Unpacking the complexity of the PET drink bottles value chain: A chemicals perspective

Researchers find that there are at least 150 chemicals that leach into drinks, including water, from single-use plastic bottles. At least 18 of those chemicals were found at levels that exceed EU chemical regulations.

Abstract: Chemicals can migrate from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) drink bottles to their content and recycling processes may concentrate or introduce new chemicals to the PET value chain. Therefore, even though recycling PET bottles is key in reducing plastic pollution, it may raise concerns about safety and quality. This study provides a systematic evidence map of the food contact chemicals (FCCs) that migrate from PET drink bottles aiming to identify challenges in closing the plastic packaging loop. The migration potential of 193 FCCs has been investigated across the PET drink bottles lifecycle, of which 150 have been detected to migrate from PET bottles into food simulants/food samples. The study reveals that much research has focused on the migration of antimony (Sb), acetaldehyde and some well-known endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). It indicates and discusses the key influential factors on FCCs migration, such as physical characteristics and geographical origin of PET bottles, storage conditions, and reprocessing efficiency . Although, safety and quality implications arising from the recycling of PET bottles remain underexplored, the higher migration of Sb and Bishphenol A has been reported in recycled (rPET) compared to virgin PET. This is attributed to multiple contamination sources and the variability in the collection, sorting, and decontamination efficiency. Better collaboration among stakeholders across the entire PET bottles lifecycle is needed to ensure sustainable resource management and food contact safety of rPET.

Experts find there is a significant lack of understanding in recycling facilities’ pollution potential. Plastic recycling facilities are a source of microplastic pollution. This pollution is most concentrated in recycling wash water.

Abstract: With current plastic production and the growing problem of global plastic pollution, an increase and improvement in plastic recycling is needed. There is limited knowledge or assessment of microplastic pollution from point sources such as plastic recycling facilities globally. This pilot study investigates microplastic pollution from a mixed plastics recycling facility in the UK to advance current quantitative understanding of microplastic (MP) pollution release from a plastic recycling facility to receiving waters. Raw recycling wash water were estimate to contain microplastic counts between 5.97 106 – 1.12 × 108 MP m−3 (following fluorescence microscopy analysis). The microplastic pollution mitigation (filtration installed) was found to remove the majority of microplastics >5µm, with high removal efficiencies for microplastics >40µm. Microplastics <5µm were generally not removed by the filtration and subsequently discharged, with 59-1184 tonnes potentially discharged annually. It is recommended that additional filtration to remove the smaller microplastics prior to wash discharge is incorporated in the wash water management. Evidence of microplastic wash water pollution suggest it may be important to integrate microplastics into water quality regulations. Further studies should be conducted to increase knowledge of microplastic pollution from plastic recycling processes.

Our planet is flooded with plastics. While nature, the climate, biodiversity, and human health suffer from the ever-increasing volumes of plastic waste, the fossil fuel industry continues to produce it and to profit from it.

This analysis reveals that the planned trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur (made up of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay) will eliminate tariffs for plastics exports from the EU to South America – including tariffs for plastic items whose trade and use are banned in the EU in order to protect the environment and human health, such as single-use plastic cutlery. This stands in stark contrast to ongoing negotiations over a Global Plastics Treaty to significantly reduce plastic production and phase out plastic pollution, as well as to EU legislation aimed at reducing plastic use and avoiding plastic waste. This planned trade agreement is a textbook case of double standards.

Fertilizers and pesticides are interdependent inputs to a destructive food production model that is contributing to catastrophic biodiversity collapse, toxic pollution, and the violation of human rights. But there is an often-overlooked dimension of the threat posed by these agrochemicals: their fossil fuel origins. Synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and pesticides are fossil fuels in another form, making them an underrecognized but significant driver of the climate crisis. Further, the close ties between agrochemicals and fossil fuels mean that industrial food production is vulnerable to the volatility inherent in oil and gas markets, as starkly illustrated by the 2022 market shocks in food, fuel, and fertilizer prices. 

For over a decade, the fossil fuel industry has been betting on petrochemicals (namely, plastics) to maintain profits as the world moves away from oil and gas as fuels. Fossils, Fertilizers, and False Solutions exposes how fossil fuel and fossil fertilizer companies are aligning to pursue a new escape hatch: one that purports to solve the climate challenge of hydrocarbon combustion by using the hydrogen and managing the carbon. 

The fertilizer industry, and the processes it already uses to make its products, hold the keys to this new model. Largely unnoticed by media and civil society watchdogs, oil, gas, and agrochemical companies are partnering on a rapidly growing wave of new projects that would use carbon capture and storage (CCS) to produce fossil gas-based “blue” ammonia (and its “blue” hydrogen precursor), not only as a critical fertilizer input, but as a combustible fuel for transport and energy. Through such approaches, the fertilizer and fossil fuel companies seek to greenwash their polluting business, cash in on generous new subsidies for CCS, and access new markets as “clean energy companies.” 

This report begins by summarizing synthetic fertilizer market trends, describing how chemical fertilizer is tied to fossil fuels through feedstocks, examining the 2022 food and fertilizer market disruptions, and calling attention to the ecological and climate impacts of synthetic fertilizers. It then explores how the fertilizer industry and fossil fuel producers are capitalizing on the climate crisis to open new avenues for profit and production by laundering their emissions through the chemicals and agriculture sector. 

The corporate-controlled, input-reliant model of industrial agriculture is in need of a profound transformation to resilient, regenerative models that enhance food and energy sovereignty so that the ecosystems and communities that depend on them can thrive. The need for such a fundamental transformation is as urgent and as compelling as the global energy transition, the transition away from plastic pollution, and the transition to a world free of toxic chemicals. Those transitions can only be achieved if the common roadblock is removed: a fossil-fueled system that has captured politics and is burning, polluting, and poisoning people and the planet. At a time of surging fossil fuel, fertilizer, and food prices, and with the escalating climate crisis as a backdrop, the case for transitioning away from fossil fertilizer and from fossil fuels altogether has never been clearer.

Today, Canada produces nearly 2.4 million tonnes of plastic packaging waste each year. And that number keeps growing dramatically. Typically, this plastic is used just once, sometimes for minutes. But it lasts for centuries in the environment, where it harms oceans, ecosystems and life itself.

Oceana Canada’s roadmap provides an evidence-based guide to eliminating one-third of our country’s plastic packaging. By implementing the recommended interventions, Canada can prevent the generation of nearly nine million tonnes of single-use plastic by 2040.

Scientists discover that sea turtle eggs are disproportionately hatching female-sexed as temperatures of beaches increase along with exposure to pollution, including plastic.

Abstract: Sea turtle nesting beaches are experiencing increased sand temperatures as climate change progresses. In one major green turtle (Chelonia mydas) nesting beach in the northern Great Barrier Reef, over 99 percent of hatchlings are female. The effects of contaminants on sea turtle hatchling sex determination are not often explored. Liver samples were collected from green turtle hatchlings that were sacrificed for histological sex determination in a parallel study on the effects of sand cooling on sex ratios, and analysed for trace elements via acid digestion and organic contaminants via in vitro cytotoxicity bioassays. Chromium, antimony, barium, and cadmium have previously been demonstrated to be estrogenic, and concentrations of these elements were used to calculate three estrogenic indexes for each clutch: predicted relative estrogenic potency (PEEQA), the sum of percent trace elements above the median of all samples (TEOM), and the sum of percent estrogenic elements above the median of all samples (EstroEOM). Excluding an outlier clutch, cadmium, antimony, and EstroEOM had significant positive relationships with sex ratio deviation. Mean clutch cobalt, lead, antimony and barium, also had a significant positive relationship with clutch sex ratio. There was no relationship between in vitro cytotoxicity of liver extracts and sex ratio, however, 9% of hatchlings had organic contaminants high enough to suggest potential cellular damage. Contaminant effects on sex determination are likely to be caused by a mixture of contaminant interactions as well as temperature. Many trace elements detected in this study have also been linked to negative health effects on hatchlings in previous studies. Considering the risks of feminization due to climate change and potential contaminant effects on hatchling health and sex determination, future studies exploring contaminant effects on sea turtle hatchling sex determination are recommended.