A scientific review article published on October 9, 2017 in the peer-reviewed Journal of Hazardous Materials, addressed “migration, release, fate and environmental impact” of chemical additives during the use, disposal, and recycling phases of plastics’ life cycle. John Hahladakis and colleagues from the School of Civil Engineering, University of Leeds, UK, discussed “key problems associated with plastic waste,” in particular “disposal and treatment,” and delineated “the challenges and complications – both environmental and technical – encountered during the disposal of plastic products at their end-of-life.” Specific focus was given to “migration and release potential of various additives present in plastic food contact materials,” and discussion of recycling had a particular emphasis on the situation in developing countries.
Various chemical substances often added to plastic polymers (known as “additives” and including functional additives, colorants, fillers, and reinforcements) confer useful properties enhancing the functionality of polymer products. However, as the authors summarized, these chemical additives may also “contaminate soil, air, water and food,” and there is a particularly high probability for these substances to “be released from plastics during the various recycling and recover processes and from the products produced from recyclates.”
Therefore, the authors called for further research and technological advances to ensure that “sound recycling . . . be performed in such a way as to ensure that emission of substances of high concern and contamination of recycled products is avoided, ensuring environmental and human health protection, at all times.”
Hahladakis, J., et al. (2017). “An overview of chemical additives present in plastics: Migration, release, fate and environmental impact during their use, disposal and recycling.” Journal of Hazardous Materials, 344:179-199.