Carbon Capture, Use, and Sequestration

In an effort for industries to mitigate their contributions to climate change, the U.S. federal government has funded the development of a expensive and controversial technology to make doing so economically viable. But how viable, and safe, is this technology really?

The Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) has gathered evidence to comprehensively educate both the public and decision-makers about the risks associated with this technology, known as Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Sequestration (CCS). With CCS, corporations emitting carbon dioxide capture, transport, and inject carbon underground, to store or use for industrial purposes. However, there are many risks associated with CCS that far outweigh the perceived benefits.

EIP has collected data on existing and proposed carbon dioxide pipelines in the USA, as well as information on abandoned oil and gas wells, and risk of carbon dioxide leaks. Its map overlays this information with community-level data, such as population, indications of tribal lands and other demographic information, and more.

Does Amazon’s plastic packaging actually get recycled? Researchers with U.S. PIRG placed trackers in bundles of Amazon shipping materials and put them in store drop bins to see where they ended up.

Plastic packaging from e-commerce is a major producer of plastic pollution, generating 3.4 billion pounds of plastic globally in 2021 alone. Amazon is a significant contributor to this number, generating an estimated 709 million pounds of plastic just in 2021. Amazon claims much of its plastic packaging is recyclable, and offers a store drop-off system for its film packaging. Yet researchers found no evidence any of its plastic packaging is being recycled. The results paint a far different picture of what actually happens to Amazon’s plastic packaging when it is returned for “recycling.”

Unilever is vocal about its desire to conduct business that does ‘more good for our planet and our society – not just less harm’. In recent years, it has been visible at conferences around the world, promoting its plan to use ‘less plastic, better plastic or no plastic’.

In this report, Greenpeace International investigates the reality behind these soundbites. Greenpeace exposes the blight of Unilever’s single-use sachets on low-income communities and the glaring gap that exists between what the company says it will do, and what it actually does.

Greenpeace concludes by urging Unilever to grasp the opportunity presented by the new UN Global Plastics Treaty. The company must spearhead an industry-wide movement, one that transitions businesses away from single-use plastics and towards the adoption of at-scale reusable packaging systems around the world.

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.

Scientists chemically analyze 28 samples of recycled high density polyethylene (HDPE) collected from across regions of the Global South, along with a fresh sample of new HDPE. Their research shows the prevalence of certain chemicals commonly used in processing HDPE increase in recycled plastic, as well as pesticides, pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals, and other plastic additives.

Abstract: Plastics are produced with a staggering array of chemical compounds, with many being known to possess hazardous properties, and others lacking comprehensive hazard data. Furthermore, non-intentionally added substances can contaminate plastics at various stages of their lifecycle, resulting in recycled materials containing an unknown number of chemical compounds at unknown concentrations. While some national and regional regulations exist for permissible concentrations of hazardous chemicals in specific plastic products, less than 1 % of plastics chemicals are subject to international regulation [1]. There are currently no policies mandating transparent reporting of chemicals throughout the plastics value chain or comprehensive monitoring of chemicals in recycled materials.

The dataset presented here provides the chemical analysis of 28 samples of recycled High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) pellets obtained from various regions of the Global South, along with a reference sample of virgin HDPE. The analysis comprises both Target and Non-Targeted Screening approaches, employing Liquid Chromatography-High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry (LC-HRMS) and Gas Chromatography-High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry (GC-HRMS). In total, 491 organic compounds were detected and quantified, with an additional 170 compounds tentatively annotated. These compounds span various classes, including pesticides, pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals, plastic additives.

The results highlight the prevalence of certain chemicals, such as N-ethyl-o-Toluesulfonamide, commonly used in HDPE processing, found in high concentrations. The paper provides a dataset advancing knowledge of the complex chemical composition associated with recycled plastics.