Greenpeace: Recycling Will increase the Toxicity of Plastics

May 26, 2023

Greenpeace: Recycling Will increase the Toxicity of Plastics


Environmentalists at Greenpeace fired a nuke within the battle on plastics with the discharge of its newest report on Could 24, 2023. It’ll come as no shock that the group concludes that plastics are poison, and we should always cap how a lot is made as a primary step on the best way to ending them altogether.

However what is perhaps fairly surprising is the report additionally says recycling received’t assist save plastics, not even chemical/superior recycling. As a result of, the report claims, analysis exhibits that recycling really will increase the toxicity of plastics, making them worse than they already are.

The report’s timing pertains to the upcoming treaty talks.

The report , which you’ll obtain totally free, known as “Forever Toxic: The science of health threats from plastic recycling.” Its launch was timed to be proper earlier than the Global Plastics Treaty negotiations resume in Paris (Could 29 to June 2). In the end, Greenpeace needs the treaty to “deal with capping after which phasing down plastic manufacturing.”

However the report identifies seven motion factors Greenpeace needs from the World Plastics Treaty:

1. Obtain quick, vital reductions in plastic manufacturing, establishing a pathway to finish virgin plastic manufacturing.

2. Promote a shift to refill- and reuse-based economies, creating jobs and requirements in new reuse industries and supporting established zero-waste practices.

3. Help a simply transition for staff throughout the plastics provide chain, prioritizing waste pickers who acquire roughly 60% of all plastic that’s collected for recycling globally.

4. Promote non-combustion applied sciences for plastic stockpiles and waste disposal.

5. Institute the “polluter pays” precept for plastic waste administration and for addressing the well being and environmental prices all through the plastics life cycle.

6. Considerably enhance regulation, oversight, security, and employee protections for current recycling services.

7. Require transparency about chemical compounds in plastics and get rid of all poisonous components and chemical compounds used within the plastics life cycle.

In depth analysis helps toxicity claims.

Extremely annotated with 51 citations, the report depends on current analysis that helps the report’s claims. For instance, the report identifies three “uncontrollable toxic pathways of plastic recycling.”

1. Poisonous chemical compounds in new virgin plastic supplies.

2. Leaching of poisonous substances into plastic waste.

3. New poisonous chemical compounds created by the recycling course of.

This final merchandise was information to me, and I must study extra. However the report specifies: “When plastics are heated within the recycling course of, this could generate new poisonous chemical compounds that make their means into the recycled plastics. For instance, brominated dioxins are created when plastics containing brominated flame retardants are recycled,[1]  and a stabilizer utilized in plastic recycling can degrade to a extremely poisonous substance present in recycled plastics.[2] Sorting challenges and the presence of sure packaging elements in sorted supplies also can result in toxicity in recycled plastic. Research have proven that benzene (a carcinogen) will be created by mechanical recycling of PET#1 plastic, even with very low charges of contamination by PVC#3 plastic, ensuing within the cancer-causing chemical being present in recycled plastics.[3]

A degree about these research … I haven’t learn them of their entirety. However saying one thing can occur and proving that it does occur are two very various things.

And if toxicity does seem within the recycled plastic materials, what are the thresholds and do these thresholds exceed security ranges set by regulatory teams?

Greenpeace makes an attempt to strike a dying blow to plastics by attacking recycling.

Recycling charges for plastic packaging are dismal globally. “Solely 9% of plastic waste is recycled (15% is collected for recycling however 40% of that’s disposed of as residues) …” in response to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The explanations for these disappointing numbers are diverse. However growing these numbers goes slowly. Assortment and sortation show … difficult.

Some within the plastic packaging business look to the newer applied sciences for superior (aka chemical) recycling as doable saviors. These options may take away and reuse a major quantity of plastics presently going to landfill.

However with this report, Greenpeace is attempting to pop that superior recycling bubble earlier than it inflates additional. Graham Forbes, World Plastics Marketing campaign Lead at Greenpeace USA, says within the press release about the report: “The plastics business — together with fossil gasoline, petrochemical, and client items corporations — continues to place ahead plastic recycling as the answer to the plastic air pollution disaster. However this report exhibits that the toxicity of plastic really will increase with recycling. Plastics haven’t any place in a round financial system and it’s clear that the one actual resolution to ending plastic air pollution is to massively cut back plastic manufacturing.”

The plastics business sees it otherwise, in fact.

What in regards to the reverse facet? What do individuals within the plastics business consider this information and knowledge?


Packaging Digest requested the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) to touch upon the Greenpeace report. Right here’s what Matt Seaholm, President/CEO of PLASTICS, needed to say: “Greenpeace has established themselves as an anti-recycling group and isn’t a reputable voice on this dialogue; ‘environmental’ teams urging customers to recycle much less ought to be ashamed of themselves. The hyperbole surrounding research which can be morphed to lift cash from harmless donors who care about our environmental challenges has turn into rampant and, sadly, typical.

“Our member corporations work each single day to unravel issues for customers in probably the most sustainable means. As soon as Greenpeace acknowledges plastic is a necessary materials in our lives that retains us protected and protected, and ends their fearmongering, then we will speak about actual public coverage options.

“Plastics have been demonstrated again and again to be protected. They’re closely regulated by competent authorities just like the FDA and broad assertions that they’re made ‘from poisonous chemical compounds’ are fearmongering and deterring the general public from doing the best factor, which is recycling and reusing plastic.”

Our sister publication PlasticsToday quotes Joshua Baca, Vice President of Plastics on the American Chemistry Council (ACC): “If Greenpeace had its means, trendy life could be dramatically completely different. Folks internationally, significantly in growing nations, would have much less entry to wash consuming water, protected meals provides, sanitary medical and private care merchandise, and renewable power. The proposals of their report would disrupt international provide chains, hinder sustainable growth, and substitute plastics with supplies which have a a lot larger carbon footprint in crucial functions.”

Attainable future?

Whereas I feel the probability of caps on plastics manufacturing is low, I can’t rule it out. I additionally didn’t assume prolonged producer accountability packages would discover a foothold within the US, however Oregon and Maine proved me fallacious. The urge for food for sustainability at present is at feast-and-drunkenness stage. And plastic packaging is usually seen as the primary course.

[1] Petrlík, J., Beeler, B., Strakova, J., Allo’o Allo’o, S.M., Amera, T., Brosche, S., Gharbi, S. … Zulkovska, Ok. 2022. Hazardous Chemical substances in Plastic Merchandise. IPEN & Arnika.

[2] Rung, C., Welle, F., Gruner, A., Springer, A., Steinmetz, Z. & Munoz, Ok. 2023. Identification and Analysis of (Non-)Deliberately Added Substances in Put up-Client Recyclates and Their Toxicological Classification. Recycling 8(1): 24.

[3] Alvarado Chacon, F., Brouwer, M. & van Velzen, E. 2020. Impact of Recycled Content material and rPET High quality on the Properties of PET Bottles, Half I: Optical and Mechanical Properties. Packaging Expertise and Science 33(2): 347–357.

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