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A new study found that reusing plastic water bottles causes harmful chemicals to leak into the drinks. But this doesn’t mean just getting a new plastic water bottle every time!
Researchers at the Brunel University in London found 150 chemicals in drinks from plastic bottles, and 18 of them were found in dangerous levels, exceeding regulations.
They also discovered that bottles made from recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) contained much higher concentrations of the chemicals than other plastics. PET is the third most common type of plastic in food packaging and one of the most popular amongst water bottles. Recently, the EU called for PET bottles to have at least 30 percent of recycled content by 2030, but this needs to be reconsidered after this study.
Using recycled plastics methods to create recycled water bottles needs to be taken seriously as recycled plastics can cause the chemicals to leak into drinks even more. PET often contains many chemical contaminants resulting in reproductive disorders, cardiovascular problems, cancer, and other serious illnesses.
Dr. Eleni Iacovidou, who led the study, told The Guardian, “We found these chemicals can come from various sources, such as the catalysts and additives used during production and degradation during PET production, and degradation that can happen across a bottle’s lifecycle.”
The researchers wrote, “This evidence implies that highly recyclable products, such as PET drink bottles, can be inapt for closed-loop recycling when poorly designed, indicating the need for greater adoption of design-for-recycling principles and improvements at the waste-management infrastructure level.”
Experts are urging for “super cleaning,” which is a process that cleans old plastic before recycling. While this is good and will help take out these toxic chemicals, it cannot be the main focus. PET and plastic altogether are not good for the environment or public health.
Over 79 percent of plastic ends up in landfills, and we need to start moving away from single-use plastics. Many places are taking steps to combat this problem, like California, which just became the first state to develop a plan against microplastics. But it won’t be enough, and more has to be done if we want to slow down the damage we are causing on the planet.
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