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Plastics Treaty News Edition 2
Edition 2 - May 2023
See all of our work on toxic plastics at StopPoisonPlastic.org
In anticipation of the Plastics Treaty Second Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-2) in Paris 29 May to 2 June, IPEN is pleased to share this Plastics Treaty News update.
All of our resources for INC-2 can be found on the new IPEN website. Highlights include:
- IPEN’s INC-2 Quick Views: For the Plastics Treaty to protect human health and the environment from the impacts of plastics throughout their lifecycle, the Treaty must address chemicals in plastics. See IPEN’s Quick Views for an outline of the most pressing issues in the upcoming INC-2 agenda (available in English, Arabic, Spanish, French, Russian, and Chinese).
- Troubling Toxics: An IPEN brief on eliminating harmful plastic chemicals through the Plastics Treaty describing how the Treaty can learn from previous global agreements and establish criteria for defining chemicals that should be prohibited from plastics.
- The Toxic Plastic Recycling Stream: an infographic (see below) on health threats from plastic recycling showing how recycled plastics can poison workers, communities, and consumers.
- The Orphan Planetary Crisis: The UN has identified three planetary environmental crises: the climate crisis, the biodiversity crisis, and the pollution (chemicals and waste) crisis. Funds are in development for addressing the first two, but there is no funding mechanism to address the crisis from chemicals and waste. IPEN’s infographic argues that countries cannot continue to subsidize the profits of the chemical industry by using public funds to clean up the industry’s mess.
You can also find our press releases, policy briefs, and research reports with global data on the health and environmental threats from chemicals in plastics on the IPEN website INC-2 page.
IPEN is concerned about the health and environmental threats throughout the plastic recycling stream. Studies from IPEN and others have shown that plastic recycling poses health threats to consumers, waste and recycling workers, and communities.
A few reports exposing health threats from plastic recycling include:
- Forever Toxic, a new report from Greenpeace reviewing the science around environmental and health risks from plastic recycling. (add link)
- Plastic Recycling in Thailand: a study from Ecological Alert and Recovery Thailand (EARTH) with IPEN and Arnika released this month found a toxic plastic chemical in Thai plastic recycling workers’ blood, food, and surroundings.
- Toxic Recycled Plastic Products from Kenya: a study by Kenya’s Centre for Environment Justice and Development with IPEN and Arnika found high levels of toxic chemicals in products made from recycled plastics purchased in Kenya.
- Toxic Recycled Plastics from Russia, Indonesia, and China: data on chemicals in recycled plastic products show how plastics poison the circular economy.
- Recycled Plastic Pellets Globally Contain Toxic Chemicals: toxic chemicals were found in all recycled plastics pellets collected from 23 countries.
- Toxic Recycled Plastics in African and Arabic Countries: recycled plastic products including toys, kitchen utensils, and more were found with high levels of toxic chemicals.
Forever Toxic, a review of the science on health threats from plastic recycling, notes that recycled plastics often contain higher levels of chemicals than even new “virgin” plastics. Studies from IPEN and others have shown that chemicals from recycled plastics can poison waste workers, communities, and consumers.
As IPEN Science Advisor Therese Karlsson notes, “We should not recycle toxic chemicals that poison our bodies and pollute our air, water, and food. Real solutions to the plastics crisis will require global controls on chemicals in plastics and significant reductions in plastic production.”
See more IPEN resources on chemicals and plastics here.
A May 2023 report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions notes that chemicals released throughout the life cycle of plastics pose serious health and environmental threats. The review, “Chemicals in Plastics: A Technical Report” has immediate significance for the upcoming Plastics Treaty negotiations, as it explores in detail issues related to the invisible health threats posed by chemicals in plastic and the need for global chemical controls and approaches that promote reducing plastic production.
The UN technical report finds that globally, about 22 million tonnes of plastics and chemicals from these plastics are released to the environment every year. Most chemicals used or found in plastics can migrate or leach out over time, and chemical releases from plastics during production, use, and waste disposal can contaminate air, water, soils, and food chains, with consequent risks to human health. Occupational exposures are a serious concern for plastic production, waste, and recycling workers, especially informal waste pickers (including child workers) primarily in developing countries who face significant chemical exposures.
“Africa is not a major plastic producer but we bear an unequal share of the impacts from toxic plastic wastes,” said Semia Gharbi, an IPEN Steering Committee member and Chairperson of Tunisia’s Association de l’Education Environnementale pour les Futures Générations (AEEFG), who also served as an expert reviewer of the UN report. “When countries export plastic wastes which contain and release dangerous chemicals, our people suffer the consequences. The UN report shows that we urgently need stronger global policies to end the crisis from poisonous plastics.”
Lee Bell, an IPEN Policy Advisor and an expert reviewer of the UN report said, “Chemicals linked to serious health conditions are a significant concern throughout the plastics life cycle. The Plastics Treaty must address the plastics crisis by addressing chemicals and health comprehensively and promoting reductions in plastic production and use. This will help drive solutions through the design of safer, toxics-free materials that move us toward a true circular economy.”
See more in IPEN’s press release highlighting the relevance of the report to the Plastics Treaty.
Griffins Ochieng is Co-Chair of IPEN’s Plastics Working Group and Executive Director of the Centre for Environment Justice and Development (CEJAD), a Kenyan public interest Non Governmental Organization that works to promote and support environmental justice and sustainable development. In addition to their work on eliminating toxics from plastics and waste, CEJAD works to end mercury use in small-scale gold mining, ban lead paint, and end the use of highly hazardous pesticides.
In their plastics work, CEJAD recently tested recycled plastic products purchased in Kenya, finding high levels of toxic chemicals in plastic toys, utensils, and other consumer products. Regarding the study Griffins noted, “Africa faces an unequal share of the burdens from plastic pollution, from PCBs, and from other highly toxic chemicals from plastics that contaminate our food, water, air, and even toys that our children play with. We experience greater health risks because of loopholes in international regulations and abuses by corporations and countries that export plastic wastes which contain and release dangerous chemicals. Our study today shows that we urgently need stronger global policies to end the crisis from poisonous plastics.”