Waste

Food can have toxic chemicals from recycling e-waste

A new study shows that recycling black plastic from electronic waste is introducing harmful chemicals such as bromine and lead into everyday products, including food and toys  

 
By Ayushi Rai
Last Updated: Tuesday 05 June 2018
Toxic chemicals applied to laptops and music systems as flame retardants find their way into food-contact items as manufacturers source black plastic from e-waste. Credit: Hansbenn/ Pixabay
Toxic chemicals applied to laptops and music systems as flame retardants find their way into food-contact items as manufacturers source black plastic from e-waste. Credit: Hansbenn/ Pixabay Toxic chemicals applied to laptops and music systems as flame retardants find their way into food-contact items as manufacturers source black plastic from e-waste. Credit: Hansbenn/ Pixabay

That plastics are toxic is well known but even recyled plastics cause harm to the environment. Not because of the recycling, but due to our rising demand for plastic made consumerables.  

A recent study shows that recycled e-waste can introduce hazardous chemicals in items of everyday use, such as food packaging, plastic jewellery, toys, coat hangers, storage containers and office equipment.

Scientists at the University of Plymouth, UK found that the growing demand for black plastic, used in electronics design, as well as inefficient handling of e-waste introduces toxic chemicals into the recyclate or the raw materials processed in waste recycling plants.

Hazardous chemicals such as bromine, antimony and lead are applied to electronics like laptops and music systems as flame retardants. They find their way into food-contact items and other everyday products as the demand for black plastics in consumer products is met partly by sourcing from e-waste.

Black plastics are more dangerous than plastics in general as it cannot be properly recycled due to the low sensitivity of black pigments to infrared radiation, used in conventional plastic sorting facilities, says the study published in Environmental International. Apart from affecting human health, this also affects the marine and coastal environment either as litter or as micro plastics.

Dr. Andrew Turner, who conducted this study, assessed the levels and range of elements in more than 600 black plastic products, such as food contact items, storage, clothing, toys, jewellery, stationeries and new and old electronic equipments and found that in items like toys, stationeries and storage containers, lead concentration exceeded the permissible limits.

 

 

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