Everything you (don’t) want to know about plastics
Plastics involve two major problems: they can leak hazardous chemicals to the indoors and outdoors environment and lead to severe waste problems around the world.
Today, a global report on plastics is released. Five environmental organizations around the world review the issue of plastics from a national and global point of view. This detailed report describes the life cycle of plastics, from manufacturing through the usage of every-day products, to the plastic waste. Many plastics components contribute to e.g. cancer, allergy or endocrine diseases. Additionally, many components are persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic to aquatic life.
The report has been written by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC), together with the EcoWaste Coalition (Philippines), groundwork (South Africa), ESDO (Bangladesh) and Toxics Link (India).
- The additives alone can be counted in thousands and may leak from the material, and since content lists are non-existent it is difficult to know what plastics to avoid in your home, and how to reuse and recycle them, says Johanna Sandahl at SSNC
The plastic waste is shown to be a problematic issue in the Philippines, South Africa, Bangladesh and India, which indicates a problem on a global scale.
- Among a host of reasons, all efforts to ban the use of plastic bags in the Philippines are intended to address the issue of the perennial garbage disposal that adversely affect the public health, the economy and the environment, says EcoWaste Coalition.
ESDO in Bangladesh confirms that the waste issue of plastic materials may be of great importance for the human health and the environment:
- We advocate reduced use of plastics in general, in favor of usage of natural materials. Meanwhile, the plastic that is used anyway should be reused many times and then recycled, says ESDO.
In India approximately 60% of the plastic materials are recycled but most of the recycling is performed by the informal sector. Health issues connected to plastic materials is a complex problem very dependent on the low level of knowledge about chemicals in plastic, and their effects.
- These people work under extreme working conditions, completely unaware of the potential dangers of handling plastic materials, says Toxics Link.
Lack of control of plastics industry production is also a problem. India and South Africa host many plastic manufacturers, but at the same time, there are few independent organizations or authorities reviewing or regulating consumer safety of marketed products.
- We therefore advocate a continued increased legal protection for both workers at plastic factories, as well as for consumers of plastic materials, says groundWork.
SSNC, EcoWaste Coalition, ESDO, groundwork and Toxics Link suggests among other things:
- consumption of plastic must be reduced, particularly for disposable plastics. This can be stimulated by legislation,
- waste disposal systems needs to be developed to shift from landfilling and incineration, towards reuse and recycling,
- a reduction in the number of mixed materials in plastics would increase the volume of recyclable plastics. This can be stimulated by legislation,
- regulation of hazardous phthalates, bisphenols and brominated flame retardants in consumer products, and especially of those exposed to children in their everyday life,
- gradual phasing out of other dangerous additives and components in plastics, listed in the appendix 6 in the report,
- introduction of mandatory contents lists on plastic products.
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