Wed. Nov 20th, 2019

Poisonous chemical substances can enter meals by way of packaging, so we made a listing

That is the second in a sequence evaluating the challenges in single-use meals packaging waste.

Within the late 1980s, the Council of Northeast Governors (CONEG) was involved that heavy metals in packaging would accumulate in recycled supplies to ranges that introduced severe well being considerations. The group drafted mannequin laws that prohibited the intentional addition of mercury, lead, cadmium and hexavalent chromium to any element of packaging, together with inks. It additionally set a 100 parts-per-million restrict on the entire quantity of those 4 heavy metals.

To make sure compliance, firms making packaging supplies had to offer certificates of compliance to downstream purchasers and report compliance to the states.

CONEG additionally established the Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse to keep up the mannequin laws, coordinate implementation of state laws and function a useful resource for firms looking for compliance data. The council’s speculation: defending virgin materials from contamination will enhance the recyclability of post-consumer supplies and defend public well being.

Through the years, 19 states have adopted a variation of the mannequin laws. In 2018, Washington state took an unprecedented step of increasing its model of the laws from heavy metals to incorporate per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS are bioaccumulating, persistent chemical substances and are related to an array of well being issues together with endocrine disruption and youngsters’s developmental hurt. The state was involved that paper and cardboard meals packaging handled with these chemical substances could also be contaminating composting (PDF) and paper recycling processes post-consumer.

Past PFAS: Extra poisonous chemical substances of concern in meals packaging

Along with heavy metals and PFAS, EDF has recognized different chemical substances in meals packaging and meals dealing with tools, whose ubiquity and potential well being impacts elevate severe considerations about meals security and contamination of the recycling stream. These chemical substances seem in both plastic or paper packaging or each.

Deliberately added elements

1. Ortho-phthalates (primarily utilized in plastic however many different makes use of together with printing inks): Research present that these chemical substances are linked to endocrine disruption, developmental and reproductive toxicity. Their contamination of meals is widespread. Their security is underneath overview by FDA.

2. Perchlorate (anti-static agent utilized in plastic for dry meals and in meals dealing with tools): This chemical disrupts the thyroid gland’s regular operate and reduces manufacturing of the thyroid hormone wanted for wholesome fetal and baby mind improvement. Meals contamination is widespread; particularly problematic is the rise of perchlorate ranges in child meals and dry cereal. The security of perchlorate is underneath overview by FDA.

three. Per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances (grease-proofing agent utilized in paper packaging): PFAS, usually distinguished as long-chain or short-chain, are bioaccumulating, persistent chemical substances related to an array of well being issues together with endocrine disruption and youngsters’s developmental hurt. There may be widespread human publicity to PFAS; water and meals are the seemingly sources. PFAS in meals packaging shall be banned in Washington two years after the state finds suitably obtainable safer options or in 2022, whichever date offers producers extra time to revamp packaging.

four. Benzophenone (used as a plasticizer in rubber articles supposed for repeat use): Citing the carcinogenic proof relating to benzophenone, FDA has banned its use as a taste and in meals packaging. The bans go into impact in 2020.

Residual processing aids

1. Ethyl and methyl glycol, toluene and n-methyl-pyrrolidone (NMP): These solvents, usually utilized in printing inks, depart residues in packaging and pose a threat of reproductive or improvement hurt. Toluene and NMP have been focused for removing in different product classes as properly. Toluene has been focused by quite a lot of retailers, together with Amazon and Ceremony-Help, for removing from private care and wonder merchandise. NMP has been focused for removing from paint strippers by a number of retailers together with Dwelling Depot, Lowes and Walmart. EPA has proposed banning use of NMP as a paint stripper and is predicted to finalize that proposal for retail gross sales quickly.

2. Bisphenol A, B, F, S (used to make epoxy lining in metallic cans, to make polycarbonate plastic, and ink): A number of bisphenol compounds has been linked to endocrine disruption, developmental and/or reproductive toxicity. BPA is already banned for child bottle use or coating of toddler components packaging. BPS grew to become a typical substitute to BPA in packaging, however current research exhibit related well being considerations to BPA.


1. Heavy metals (lead, arsenic, cadmium, chromium V and mercury): These chemical substances are extremely poisonous and have been regulated in quite a lot of purposes. EDF has demonstrated heavy metallic contamination in meals, notably child meals. Though not deliberately added, contamination of meals packaging could also be a supply. FDA’s Poisonous Components Working Group is evaluating kids’s publicity to heavy metals throughout all meals.

See our listing describing in additional element essentially the most regarding poisonous chemical substances in meals packaging, and why they need to be addressed first.

Preliminary promising steps to restrict poisonous chemical substances in packaging

Final yr, the Meals Security Alliance for Packaging (FSAP), part of the Institute of Packaging Professionals, launched “Meals Packaging Product Stewardship Concerns” (PDF), a set of greatest practices to scale back problematic chemical substances in meals packaging. FSAP is supported by main meals producers, together with Nestle and Mars.

Of our listing above, FSAP mentioned:

Heavy metals and long-chain PFAS should not be used;Ortho-phthalates, BPA and toluene shouldn’t be used;Ethyl and methyl glycol use needs to be minimized; andShort-chain PFAS ought to solely be used after contemplating options.

Begin clear

We would like increased recycling charges of meals packaging, and we would like safer meals. By guaranteeing future meals packaging is freed from these chemical substances, firms can enhance shopper belief whereas minimizing the impression of future rules on their backside line. As well as, the dangers these chemical components and contaminants pose when utilized in virgin supplies proceed into recycled supplies; not like the purifying processes utilized in recycling metallic and glass, typical plastic and paper recycling processes don’t take away these persistent poisonous chemical substances.

We keep that any firm seeking to create sustainable recycling markets for meals packaging, notably these firms growing methods to fulfill the Ellen MacArthur Basis’s New Plastics Economic system International Dedication, should set tight virgin-material requirements to stop problematic contamination in post-consumer recycled supplies.

Taking motion in the present day helps to guard shopper well being now and sooner or later. We’ll discover choices and assets obtainable to firms as a part of this sequence. Keep tuned.

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