On September 25, 2020, the Regional Activity Centre for Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP/RAC) announced the publication of a new report investigating hazardous additives used in plastics and the adverse impacts they can have on transitioning to a circular economy. The SCP/RAC operates under the UN Environment Programme and serves both the Stockholm and Barcelona Conventions. Developed in collaboration with the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN), the report aims “to shine a light on extensive evidence of toxic chemical components in plastics that can harm human and environmental health and impede a safe circular economy.”

The report references a wide set of scientific articles to identify a priority set of ‘substances of concern’ used in plastics that pose a threat to human and environmental health. The substances are presented as classes and include flame retardants, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), phthalates, bisphenols, and nonylphenols. It specifically highlights groups of consumer product types that the additives are known to be used within including children’s toys, food packaging, electronics, textiles, upholstery, and furniture. The report “details toxic exposures related to each state of the plastic life cycle from production to disposal addressing landfill and incineration.”

To address the problem of hazardous additives being recycled into new products, the report calls for (i) designing materials that cause no harm, (ii) investing in the development of new systems that avoid the use of plastics with hazardous chemical additives or similarly hazardous ‘regrettable’ substitutions, (iii) industry to take responsibility for the hazardous chemicals they produce, and (iv) introduction of transparent product labeling that declares the chemical composition of the plastics. Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions Secretariat, commented on the report saying that we “need transparency on which plastics contains which additives, to enable their subsequent environmentally sound management. I urge industry and academia to intensify their efforts to find alternatives to such additives in plastics.”

Read More

SCP/RAC (September 25, 2020). “Toxic Additives in Plastics: Hidden Hazards Linked to Common Plastic Products.”

Laura Vyda (September 30, 2020). “Toxic Additives in Plastics: Hidden Health Hazards Linked to Common Plastic Products.” IPEN

Ginger Harvey (October 1, 2020). “UN convention chief calls for substitution of toxic plastic additives.” Chemical Watch


SCP/RAC (September 2020). “Plastic’s toxic additives and the circular economy.” (pdf)