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It’s time to look into the ecology file and at how plastics affect the world around us. Since plastics are causing such harm to animals, it would be a really good idea if we recycled them all, right?
Scientists at the University of Plymouth have discovered that might not be such a good idea. They found that hazardous chemicals such as bromine, antimony and lead are finding their way into plastic products used every day because manufacturers use recycled electrical equipment as a source of black plastic. The chemicals are applied to devices such as laptops and music systems, as flame retardants and pigments but remain within the products when they reach the end of their useful lives.
The researchers used spectrometry to assess the levels of several elements in more than 600 black plastic products including frozen food trays, storage bins, clothing, toys, jewelry, office items, and new and old electronic equipment.
Bromine is used as a flame retardant, while lead is often found in electronic plastics as a contaminant. Concentrations of bromine exceeded legal limits in several recycled products including cocktail stirrers, coat hangers, various items of plastic jewelry, garden hoses, Christmas decorations and tool handles. Concentrations of lead exceeded the legal limit in other products, including various toys, storage bins and office equipment.
The researchers say that black plastic may be aesthetically pleasing, but the study confirms that recycling plastic from electronic waste is introducing harmful chemicals into consumer products. They say there’s a need for increased innovation within the recycling industry to ensure harmful substances are eliminated from recycled waste and to increase the recycling of black plastic consumer products.
There’s also a mindset that plastic simply doesn’t break down at all. There’s been recent research into the hazards of microplastics – the “ultimate” product. But plastics do break down and researchers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa have discovered that several greenhouse gases are emitted as common plastics degrade in the environment.
The study reports the unexpected discovery that common plastics produce greenhouse gases, methane and ethylene, when exposed to sunlight. The researchers tested polycarbonate, acrylic, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate, polystyrene, and high- and low-density polyethylene. These are used to make food storage products, textiles, construction materials, and various plastic goods. Polyethylene, used in shopping bags, is the most produced and discarded synthetic polymer globally and was found to be the most prolific emitter of both gases. It is also known that microplastics may further accelerate gas production.
Greenhouse gases directly influence climate change. They affect sea level, global temperatures, ecosystem health on land and in the ocean, and storms, which increase flooding, drought and erosion. The greenhouse gases produced by the degradation of plastics haven’t yet been added in when assessing global methane and ethylene cycles, and they may be significant.
The researchers say, “Considering the amounts of plastic washing ashore on our coastlines and the amount of plastic exposed to ambient conditions, our finding provides further evidence that we need to stop plastic production at the source, especially single-use plastic.”
So what have you done to reduce your plastic consumption?
Source : https://www.postguam.com/forum/featured_columnists/what-have-you-done-to-reduce-plastic-use/article_c70ae4da-454d-11e9-a492-af6466921eef.html