Recycled plastic may be more dangerous than virgin PET

Chemicals that comply with the Food Chemicals Code (FCC) are found in all packaged

foods and drinks.At low concentrations, most of them are considered safe. In their work, British scientists summarized data from 91 studies and showed that the concentration of FCC in bottles made from recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) may be higher than in new bottles. Scientists believe that the cause of pollution is related to the recycling process.

“We have found that these substances canfrom a variety of sources,” says Eleni Yacovid, lead researcher. - These can be catalysts and additives used in production, degradation of plastic during use, storage and processing. Contamination can occur throughout the life cycle of a bottle.”

Scientists believe that increasing the concentration of FCCassociated with the conditions in which PET bottles are produced, filled, stored and placed on the shelves of warehouses and stores. Sunlight, humidity, exposure to contents can all contribute to contamination.

Factors affecting the contamination of PET bottles at different stages of the life cycle. Image: Yacovidou, Brunel University

According to the researchers, the process of super-cleaning can solve the problem. This technology includes three stages of material processing: high-temperature, gas and chemical cleaning.

“The recycling process already includes a preliminarybottle processing,” Yacovidou notes. “By investing in super-cleaning technologies, we can bring recycled PET as close to virgin as possible in terms of contamination.”

Scientists point out that in order to achieveFor maximum impact, recycling companies need to improve the way PET bottles are collected, sorted and recycled, and manufacturers need to create packaging that is easier to reuse. An additional factor will be the phasing out of PET bottles by consumers, which will reduce the total amount of plastic circulating in the system.

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