Greenpeace cautions that recycled plastic can be even more dangerous and it is ineffective in reducing pollution
Author: Responsible Business News / Date: 6 June 2023
As nations get ready for treaty discussions, a campaign group claims plastic is incompatible with regular circular economy.
Greenpeace said before the most recent round of talks for an international plastics convention that recycling plastic could make it more harmful and should not be seen as a solution to the pollution challenge.
The worldwide environmental network stated in a report that studies have shown recycled plastics to be more harmful than their virgin counterparts, “Plastics are inherently incompatible with a circular economy.”
The report’s release is timed to coincide with the start of new negotiations for a prospective international plastics treaty. Separate study has demonstrated that disintegrating plastics for recycling releases microplastic pollution into the environment.
Over the course of the next two years, a legally binding convention covering the “full lifecycle” of plastics, from manufacture to disposal, will be negotiated, representatives from 173 nations agreed last year.
They were scheduled to gather in Paris last week for discussions that have drawn criticism for not include marginalised garbage pickers who are essential to recycling as well as people in underdeveloped nations who are impacted by the disposal and burning of plastic waste.
The worry is that corporate interests will affect discussions in their absence. Graham Forbes, who is in charge of Greenpeace USA’s global plastics campaign, stated that the plastics sector, which includes fossil fuel, petrochemical, and consumer goods corporations, “continues to put forward plastic recycling as the solution to the plastic pollution crisis.”
“But … the toxicity of plastic actually increases with recycling. Plastics have no place in a circular economy and it’s clear that the only real solution to ending plastic pollution is to massively reduce plastic production.”
Approximately 8 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced since the 1950s. The Greenpeace report compiles peer-reviewed studies and international reports that demonstrate not only that only a very small percentage (9%) of plastics are ever recycled, but also that those that are end up with higher concentrations of hazardous chemicals, potentially compounding their negative effects on human, animal, and environmental health.
According to the study, recycled plastics frequently have higher concentrations of harmful flame retardants, benzene and other carcinogens, environmental toxins like brominated and chlorinated dioxins, and a variety of endocrine disruptors that can alter the body’s natural hormone levels.
Usually, waste plastics destined for recycling are exported from wealthy nations to less developed regions of the world.
The International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN)’s science advisor, Dr. Therese Karlsson, stated: “Toxic chemicals are used in the manufacture of plastics, and these toxins do not just disappear after recycling. The evidence from science is unequivocal: recycling plastic is a hazardous process that poses risks to both our health and the environment at every stage.
“Simply put, plastic poisons the circular economy and our bodies, and pollutes air, water and food. We should not recycle plastics that contain toxic chemicals. Real solutions to the plastics crisis will require global controls on chemicals in plastics and significant reductions in plastic production.”
By 2060, the manufacturing of plastic is expected to treble. Any international plastics convention, according to Greenpeace, must achieve rapid, major plastic production reductions as a first step on the road to completely ceasing the creation of virgin plastic.
While garbage disposal solutions are created that do not merely include burning or burying it, the plastics that are still in use must be reused as much as possible, according to Greenpeace.