Recycling process makes plastics even more 'poisonous' to people, according to report by Greenpeace
Companies often promote the use of recycled plastics as a means to save the environment, but the 'eco-friendly' initiative could be harmful to human health. Some plastics contain toxic chemicals, like manmade bisphenol (BPA), and during the blanket recycling process, these hazardous chemicals are transferred into the recycled material used to make new bottles, cartons and other containers. These toxins can cause liver damage, thyroid disease, decreased and . The warning comes from a report by Greenpeace, a non-profit that campaigns to protect the environment, which has been touting a plastic-free world for at least seven years. Plastic project leader at Greenpeace Kate Melges told DailyMail.com that the best alternative is 'moving away from single-use plastics' and toward other materials made from paper, beeswax or bamboo. The first is 'direct contamination from toxic chemicals in virgin plastic.' 'The plastics are often made from toxic chemicals, then are recycled, and it transfers into the recycled plastics,' said Melges. The second pathway is toxic substances leaching into plastic waste. 'That can be containers for pesticides, cleaning solvents, motor oil,' Melges said. 'All those things that are not super safe for human health can enter the recycling chain, contaminating other types of plastic like the recycled material used to make milk cartons.' The last poisonous pathway harms staff working at recycling plants. 'Plastics are heated in the recycling process. This can create new toxic chemicals, which are like brominated dioxins,' said Melges. She continued to explain that all plastics are melted down and chopped into little pieces, turned into pellets, then heated and cooled into new containers. More than 98 percent of plastics are produced from fossil carbon- coal, oil and gas. The synthetic material is then combined with 'additional chemicals that are incorporated into polymers to convey specific properties such as color, flexibility, stability, water repellence, flame retardation, and ultraviolet resistance,' according to a from a team of international scientists led by Boston College. 'They include carcinogens, neurotoxicants and endocrine disruptors such as phthalates, bisphenols, per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), brominated flame retardants, and organophosphate flame retardants,' the study continues. 'They are integral components of plastic and are responsible for many of plastics harms to human health and the environment.' The report reveals that coal miners and oil and gas field workers who extract carbon feedstocks for plastic production have suffered cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. However, those working in plastic-producing plants 'are at increased risk of leukemia, lymphoma, hepatic angiosarcoma, brain cancer, breast cancer, mesothelioma, neurotoxic injury, and decreased fertility,' according to the study. 'The story of how our cycle of plastic isn't the solution to the plastic pollution crisis and it is harmful to human health,' said Melges. Melges and the Greenpeace team are taking their report about recycled plastics to the United Nations (UN), urging the organization to implement the law-binding Global Plastics treaty to cap and phase down plastic production. In the lead-up to the negotiations, over 100 scientists and civil society, groups issued a letter urging the UN to prevent the fossil fuel industry from undermining the negotiations. Nearly 30 celebrities, including Jason Momoa, Jane Fonda and Alec Baldwin, wrote a letter calling on the Biden Administration to support a legally binding treaty that caps plastic production. 'We're seeing a crisis, a climate crisis,' Melges told DailyMail.com. 'Plastics are made from oil and gas, fueling climate change. 'We really need to cut plastic production, and that is, moving away from single-use, plastic packaging.' Nestle states it is 'committed to designing 100 percent of our plastic packaging for recycling,' with 2025 seeing 95 percent of its containers this way. Also, by 2025, Unilever aims to use 25 percent recycled plastic in its packaging, and Coca-Cola currently uses 100 percent recycled plastic in its bottles - including the caps. However, Coca-Cola recently announced its first-ever beverage bottle made from 100 percent plant-based plastic with up to 30 percent plant-based materials.