Forever Toxic: The Science on Health Threats from Plastic Recycling

Plastic recycling has long been hailed as an effective solution to combat plastic pollution. However, a recent report published by Greenpeace Philippines challenges this notion by revealing that recycling actually increases the toxicity of plastics.

Unveiling the Truth: Recycling and Increased Plastic Toxicity

The report, aptly named “Forever Toxic: The science on health threats from plastic recycling,” unequivocally confirms that recycling exacerbates the toxicity of plastics. It sheds light on the alarming fact that plastics contain over 13,000 chemicals, with approximately 3,200 known to pose hazards to human health.

A Call to Cap and Reduce Plastic Production

The report’s main conclusion stresses the urgent need to cap and reduce plastic production. While the plastics industry, including prominent companies such as Nestle, Unilever, and Coca-Cola, has touted recycling as the solution, the report challenges this approach and advocates for more comprehensive measures.

Understanding the Pathways of Toxic Chemical Accumulation

Recycled plastics often exhibit higher levels of toxic chemicals due to multiple pathways. These pathways include direct contamination from toxic chemicals in virgin plastic, the introduction of contaminating substances during the recycling chain, and the release of chemicals during the recycling process itself.

Environmental Injustice and Plastic Waste Disposal

Plastic production and disposal facilities are disproportionately situated in low-income, marginalized communities. These communities suffer from elevated rates of health issues, including cancer, lung disease, and adverse birth outcomes, directly linked to exposure to the toxic chemicals present in plastics.

The Grim Reality: Low Global Plastic Recycling Rates

Globally, only 9% of plastic waste is currently being recycled, as estimated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This alarming statistic underscores the pressing need for significant improvements in plastic waste management and recycling practices.

Addressing Plastic Pollution at the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee

The second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee, scheduled in Paris, France, plays a pivotal role in charting a course to combat plastic pollution. The committee serves as a crucial platform for global discussions and collaborations aimed at finding effective solutions.

Advocating for a Sustainable Future: Greenpeace’s Call

Greenpeace is actively advocating for an ambitious, legally binding Global Plastics Treaty at the forthcoming Paris talks. The treaty seeks to promote safer materials, zero-waste economies, and a just transition away from plastic dependency. Such measures are essential to protect human and planetary health while minimizing resource use.



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