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A recently published Greenpeace report claims that recycling increases the toxicity of the recycled plastic. According to the report, that draws its conclusions from several different reports and research articles, most plastics contain toxic chemicals from the start to begin with, but by recycling them, further toxic chemicals can be added due to contamination in the plastic waste stream and the recycle process itself.

Picture: Pixabay

Toxic substances leach into the plastic waste: Studies have shown that contaminants can be absorbed directly into the plastics from direct contact, as well as through the absorption of volatile compounds, thus adding to the toxic substances already present in the material. Examples given of such contamination include containers for pesticides and cleaning solvents.

Toxic substances are created through the recycling process: When heated in the recycling process, plastics can generate new toxic chemicals that further increase the toxic content in the recycled plastics. One such example is that plastics containing brominated flame retardants create brominated dioxins. Another is that stabilizers used in plastic recycling can degrade to highly toxic substances.

The report also highlights a number of action points that they urge governments and organisations to implement:

Immediate, significant reductions in plastic production; ending virgin plastic production

  • Promote a shift to refill- and reuse-based economies

  • Support a just transition for workers across the plastics supply chain

  • Promote non-combustion technologies for plastic stockpiles and waste disposal.

  • Institute the “polluter pays” principle for plastic waste management

  • Improve regulation, oversight, safety and worker protections for recycling facilities.

  • Require transparency about chemicals in plastics and eliminate all toxic additives

Whilst we at GAIA don’t necessarily agree with the individual solutions put forward by Greenpeace in the report, we still believe that the report encourages the continued discussion concerning which role plastic recycling should play in a sustainable world.

For those interested in learning more about the Greenpeace report, you can find it here.


Gaia BioMaterials is a Swedish company that develops and produces biodegradable biomaterials. With our patented material, Biodolomer®, we are revolutionizing the plastics industry and contributing to a cleaner and healthier planet. Biodolomer® is inspired by a half-a-billion-year-old packaging design from Mother Earth – the egg. Read more.


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Published date

12 juli 2023


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