Conventional plastic is made from oil. Plastic production is unsustainable and may contain substances that we know are dangerous if ingested.
In recent years, bioplastics have come onto the market as an alternative to conventional plastic. Bioplastics have some obvious advantages: they are usually made from recycled materials or plant-based cellulose, they can be biodegradable – or both.
However, a new study shows that it is not non-toxic.
Bioplastics are just as toxic as other plastics, according to a recently published article Environment International.
“Bio-based and biodegradable plastic is no safer than other plastics,” says Lisa Zimmermann from the Goethe University in Frankfurt. She is the lead author of the most recent article.
Zimmermann points out that cellulose-based and starch-based products contained the most chemicals. They also caused more toxic reactions under laboratory conditions.
“Three out of four of these plastic products contain substances that we know are dangerous in laboratory conditions, just like conventional plastic,” says Martin Wagner, Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
Wagner is one of the collaborators for PlastX, a research group at the Institute for Social-Ecological Research (ISOE) in Frankfurt.
This group has just led work on the largest survey to date on chemicals in bioplastics and plastics made from plant materials.
You’ve looked at toxic substances in these plastics. The substances can be directly toxic to cells in the laboratory or act as hormones, which in turn can disturb the balance of the body.
The study includes 43 different plastic products, including disposable cutlery, chocolate wrapping paper, drinking bottles and wine corks.
“Eighty percent of the products contained more than 1,000 different chemicals. Some of them were even 20,000, ”says Wagner.
It goes without saying that it is nearly impossible to keep track of absolutely all the possible harmful effects of so many different materials.
Even apparently similar products have their own special chemical composition. A plastic bag made from bio-polyethylene can contain completely different substances than a wine cork made from the same material.
“It is almost impossible to make general statements about certain materials,” says Wagner.
The consequences for the environment and human health are still uncertain. We don’t know to what extent the substances in plastic can be transferred to humans.
We also don’t know whether the alternatives to bioplastics and conventional plastics are better for us and the environment around us, as so many factors come into play. The alternatives can include environmentally harmful production methods and limited opportunities for recycling, or food production must give way to preserve the materials for the alternative products. More research is needed.
The complexity of plastics makes it impossible to know which ones are dangerous
Lisa Zimmermann et al. Are bioplastics and vegetable materials safer than conventional plastics? In vitro toxicity and chemical composition, Environment International (2020). DOI: 10.1016 / j.envint.2020.106066
Provided by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Quote: Bioplastics contain substances that are just as toxic as ordinary plastics (2020, October 23), published on October 23, 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2020-10-bioplastics-substances-toxic-ordinary-plastics .html
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