The Urgent Need for Overhauling Plastic Recycling Systems and Addressing Chemicals of Concern

Alfred Tang

Alfred Tang

Aug 23, 20233 min read

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The Urgent Need for Overhauling Plastic Recycling Systems and Addressing Chemicals of Concern

Plastics have become an integral part of our lives, but their impact on the environment cannot be ignored. While we often categorize plastics by their polymer type, such as PET (polyethylene terephthalate), they are actually complex mixtures of various chemicals. These chemicals can include processing aids, colorings, flame retardants, and plasticizers, along with unintentional additions during manufacturing or use that can have a significant impact on recycling.

One of the major concerns with plastic recycling is the presence of persistent organic pollutants (POPs). These are chemicals that are regulated under the Stockholm Convention due to their harmful effects on human health and the environment. While some POPs are exempted for use in plastics, their toxicity can build up in recycled plastics, posing a serious threat.

To tackle this issue, an urgent overhaul of plastic recycling systems is required. We need to develop more efficient and effective methods for separating and identifying the different chemicals present in plastics. This will allow us to ensure that only safe and recyclable plastics are being processed, reducing the risk of contamination and pollution.

Furthermore, there is a need for stricter regulations and guidelines regarding the use of chemicals in plastics. By limiting the use of harmful additives and promoting the use of safer alternatives, we can minimize the negative impact of plastics on both human health and the environment.

While addressing the concerns surrounding plastic recycling is crucial, we must also consider the broader issue of climate change. The rise in average global temperatures due to human activities has already had significant consequences. Since the Industrial Revolution, average global temperatures have increased by one degree Celsius, adding a substantial amount of energy to the Earth's system.

This increase in temperature has resulted in more frequent and severe extreme weather events. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, over 20 million people are displaced each year due to sudden weather events like flooding, fires, and storms. The melting of glaciers and ice sheets has also led to a rise in global sea levels by approximately 20 centimeters in the last 150 years.

While 20 centimeters may not sound alarming, it has already caused the submergence of low-lying areas. Climate change has intensified and magnified the impact of local weather patterns, leading to more extreme droughts, rain events, cold snaps, and other weather phenomena.

To mitigate the effects of climate change, we need to take immediate action. Here are three actionable steps we can take:

  • 1. Reduce plastic consumption: By minimizing our use of single-use plastics and opting for reusable alternatives, we can reduce the demand for plastic production and subsequently lessen its impact on the environment.
  • 2. Support innovative recycling technologies: Invest in research and development of advanced recycling technologies that can effectively separate and identify different chemicals in plastics, ensuring safer recycling processes.
  • 3. Advocate for stronger regulations: Push for more stringent regulations on the use of harmful chemicals in plastics. By holding manufacturers accountable for the environmental impact of their products, we can drive the adoption of safer alternatives and promote sustainable practices.

In conclusion, the urgent need for overhauling plastic recycling systems and addressing chemicals of concern is undeniable. By improving recycling processes and reducing the use of harmful additives, we can minimize the environmental and health risks associated with plastics. Additionally, taking action to mitigate climate change is crucial to prevent further damage to our planet. Through individual efforts and collective action, we can work towards a more sustainable and resilient future.

Resource:

  1. "Chemicals of concern: Overhaul urgently needed to fix 'failed' plastic recycling systems", https://www.reuters.com/sustainability/climate-energy/chemicals-concern-overhaul-urgently-needed-fix-failed-plastic-recycling-systems-2023-07-10/ (Glasp)
  2. "How Will Climate Change Continue to Affect Us?: Crash Course Climate & Energy #8 - YouTube", https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVUuwHGLIYo (Glasp)

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