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Waste & Recycling June 28, 2023 01:47:10 PM

Demand for recycled plastic in packaging is growing. So are concerns about potential health risks.

Anil Mathews
ScrapMonster Author
A bevy of recent studies have raised questions about health effects from plastic, including recycled material, as companies and regulators increasingly look at ways to advance its use.

Demand for recycled plastic in packaging is growing. So are concerns about potential health risks.

Awave of recent reports and studies have raised fresh questions about the health risks of plastics, potentially complicating the discussion around the material’s role in food and beverage packaging and efforts to increase the use of recycled content.

Certain chemicals, such as bisphenol A (BPA) — found in plastic bottles, food can linings and other products — have been the subject of public concern for years. Now, a raft of releases from groups such as Bloomberg Philanthropies and Greenpeace are prompting new concerns about risks to humans from exposure to plastics more broadly. In the U.S., some of the complaints also concern the Food and Drug Administration’s handling of reviews for the chemical components of recycled and virgin plastics.

A United Nations Environment Programme report released in May, which surveyed the latest science on chemicals in plastics, found that of the 7,000 substances associated with the materials, almost half contain one or more hazardous property linked to adverse health effects. 

Another recent analysis, conducted by Boston College’s Global Observatory on Planetary Health in partnership with Australia’s Minderoo Foundation and the Centre Scientifique de Monaco, concluded that “current patterns of plastic production, use, and disposal are not sustainable and are responsible for significant harms to human health, the environment and the economy, as well as for deep societal injustices.” Many manufacturing and plastic processing facilities — and the pollution they generate — are located in low-income areas, the authors noted. 

Environment and health advocates call for more reuse systems and a reduction in the use of plastics altogether. These and other assessments highlight a need for a much higher recycling rate and an increase in the types of plastics that can be recycled.

According to the UNEP report, increasing recycling could reduce plastic pollution by an additional 20% by 2040 after also pursuing efforts such as “eliminating problematic and unnecessary plastics.” A separate 2022 report by the recycling advocacy organization Reloop calls for a ramp-up of closed-loop recycling and boosting the collection of drink packaging to a 90% rate.

But sources say such goals can be stymied by a lack of available recycled material. And some fear the dearth of recycled plastic could potentially be exacerbated by any new health-related regulations for packaging that governments adopt in response to recent research.Even as demand for recycled plastic rises it may be increasingly difficult for manufacturers to source an adequate supply — at least with the polymers, designs and recycling processes currently in use. 

According to its latest quarterly financial filing, Republic had 72 recycling centers in its portfolio as of March. The industry’s second-largest company reported 2% of its revenue came from “recycling processing and commodity sales” in Q1. That share could potentially rise in the future as Republic starts opening planned secondary plastics recycling facilities or if values for commodities such as cardboard see sustained improvements from a recent slump.

Courtesy : https://www.wastedive.com/

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