IPEN’s Toxic Plastics video provides a quick and accessible overview about how toxic chemicals in plastics threaten human and environmental health throughout the plastic life-cycle, from petrochemical production through disposal. Most plastics are not recyclable, but new plastic products made from recycled plastics can contain a toxic soup of dangerous chemicals. Landfills leech toxic chemicals into soils and groundwater. Incineration creates toxic pollution, including dioxins. Exporting plastic waste is poisoning poor communities around the world. View and share the video in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish, and then find IPEN research and reports for a deeper dive.
Plastic waste from America, collected for recycling, is shipped to Indonesia. Some is burned as fuel by tofu makers, producing deadly chemicals and contaminating food.
By Richard Paddock
TROPODO, Indonesia — Black smoke billows from smokestacks towering above the village. The smell of burning plastic fills the air. Patches of black ash cover the ground. It’s another day of making tofu.
This summary of Plastic Waste Poisons Indonesia's Food Chain provides an overview of the alarmingly high levels of dioxins as a result of plastic incineration. These dioxins are poisoning food networks and the environment. The plastics being incinerated are being imported along with waste papers into Indonesia and other countries, and in Tropodo and Bangun are being used to fuel steam generators used to make tofu.
A movement bidding good riddance to bad trash is growing across South East Asia, and it should spark an international reckoning with how we have been dealing with plastic waste, recycling, and responsibility.
China closed its doors in 2018 to nearly a million tons of mixed plastic waste shipments, and with it, the inevitable toxic pollution to land, air, and groundwater that comes with plastic waste. All plastics contain toxic additives, many of which have negative health impacts. In the wake of China’s decision, the developed waste exporting nations set their plastic recycling on course to other South East Asian countries that were soon overwhelmed by the massive trashing.
In May, world governments gave developing countries a tool to resist the deluge of plastic mixed waste shipments through the UN Basel Convention. The US is not a signatory to the treaty, yet attempted to block the decision. The US obstruction failed, and 184 of the world’s governments created new regulations that require waste exporting countries to declare the content of mixed waste shipments and enables receiving countries to refuse plastic waste imports.