Researchers have cautioned that a common type of recycled plastic bottle leaks more potentially dangerous chemicals into its contents than newly made bottles.
Brunel University London researchers discovered 150 chemicals that leached into beverages from plastic bottles, with 18 of them finding at quantities that exceeded standards.
They also discovered that beverages packaged with recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) had greater levels of pollutants than drinks bottled with new PET, suggesting that contamination may be caused by difficulties with the recycling process.
They are advocating for more cautious recycling processes to eliminate potentially hazardous compounds.
The thermoplastic PET is the third most extensively used form of plastic in food packaging, with single-use beverages bottles being one of its most common applications. As one of the most frequent kinds of plastic trash, such bottles have prompted a variety of attempts to enhance PET recycling rates. PET bottles must include at least 30% recycled material by 2030, according to a recent EU.
PET, on the other hand, is known for containing a variety of chemical pollutants, including endocrine disruptors like Bisphenol A, which can cause reproductive difficulties, cardiovascular problems, and cancer, among other things.
The researchers looked at 91 papers on chemical contamination from plastic bottles from throughout the world. “We found these chemicals can come from various sources, such as the catalysts and additives used during production and degradation during PET production, as well as degradation that can happen across a bottle’s lifecycle,” said Dr Eleni Iacovidou, a lecturer from Brunel’s centre for pollution research and policy, who led the study.
According to the article published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, many of the pollutants detected in recycled PET bottles were caused by contamination of the feedstock, including labels. “This evidence suggests that highly recyclable products, such as PET drink bottles, can be inapt for closed-loop recycling when poorly designed,” the researchers wrote. “This evidence indicates the need for greater adoption of design-for-recycling principles and improvements at the waste-management infrastructure level.”
The study argues that a method known as the “super cleaning” procedure, which employs a three-stage process to clean old plastics before recycling – a high-temperature wash, a gas wash, and a chemical wash – may be used to minimize the quantity of chemicals detected in bottled beverages.
“Recycling operations currently entail cleaning the bottles before converting them into secondary raw material for usage,” Iacovidou explained. We can increase the possibility of decontaminating recycled PET to levels comparable to virgin PET by investing in innovative super-cleaning technologies.”
The ultimate answer to the problem, as always, is for society to stop using PET completely, according to Iacovidou.
“We all have a share of the blame. “We need to start thinking about how we can reduce our usage of PET bottles in our homes by investing in water filters or big water containers, as well as learning how to properly dispose of our plastic trash,” she added.
“If we reduce our consumption of PET then we will drive change further up the system. Less demand equals less production in the first place.”
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