20 November 2023
by Hassan Akhtar

More than 600 toxic chemicals found in recycled plastics

An international study has examined plastic pellets from recycling plants in 13 different countries and found the substances.

© Unsplash/Nick Fewings

A total of 491 organic compounds were detected and an additional 170 are suspected in the recycled pellets, ranging from pesticides, pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals and plastic additives.

Toxic chemicals are used to make plastics and it is expected that the plastics will absorb other chemicals during use.

In a joint correspondence from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden; Aarhus University, Denmark; the University of Exeter, UK; and IPEN, published in Science, it identifies that there are more than 13,000 chemicals used in plastics with 25% classified as hazardous.

Professor Bethanie Carney Almroth of the University of Gothenburg, who led the study on recycled polyethylene pellets says, ‘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’.

The studies came ahead of the UN Environment Programme’s third session of the Plastics Treaty Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on 13-19 November in Nairobi, Kenya.

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Hassan Akhtar