycled plastic in its bottles – including the caps.
However, Coca-Cola recently announced its first-ever beverage bottle made from 100 percent plant-based plastic with up to 30 percent plant-derived material.