It has been estimated that 4.8-12.7 million tonnes of plastics enter the oceans every year. Plastics are made from carbon and chemicals and many of the chemicals can leach out from the plastics -- this means that plastic litter can act as carriers of toxic chemicals to remote regions.
Read our factsheet on the global spread of chemicals from plastics.
In May 2021, the cargo ship X-Press Pearl caught fire outside of Sri Lanka. After the first wave of air pollution, the second wave of pollutants hit the beaches. It consisted of lost cargo, including billions of plastic pellets (microplastics used to produce plastics). Through summarizing the events leading up to and following the fire, analyzing plastics found on the beaches for toxic chemicals, and interviewing 107 fishermen and other locals, this report looks at:
Because almost all plastics contain toxic chemicals, recycling processes can perserve and can even generate toxic chemicals, such as dioxins. In this study, pellets made from recycled HDPE, intended for use in new products, were purchased from 24 recyclers in 23 countries and analyzed for 18 substances. The large number of toxic chemicals in many of the samples highlights the need to rethink recycling to ensure it does not perpetuate harms.
Plastics pose significant threats to human health and ecosystems throughout their life cycles, according to two new studies by the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN). To get a global picture of the role plastics play in transporting toxic chemicals around the world, IPEN worked with International Pellet Watch (IPW) and its NGO partners in 35 countries to investigate hazardous chemicals and pollutants present in:
This summary of our two plastic pellets reports encapsulate the broad issues related to toxic chemicals in plastics and the concerns with recycling processes that can perserve or generate toxic chemicals.
Preproduction plastics as pellets, or "nurdles", can carry many different chemicals, both those added to the plastics and pollutants that attach (sorb) to them in the environment. Often lost during production, transportation, and storage, pellets have been found on beaches all over the world since the 1970s. This study of plastic pellets gathered from beaches in 23 different countries contained many chemicals of concern, some in very high concentrations.
Jeunes Volontaires pour l’Environnement has identified 14 facilities in Cameroon that currently handle plastic waste and have the potential to impact human health, especially waste workers, and Cameroon's sensitive environment. This national report seeks to provide information and support to consumers, manufacturers, distributers, regulatory authorities and the media about the inherent risks, hazards and associated impacts of plastic waste.
Colombo, Sri Lanka For days it stood burning off the Sri Lanka coast, plumes of thick dark smoke that could be seen from miles away. But the X-Press Pearl has now fallen silent, lying half sunken off the coast of Sri Lanka, its hull resting on the shallow ocean bed.
But though the flames have now been doused - the problems have only just begun.
En el planeta hay una tendencia a impulsar laresponsabilidad extendida del productoren el desecho de mercancías electrónicas, plásticos y aceites; de esta manera, la industria tiene la obligación de hacerse cargo de éstas cuando termina su vida útil. En cambio, en México sólo se plantean cambios legislativos para el caso de plásticos y se mantiene la corresponsabilidad con los ciudadanos en la generación de basura.