plastic

Reclassifying certain plastics as ‘hazardous’ could help reduce the amount of plastic ending up in landfills and the ocean each year reports a new paper appearing in the journal Nature.

A team of ten scientists, who came up with the idea, modeled their suggestion after the international Montreal Protocol agreement in 1989 that led to the ban on toxic refrigerants known as CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons). Within seven years of classifying the substances as harmful, close to 200 countries had replaced a significant amount of the CFCs with safer options. And the scientists hope the same can happen for plastics.

According to the Los Angeles Times, among the targeted types of plastic that should be considered hazardous: “polyvinylchloride, or PVC, used in making plastic pipes; polystyrene, often known as Styrofoam and used in cups and clam-shell food containers; polyurethane, used in making furniture and car seats; and polycarbonate, a hard plastic used in making baby bottles, electronics and appliances.”

The study authors wrote the human and environmental dangers of plastic waste are “well enough established, and the suggestions of chemical dangers sufficiently worrying, that the biggest producers of plastic waste — the United States, Europe and China — must act now.”

Plastic waste is currently a global problem of monumental proportion. Nearly half of the 280 million metric tons of plastic products produced each year make it to landfills, while the rest winds up in the ocean as a result of litter and improper disposal. This constant influx of plastic into the ocean has created an impact on oceanic ecosystems. What’s being called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is essentially an enormous floating plastic island in the middle of the Pacific ocean. Some estimates put it at the size of Texas, while others say it’s roughly twice the size of Hawaii. Actual size is difficult to detail because of the small sizes of much of the plastic and that it’s mostly under the water’s surface.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: senderweb