Mechanical recycling of plastic waste as a point source of microplastic pollution

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Scientists share results of research measuring microplastic pollution from mechanical recycling facilities. They found that microplastic pollution escaped from recycling facilities with and without wastewater treatment. Microplastic particles are a toxic and serious source of plastic pollution that contaminates air, waters, soils, the atmosphere, and the ocean.

Mechanical recycling is not a solution to plastic pollution, as the industry has only managed to incorporate 9% of all plastic ever made globally into new plastic products (usually adding fresh plastic and petrochemicals), as plastic production has increased. Most plastic collected as recycling is actually incinerated, tipped in a landfill, or shipped overseas. Because so-called “advanced recycling” typically requires the same sorting, washing, and shredding processes as mechanical recycling, this study could also have relevance in evaluating the risks of the “advanced recycling” industry.

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