NOV 13, 2023 2:20 PM PST

Toxic Chemicals in Recycled Plastics: A Global Menace Revealed

A recent study published in Data in Brief via ScienceDirect examines the alarming discovery of hundreds of toxic chemicals residing within pellets retrieved from recycled plastic across 13 countries. This study was conducted by a team of researchers from Sweden, Germany, and Denmark, and holds the potential to raise awareness about plastic pollution and how recycled plastic might pose more harm than good for the environment and public health.

“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 Dr. Bethanie Carney Almroth, who is a professor and researcher in ecotoxicology at the University of Gothenburg and a co-author on the study.

The 13 countries where the plastic pellets were collected comprise Eastern Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa, with a total of 491 organic compounds identified and cataloged and consist of plastic additive, industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and pesticides, along with 170 documented compounds, as well. These findings not only highlight the growing concern for toxic chemicals within recycled plastic but also the limited number of regulations pertaining to what chemicals are used in producing plastic in the first place. This study comes as science and health professionals from around the world are gathering this week for the third meeting of the Plastics Treaty Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-3).

“Numerous studies show that hazardous chemicals can accumulate even in relatively close-loop plastic recycling systems. We need to rapidly phase-out plastic chemicals that can cause harm to human health and the environment,” Dr. Carney Almroth urges attendees at this week’s meeting:

What new discoveries will researchers make about recycled plastic in the coming years and decades? Only time will tell, and this is why we science!

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

Sources: Data Brief via ScienceDirect, EurekAlert!

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of “Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey”.
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