Dangerous chemicals make their way into recycled plastic materials from a variety of sources. Since nearly all plastics are made from a combination of carbon (mainly oil/gas) and toxic chemicals, the most obvious pathway is direct contamination, as chemicals from the original plastic products simply transfer into recycled plastic. But chemicals can also enter recycled plastics in other ways, due to contamination in the plastic waste stream and the recycling process itself. This Greenpeace report shows us why plastics do not have a place in the circular economy, and in fact poison the circular economy.
Material Research L3C has launched an interactive website, materialresearch.world, which features a Global Atlas of toxic chemical production facilities and links to groundbreaking reports about them.
Founded in 2019, Material Research works with reporters, NGOs and community leaders to fill gaps in understanding toxic and unjust supply chains.
“Our mission is to gather and deliver information that unites communities around the world against toxic pollution and other injustices,” said Jim Vallette, president of the charitable and educational “low-profit” (L3C) company based in Southwest Harbor, Maine.
The Material Research Atlas of Toxic Chemical Manufacturing identifies 465 factories that it has investigated with its partners. For U.S. facilities, it provides links to greenhouse gas, toxic chemical and other EPA records and related reports. Material Research developed the Atlas with the support of the Geographic Information Systems Laboratory at College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, Maine.
Vallette has noted that the Atlas is a precursor to a larger open access data initiative under development by the company and other partners.
Material Research World also features a Resources page, with links to dozens of reports by leading environmental and human rights organizations and news outlets.
The Changing Markets Foundation has published 6 reports that together reveal the interconnections between fast-fashion, fossil fuels, plastics, injustice, and pollution. The reports include:
- Synthetics Anonymous 2.0: Fashion’s persistent plastic problem (December 2022)
- Dressed to Kill: Fashion brands’ hidden links to Russian oil in a time of war (November 2022)
- Licence to Greenwash: How certification schemes and voluntary initiatives are fuelling fossil fashion (March 2022)
- A New Look for the Fashion Industry: EU Textile Strategy and the Crucial Role of Extended Producer Responsibility (March 2022)
- Synthetics Anonymous: fashion brands’ addiction to fossil fuels (June 2021)
- Fossil fashion: the hidden reliance of fast fashion on fossil fuels (February 2022)
“Advanced recycling” is not a solution to plastic pollution and isn’t measuring up to industry promises. And by definition, “advanced recycling” is not really recycling at all. Instead, it’s a strategy for fossil fuel and plastic industries to continue delaying real action on plastics. Loopholes, Injustice, & the “Advanced Recycling” Myth Report shows how plastics and fossil fuel industry lobbyists — primarily the American Chemistry Council — work to pressure state legislators to pass laws containing loopholes enabling “advanced recycling,” and perpetuating plastic pollution and injustice.
In “Circular Claims Fall Flat Again,” Greenpeace lays out five key reasons why plastic recycling has failed now and in the past, and shows how the world has reached a decision point on single-use plastics and packaging. The report demonstrates that attaining solutions-oriented alternatives, such as refill and reuse systems, is possible and serves communities and individuals much better than the status quo. Lastly, Greenpeace lists final recommendations for companies that seek to be a part of real solutions to plastic pollution.
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.