Studies Indicate Recycled Food Contact Plastics Are Carriers For Contamination

Studies Indicate Recycled Food Contact Plastics Are Carriers For Contamination

A recent study published by Cambridge University shows that reused and recycled food plastics gather and release hundreds upon hundreds of harmful toxins like formaldehyde, benzene, styrene, and heavy metals.

The news will have rippling effects through the recycling industry, as the study indicates that the toxins gathered on the plastics can easily spread to other foods, potentially contaminating an entire batch in the process. The authors of the peer-reviewed study stated: ‘’“Hazardous chemicals can accumulate in recycled material and then migrate into foodstuffs, leading to chronic human exposure’’ – a statement that makes for grim reading for those who prefer to recycle their food plastics.

The study comes at a damning time for both the plastics and recycling industries; there were recent talks in Paris about the impact of the material on the environment. Both the EU and the USA have flimsy regulations about what goes into plastic and which, if any, chemicals are and are not allowed to enter its production cycle. The economic hardship experienced by the world in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic has made the public cautious about how much food they waste, with many preparing to ‘batch-cook’ their meals in advance before storing them into plastic containers. The news that their recycled plastics may contain high levels of toxins will come as a shock to the general population and the study only highlights how much work we have to do in the plastics sector.

Perhaps the only way our long love affair with plastics will end if a drastic switch to alternative materials is made as soon as possible. This, of course, cannot account for the billions of tons of plastics already in circulation, but waste management and public health would improve if, for example, non-plastic bags and containers were used in the food sector and plastic cutlery was replaced with wooden utensils. Steps like this may seem like a drop in a bucket, but the little things really do go a long way.

The paper went on to say: ‘’“A shift towards materials that can be safely reused due to their favorable, inert material properties could be a promising option to reduce the impacts of single-use food packaging on the environment and of migrating chemicals on human health.’’ Over 850 chemicals were discovered to have been used in PET recycled plastic, most of them discovered over the past two years.

To say humanity should leave plastic behind is obvious and easier said than done, but the sheer amount of toxins found in recycled versions of the material are sure to raise alarm bells and fuel discussions even more.

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