The format of this post will be a little different from most of my weekly tallies because I want to emphasize three stories in the news this week which illustrate more of the problems with plastic and plastic recycling.
First: I learned from JessTrev of The Green Phone Booth (via Twitter) that one of the few plastics we had thought was fairly safe might not be so. Medical researchers at the University of Alberta have found chemicals leaching from polypropylene (#5 plastic), the type of plastic used for many, many food uses, including yogurt tubs and laptop lunch containers, which parents purchase as an alternative to disposable food containers for children. Preserve toothbrushes (the kind I use) are also made from recycled polypropylene.
Not enough is know at this time about the two chemicals found to leach from the plastic, quaternary ammonium biocides and oleamide, to determine whether or not the leaching poses health risks, but Rebecca Sutton, senior scientist with Environmental Working Group, says, “We simply don’t want these chemicals getting into our bodies.”
When asked which plastics are safe for food, I’ve always replied that #2, #4, and #5 are the safest as far as we know, but the fact that they haven’t really been studied as thoroughly as other plastics means that we don’t know for sure if they are actually safe. As it turns out, we’re now even less sure. My opinion? Why store food in plastic when we can use glass and other safer alternatives?
Second: Saturday afternoon, a massive fire broke out at a plastics manufacturing plant in Channelview, Texas. View video and news coverage of the fire here. According to an article on Click2Houston.com, the plant manufactured polyethylene and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) products. Ironically, according to the news story, city officials claim the smoke was non-toxic.
Really? Non-toxic PVC smoke? According to Greenpeace, smoldering PVC gives off hydrogen chloride, “a corrosive, highly toxic gas that can cause skin burns and severe long-term respiratory damage,” as well as dioxin, which has been found to cause cancer and reproductive disorders. How is it possible that the smoke from a burning PVC plant can be considered safe for any town?
Third: Tonight, FPF reader Christy B alerted me to a 60 Minutes story that aired today revealing a terrible reality of electronics and plastic “recycling” that will turn your stomach. You already saw the Sky News story about plastic recycling in China. This one is even worse. Watch it below or view it on the 60 Minutes site. This story illustrates why cutting our consumption and requiring manufacturers to produce less toxic, longer-lasting products is essential.
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All new plastic waste:
- 1 plastic envelope window. From Financial West Group, which does not yet offer electronic statements.
- 1 plastic seal from a carton of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey. This happened Tuesday night. I blame election anxiety. What a rush!
And that’s it. I actually did also receive a free T-shirt in a bubble mailer with plastic tape, but I returned it to the sender after sending an email explaining why. I also received one of those plastic pizza inserts, but I’m planning to take it back to the pizzeria and ask them to reuse it. It’s actually unnecessary. I usually remember to request no plastic thingie, and the pizza arrives just fine.