Chemical simplification and tracking in plastics

Plastic pollution experts make a case for addressing toxic additives, unintentionally added substances, and contaminants in plastics. They point out that current regulations fail to require plastic producers to track or make available information on harmful chemicals in plastics. For these reasons, the experts say that before recycling can be considered as part of the approach to end plastic pollution, especially if it becomes part of the UN Plastics Treaty, plastic’ chemicals must be simplified through a major reduction of the expansive amount of chemicals used in plastics production.

Scientists find that some compostable plastics have similar or even higher levels of toxicity than plastic products, when it comes to chemical additives. These findings suggest that additives in bioplastics and other plant-based compostables must be carefully evaluated before use.

Abstract: This study investigates the toxicity of methanolic extracts obtained from compostable plastics (BPs) and conventional plastics (both virgin and recycled). Additionally, it explores the potential influence of plastic photodegradation and composting on toxic responses using a battery of in vitro assays conducted in PLHC-1 cells. The extracts of BPs, but not those of conventional plastics, induced a significant decrease in cell viability (<70%) in PLHC-1 cells after 24 h of exposure. Toxicity was enhanced by either photodegradation or composting of BPs. Extracts of conventional plastics, and particularly those of recycled plastics, induced 7-ethoxyresorufin-O-deethylase (EROD) activity and micronucleus formation in exposed cells, indicating the presence of significant amounts of CYP1A inducers and genotoxic compounds in the extracts, which was enhanced by photodegradation. These findings highlight the importance of investigating the effects of degradation mechanisms such as sunlight and composting on the toxicity of BPs. It is also crucial to investigate the composition of newly developed formulations for BPs, as they may be more harmful than conventional ones.

Lead has been detected in a wide range of consumer products, including those made of or with plastic. As plastics are recycled, toxic lead is transferred into new consumer products and pollutes human bodies and the environment. Scientists propose that plastic pollution be classified as hazardous depending on its lead content and according to existing regulations on consumer plastics.

Abstract: X-ray fluorescence spectrometry has been employed to measure Pb in a wide range of consumer and environmental plastics, including food-packaging material, household goods, electronic casings, beach litter and agricultural waste. Results reveal high concentrations of Pb (>1000 mg kg−1) in historical items that are still in use or circulation (e.g. toys, construction plastics, wiring insulation) and variable, but generally lower concentrations in more recently manufactured articles. Analysis of Br, Cl and Cr, proxies for brominated flame retardants, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and chromate pigments, respectively, suggests that as historical material is recycled, Pb from electronic plastics and pigments, but not PVC, is dispersed into a variety of newer products. Although most cases in the consumer sector comply with relevant EU Directives, some products that are non-compliant highlight shortfalls in regulations where recycling is involved and potential problems arising from the direct fashioning of industrial plastics into new consumer goods through attempts to be environmentally positive. The uncontrolled loss of historical and recycled plastics has also resulted in Pb contamination of the environment. Here, it is proposed that litter can be classified as hazardous depending on its Pb content and according to existing regulations that embrace consumer plastics.

Disclosed delegates tied to the world’s biggest polluting oil and gas firms and their trade groups have attended UN-led climate talks at least 7200 times over the last 20 years, according to a new analysis from the Kick Big Polluters Out (KBPO) coalition.

Just days ahead of COP28, an event already mired in controversy in part due to the fossil fuel boss at its helm, the analysis shines a light on the concerted and obstructive presence of the fossil fuel lobby at the heart of efforts to avert total climate collapse. 

Since COP9 in 2003, disclosed employees of fossil fuel firms have attended negotiations a minimum of 945 times. Disclosed staff from the “Big 5” oil giants – ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP and TotalEnergies—have been granted a minimum of 267 passes.

Representatives from trade associations representing the world’s largest fossil fuel polluters have meanwhile attended COPs at least 6581 times. These groups have used their attendance at COP to lobby to advance fossil fuel interests.

The richest 1 percent grabbed nearly two-thirds of all new wealth worth $42 trillion created since 2020, almost twice as much money as the bottom 99 percent of the world’s population, reveals the Oxfam report, “Survival of the Richest.” During the past decade, the richest 1 percent had captured around half of all new wealth.

Key findings include:

  • Super-rich outstrip their extraordinary grab of half of all new wealth in past decade. 

Billionaire fortunes are increasing by $2.7 billion a day even as at least 1.7 billion workers now live in countries where inflation is outpacing wages.

 -A tax of up to 5 percent on the world’s multi-millionaires and billionaires could raise $1.7 trillion a year, enough to lift 2 billion people out of poverty.

Plastic is the one material that epitomises the mass production and disposal
cycles of the modern era perhaps more than any other. Society has conducted a love affair with this versatile and transformative substance since the 1950s; lightweight, cheap, safe and durable, what’s not to love? Yet as plastic production has escalated, so too has the overwhelming presence in every corner of the planet of discarded plastic debris.

Which brings us to the subject of this book, microplastics. There are few environmental contaminants that have grasped the popular imagination of public and scientists alike and publications on microplastics, where they come from, what they do and what to do about them, are appearing thick and fast.
This book is a much-welcomed addition to this growing literature since it searches for unifying patterns and processes that can help us to understand, remediate and, ultimately, to search for solutions. By combining aspects of environmental chemistry, biology and human health, this book aims to bring a holistic view.