Deep Dive into Plastic Monomers, Additives, and Processing Aids

Helene Wiesinger, Zhanyun Wang, and Stefanie Hellweg (2021). “Deep Dive into Plastic Monomers, Additives, and Processing Aids.” Environmental Science & Technology 55(13), 9339-9351. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.1c00976

Abstract: A variety of chemical substances used in plastic production may be released throughout the entire life cycle of the plastic, posing risks to human health, the environment, and recycling systems. Only a limited number of these substances have been widely studied. We systematically investigate plastic monomers, additives, and processing aids on the global market based on a review of 63 industrial, scientific, and regulatory data sources. In total, we identify more than 10’000 relevant substances and categorize them based on substance types, use patterns, and hazard classifications wherever possible. Over 2’400 substances are identified as substances of potential concern as they meet one or more of the persistence, bioaccumulation, and toxicity criteria in the European Union. Many of these substances are hardly studied according to SciFinder (266 substances), are not adequately regulated in many parts of the world (1’327 substances), or are even approved for use in food-contact plastics in some jurisdictions (901 substances). Substantial information gaps exist in the public domain, particularly on substance properties and use patterns. To transition to a sustainable circular plastic economy that avoids the use of hazardous chemicals, concerted efforts by all stakeholders are needed, starting by increasing information accessibility.

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