23 May 2023
WASHINGTON (May 24, 2023)—A new report from Greenpeace USA provides a catalog of peer-reviewed research and international studies concluding that recycling actually increases the toxicity of plastics. It highlights the threat that recycled plastics pose to the health of consumers, frontline communities, and workers in the recycling sector. Along with previous research showing that very little plastic reaches recycling facilities in the first place—less than 9% globally, according to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP)—the report concludes that the Global Plastics Treaty negotiations in Paris (May 29 to June 2) must focus on capping and then phasing down plastic production.
The report, “Forever Toxic: The science of health threats from plastic recycling,” notes that, according to UNEP, plastics contain more than 13,000 chemicals, with more than 3,200 of them known to be hazardous to human health. Moreover, many of the other chemicals in plastics have never been assessed and may also be toxic. Recycled plastics often contain higher levels of chemicals that can poison people and contaminate communities, including toxic flame retardants, benzene and other carcinogens, environmental pollutants like brominated and chlorinated dioxins, and numerous endocrine disruptors that can cause changes to the body’s natural hormone levels.
Graham Forbes, Global Plastics Campaign Lead at Greenpeace USA, said: “The plastics industry—including fossil fuel, petrochemical, and consumer goods companies—continues to put forward plastic recycling as the solution to the plastic pollution crisis. But this report shows that the toxicity of plastic actually increases with recycling. Plastics have no place in a circular economy and it’s clear that the only real solution to ending plastic pollution is to massively reduce plastic production.”
At the Paris meetings, formally known as the second Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) meeting for the Global Plastics Treaty, the Greenpeace global network is advocating for an ambitious, legally binding agreement that accelerates a just transition away from a dependence on plastic materials and establishes global controls to regulate toxic chemicals in plastic.
In the lead up to the negotiations, over 100 scientists and civil society groups issued a letter urging the United Nations to prevent the fossil fuel industry from undermining the negotiations. Celebrities like Jane Fonda called on the Biden Administration to support a legally binding treaty that caps plastic production.
Plastic production, disposal, and incineration facilities are most often located in low-income, marginalized communities across the world, which suffer from higher rates of cancer, lung disease and adverse birth outcomes associated with their exposure to the toxic chemicals. The Treaty should generate opportunities for workers to leave polluting and toxic industries for healthier jobs in a reuse-based economy.
Jo Banner of The Descendants Project, based in the Mississippi River region of Louisiana, said: “Plastics production is inconsistent with healthy, thriving communities, and this report shows that plastics recycling only perpetuates those harms. My region is now known as “Cancer Alley” for the extreme risks of cancer and death due to pollution from plastic producing industries. We are calling on world leaders to negotiate a global plastics treaty that ends plastic production, protects communities like ours and supports a just transition for workers across the plastics supply chain.”
The report highlights three “poisonous pathways” for recycled plastic material to accumulate toxic chemicals:
- Direct contamination from toxic chemicals in virgin plastic: When plastics are made with toxic chemicals and then recycled, the toxic chemicals can transfer into the recycled plastics.
- Leaching of toxic substances into plastic waste: Numerous studies show that plastics can absorb contaminants through direct contact and through the absorption of volatile compounds. When plastics are tainted by toxins in the waste stream and the environment and are then recycled, they produce recycled plastics that contain a stew of toxic chemicals. For example, plastic containers for pesticides, cleaning solvents, and other toxic chemicals that enter the recycling chain can result in contamination of recycled plastic.
- New toxic chemicals created by the recycling process: When plastics are heated in the recycling process, this can generate new toxic chemicals that make their way into the recycled plastics. For example, brominated dioxins are created when plastics containing brominated flame retardants are recycled, and a stabilizer used in plastic recycling can degrade to a highly toxic substance found in recycled plastics. Sorting challenges and the presence of certain packaging components in sorted materials can also lead to toxicity in recycled plastic. Studies have shown that benzene (a carcinogen) can be created by mechanical recycling of PET#1 plastic, even with very low rates of contamination by PVC#3 plastic, resulting in the cancer-causing chemical being found in recycled plastics.
Dr. Therese Karlsson, Science Advisor with the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), said: “Plastics are made with toxic chemicals, and these chemicals don’t simply go away when plastics are recycled. The science clearly shows that plastic recycling is a toxic endeavor with threats to our health and the environment all along the recycling stream. Simply put, plastic poisons the circular economy and our bodies, and pollutes air, water, and food. We should not recycle plastics that contain toxic chemicals. Real solutions to the plastics crisis will require global controls on chemicals in plastics and significant reductions in plastic production.”
The devastating impacts of the escalating overproduction of plastic heightens the need to accelerate refill- and reuse-based systems—but not with expanded plastic recycling efforts. In addition to the health concerns associated with the use of recycled plastics, the report notes that increased plastic recycling means expanding toxic health and environmental threats throughout the recycling stream, threats that unequally impact the most vulnerable communities.
At the Paris talks, Greenpeace is advocating for a seven-point plan that the Global Plastics Treaty should:
- Achieve immediate, significant reductions in plastic production, establishing a pathway to end virgin plastic production.
- Promote a shift to refill- and reuse-based economies, creating jobs and standards in new reuse industries and supporting established zero-waste practices.
- Support a just transition for workers across the plastics supply chain, prioritizing waste pickers who collect approximately 60% of all plastic that is collected for recycling globally.
- Promote non-combustion technologies for plastic waste stockpiles and waste disposal.
- Institute the “polluter pays” principle for plastic waste management and for addressing the health and environmental costs throughout the plastics life cycle.
- Significantly improve regulation, oversight, safety and worker protections for existing recycling facilities.
- Require transparency about chemicals in plastics and eliminate all toxic additives and chemicals used in the plastics life cycle.
The need for a global agreement that protects human health and the environment from chemicals in plastics.
The second meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC1) of the Plastics Treaty took place from 29 May – 2 June 2023 in Paris, France.
CG2 IPEN statement, 1/6/2023
The statement was made by Ms. Gohar Khojayan participant from AWHHE NGO at the Second Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution INC-2
Thank you, Madame. co-facilitator
I represent Armenian Women for Health and Healthy Environment, speaking on behalf of IPEN, a global network of more than 600 public interest, civil society organizations in more than 120 countries.
Pollution is recognized as a planetary crisis but, unlike climate and biodiversity, it does not have its own funding to implement the necessary measures. The chemicals and waste cluster is severely underfunded and despite a substantial GEF replenishment for the period 2022-2026, funding is insufficient to cover the implementation of existing Multilateral Environmental Agreements. Robust implementation will need financially supported enabling activities that are required to implement the obligations under the Treaty. These enabling activities would require financial support for, for example, capacity building, monitoring, reporting, and stakeholder participation.
In order to ensure that the implementation of the Plastics Treaty is duly funded, IPEN strongly supports the intervention from several countries calling for a dedicated plastics multilateral fund or funds that has new, additional, stable, accessible, adequate, timely and predictable funding for the Plastics Treaty and other related chemicals and waste MEAs, with Member States and other funding sources contributing funds for support. Additionally, as many member states have pointed out that the polluter pays principle should be one of the underlying principles of the Treaty, the fund should be, at least in part, replenished through funds coming from the plastics, chemicals, and related industries, through globally coordinated fees, taxes, and mechanisms ensuring the internalisation of costs.
Responding to the richness of comments heard this morning on various elements of option 24 this morning, and the calls for further discussions, we believe it would be useful to establish an intercessional process between INC2 and 3 to further explore the diverse finance mechanisms proposed.
Resolution 5/14 of 2 March 2022 entitled “End plastic pollution: towards an international legally binding instrument”, the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) requested the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to convene an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) with the ambition of completing negotiations by the end of 2024. The first session of the INC was held from 28 November to 2 December 2022 in Punta del Este, Uruguay.
At INC-1, AWHHE member worked with the team of NGOs members of International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN, https://ipen.org/news/ipen-plastics-treaty-inc-1-0 ). Numerous interventions from countries showed concern about the increase in plastic pollution and its impact on human health, as well as the low ability of countries to deal with these problems. For example, Armenia was among the countries which noted the importance of disclosure of information about toxic substances in plastic, followed by the establishment of restrictions and the cessation of their use; another intervention Armenia dedicated to the importance of awareness raising and public education programmes.
AWHHE supported IPEN’s advocacy stressing the issue of toxic chemicals in plastics. Numerous studies on the impact of plastic on health have come to the realization that plastic pollution is not only related to the volume of production and forms of waste. More than 10,000 different toxicities are present in plastics, at least a quarter of the human toxicity. Many of them belong to the endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). Even at very low concentrations, they can lead to serious diseases, including cancer, diseases of the cardiovascular, reproductive, and endocrine systems. Examples of such substances include Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) such as brominated flame retardants, phthalates and bisphenols. An international agreement already in force, the Stockholm Convention on POPs, regulates a small number of such chemicals. The Basel Convention on transboundary movement of waste also has a new annex on plastics. SAICM includes strategies related to the EDCs. Therefore, participation in the plastics negotiations is important for AWHHE as it is strongly linked to the chemicals safety agenda which is one of the organization’s priorities.
2021, again a year to remember; full of activities despite the lockdowns and postponements as a result of the COVID19 -pandemic. Of course, the main focus was on advocacy; knowledge exchange and research; to our regret a lot of local activities could not take place. Chapter two is dedicated to the core activities of WfWP as far as WfWP is supporting or directly involved, however, there are many more projects carried out by our members and some of them you will find reported below and on our website. Members enabled members and local women’s groups to implement projects in inter alia Armenia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Mali, Ukraine, South Asia. Next to other SDGs, these projects contribute mainly to SDG’s 4, 5 and 6 (par 2.1). The Commission on the Status of Women and the virtual Stockholm World Water Week were again a highlight, but WfWP participated in many other actions and events (see annex) to advocate for a recognized, improved and visible position of women as sustainable water managers (par 2.2). In terms of knowledge development, work started on the second phase of our governance research on the impact of participation of women, the seed-funding proposals and research on the blue fund and developing a framework for mentoring; all of this made possible through a grant we received from giz, Germany. All of this work will continue well into 2022. (par 2.3) In terms of governance both the General Assembly and the Steering Committee showed decisiveness and commitment even though all discussions and decisions had to be taken via email consultation and Skype or Zoom meetings (par 3.1 and 3.3). The group of partners went through some changes (par 3.4). Many efforts were made to raise funds for WfWP and some of these applications are still pending. (par 4.4). Facebook, our YouTube channel including the website were, also in 2021, important means to communicate with the outside world (par 4.1). The update of our website started.
“Armenian Women for Health and Health Environment” (AWHHE) NGO joined the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint – a joint program of WHO and UNEP within the framework of the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (ILPPW) held on 23-29 October, 2022.
The campaign aimed to draw public attention to the effects of lead on human health, especially children, to highlight the importance of countries’ efforts to prevent this exposure, and to demand that governments achieve the universal goal of phasing out lead paint through stricter legislation.
Within the framework of the week of action, AWHHE conducted a Roundtable discussion to summarize the NGO’s ten-year effort to phase out lead paint and outline the necessary steps that can contribute to solving this problem. The event took place on October 28 in the Conference Hall of the Institute of Mechanics of the RA National Academy of Sciences.
It was attended by representatives of civil society organizations interested in the problem of lead paints (“Consumers Support Center” NGO, Dalma Sona, “Ecoteam” NGO, Yerevan Aarhus Center, “Ecological Union” NGO, “EcoLur” NGO) and experts. At the end of the discussion, the following recommendations were presented:
- Armenia, as a member of EAEU, should immediately propose an amendment to paragraph 11 of the draft technical regulations of the Customs Union “On the safety of paint materials” from 2013, noting that paint materials should not contain chemicals, including metals, belonging to the 1st class of hazard, the amount of which in terms of dry residue exceeds 0.009% (90 ppm);
- Submit a recommendation to the National Assembly of Armenia to support the listing of lead chromate in the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade;
- Send a letter to the Focal Points of SAICM of the RA Ministry of Environment and the RA Ministry of Health with a request to make the problem of lead paints in the priorities of the action plans of the relevant ministries, ensuring risk reduction and protecting the health of the population, especially children;
- Contact the NGO Consumers Support Center to strengthen monitoring and enforcement of existing lead paint regulations. National bans on lead paint should include provisions for enforcement and the consequences of non-compliance;
- Submit an appeal to the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in order to ensure the use of safe paint and varnish materials in the construction and reconstruction of children’s educational institutions (ADB conducts a wide program in Armenia for the construction and reconstruction of children’s educational institutions);
- Submit an appeal to local importers of the paint and varnish industry to limit the import of paints to Armenia with a lead content of more than 90 ppm, provide a list of brands of manufacturers of paints containing lead not more than 90 ppm.
Interview for Mariam radio about Lead in Paint
“Armenian Women for Health and a Healthy Environment” (AWHHE) NGO emphasizes the threats to children from lead paint during the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week.
AWHHE joins the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (hereinafter – the Alliance) – a joint program of WHO and UNEP within the framework of the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (ILPPW), which will be held on 23-29 October. The Alliance highlights the urgent need to protect children’s health by taking action to eliminate the use of lead paint. During the week of action, AWHHE will conduct a Roundtable discussion to summarize the NGO’s ten-year effort to phase out lead paint and outline the necessary steps that can contribute to solving this problem.
AWHHE is a member of IPEN, a global coalition of over 600 public interest organizations in over 125 countries working to eliminate toxic substances and sources. IPEN is a founding member of the Alliance and a member of its Advisory Council. This year’s ILPPW events will mark the tenth anniversary of the annual effort to raise the global significance of the ongoing threats of lead poisoning, including lead paint, which continues to be used in Armenia and in most part of the world.
Since 2009, IPEN member groups have conducted more than 100 studies on over 4,000 paints from 59 countries, including in Armenia.
In 2016, AWHHE participated in the IPEN Lead Paint Elimination Initiative. A total of 16 points of sale in Armenia were surveyed, including specialized shops, paint shops and private shops. The result was a list of 49 brand paints in four colors (red, green, yellow and white). The study showed that the Armenian market has a large number of imported household paints. In 59% of the analyzed samples of brands of household paint (29 out of 49 samples analyzed), the lead content was high compared to the international maximum concentration limit for lead (90 ppm).
In September 2016, the results were presented at the workshop “Children’s Health Problems Due to Environmental Degradation and Climate Change”. The event was organized by the UNICEF office in Armenia and was attended by various stakeholders from the government, international organizations and organizations representing the Armenian civil society.
Decades have proven that there is no safe level of lead exposure. Lead is a powerful poison that affects many human body systems and is especially harmful to young children. Even in small doses, lead can affect children’s brain development, leading to lower IQs, behavioral changes such as decreased concentration of attention and antisocial behavior, and reduced levels of education. Lead exposure can also damage the kidneys, reproductive organs, immune system, and lead to anemia and hypertension. The neurological and behavioral effects of lead exposure are generally irreversible.
Currently, the draft technical regulation of the Customs Union “On the Safety of Paints and Varnishes” of 2013 does not require a detailed description of its composition to be included in the labeling of paints and varnishes. AWHHE is calling for a strict limit of lead in decorative paints to 90 ppm through outreach (letters and meetings) with relevant government agencies (Department of the Eurasian Economic Commission and Foreign Trade of the Ministry of Economy of Armenia, RA Ministry of Health). Unfortunately, at the local level, changes have not yet been achieved. Work should be continued at the regional level with the participation of interested NGOs from member countries of the Eurasian Union.
In addition, together with IPEN, AWHHE is calling for the listing of lead chromates under the Rotterdam Convention. Even countries with legally binding national bans find it difficult to enforce them when lead chromates, lead-containing pigments used in paints, continue to be sold around the world without prior notice or consent. The listing of lead chromates will trigger the Convention’s Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure and provide countries with the information they need to opt out of imports of lead chromates and lead paints.
“We have long known about the toxic threat of lead paint to our children and families, and many countries stopped selling lead paint decades ago. However, in most parts of the world, lead paint is still in use and poses a lifelong threat to the health of millions of children,” said Manny Calonzo, 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize winner, former IPEN Co-Chair and Founder of the IPEN Lead Safe Paint® Certification Program. “Our children cannot wait another ten years to get rid of lead paint – we need urgent action to stop lead poisoning in our children,” he said.
Even in countries where lead paint is banned, old houses painted with lead paint continue to cause lead-related health problems in millions of children. That is why urgent action is needed to eliminate lead paint worldwide – lead paint sold today will continue to pose a threat to children’s health for decades to come.
The Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) launched the Synthesis Report of the SLE Projects titled Co-Creating Sustainable Ways of Living 24 Stories of On-the-Ground Innovations. This report elaborates on the essential points of the 24 projects globally including two in Armenia implemented by AWHHE. The projects were implemented in frame of the Sustainable Lifestyles and Education (SLE) Programme under the UN 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns (10YFP, which is now known as the One-Planet Network).
More information on the initiative as well as the report is available at the following link: https://www.iges.or.jp/en/pub/co-creating-sustainable-ways-living-v2/bi-enja-zz.
The event was organized within the framework of “Building Capacity in Armenia to Support the Phase-out of Mercury Additive Products” project implemented by the Ministry of Environment in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The aim of the workshop was to present to the staff of the Environmental Protection and Mining Inspection Body – which accomplishes supervision in the sphere of environmental protection – the international conventions developed in recent years, the legislation streamlining the field of chemical substances and wastes.