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Some Plastics Should Be Classified as Hazardous, Scientists Say


Science & Tech  (tags: conservation, destruction, environment, habitat, healthconditions, nature, oceans, pollution, protection, Sustainabililty, wildlife, world, water, science, research, scientists, society, investigation, interesting, environment, concept, science, study )

JL
- 584 days ago - biologicaldiversity.org
A team of 10 scientists has come up with an idea of how to make that happen: reclassify the most harmful plastic waste as hazardous material. That simple adjustment, the scientistswrite in the journal Nature, could trigger sweeping changes in how enviro



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JL A. (275)
Friday February 22, 2013, 9:32 am
Los Angeles Times, February 13, 2013

Some plastics should be classified as hazardous, scientists say
By Kenneth R. Weiss

Less than half of the 280 million metric tons of plastic produced each year ends up in the landfill. A fair bit of the rest ends up littering the landscape, blown by the wind or washed down streams and rivers into the sea.

So far Americans spend $520 million a year to clean up plastic litter washing up on West Coast beaches and shorelines. Efforts to clean up the oceans' enormous swirlinggyres of garbage has an incalculable cost. Thus, much of the focus has been on how to stop the river of trash from entering the ocean.

A team of 10 scientists has come up with an idea of how to make that happen: reclassify the most harmful plastic waste as hazardous material. That simple adjustment, the scientistswrite in the journal Nature, could trigger sweeping changes in how environmental agencies clean up plastic waste, spur innovation in polymer research and replace problematic plastics with safer ones.

The United States, Europe, Japan and other nations classified plastic as solid waste, treating their disposal much like food scraps or grass clippings, said Mark Anthony Browne, a coauthor of the article. It's an outdated view that plastics are inert, he said, ignoring scientific evidence in recent years including work of coauthor and doctoral student Chelsea M. Rochman that plastic debris is laden with highly toxic pollutants.

As plastic breaks down into microscopic fibers and specks, it can be inhaled or ingested by humans and wildlife. One study found that such microscopic fibers were present in human lung cancers. Seabirds that have consumed plastic waste have 300% greater concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in their tissues than other birds.

Governments have struggled to reduce plastic marine debris, with 134 nations banning the dumping of plastics by international convention in 1988. Yet it seems to have made little difference.

So the authors modeled their proposal after what has been arguably the most successful international environmental agreement in history: The classification of refrigerants called chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, as hazardous under the Montreal Protocol in 1989. Production of CFCs, which were burning a hole in the atmosphere's protective ozone layer, stopped within seven years, and nearly 200 countries replaced 30 dangerous chemical groups with safer ones.

Rochman believes the same thing can happen if major plastic-producing nations were to take the first step of going after four types of plastics that are made of the most potentially toxic materials and are particularly difficult to recycle.

On the short list are: 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.

Once that is done, the authors say, governments might look at other types of plastic that are not made of particularly hazardous materials, but act like sponges absorbing toxic pollutants once unleashed in the oceans.

"We feel," the scientists write, "that the physical dangers of plastic debris 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."
 

Michael Kirkby (85)
Friday February 22, 2013, 9:38 am
We should be utilizing hemp and other plant products to replace plastic packaging. The packaging and Styrofoam alone must account for a large proportion of the debris. Then of course there is the bottled water issue.
 

JL A. (275)
Friday February 22, 2013, 11:50 am
Good points Michael. You cannot currently send a star to Michael because you have done so within the last week.
 

Julie E. (351)
Friday February 22, 2013, 12:02 pm
Yep, thanks J.L. and Michael for your good input.
 

Carol D. (109)
Friday February 22, 2013, 12:24 pm
If everyone started getting rid of plastic bags would be a start You see more of them blowing around everywhere than anything else other than plastic bottles

noted Thanks
 

Beth Tatum (86)
Friday February 22, 2013, 12:42 pm
We all need to stop using so much plastic. It is BAD for us and the environment!
 

JL A. (275)
Friday February 22, 2013, 12:57 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Julie because you have done so within the last week.
You cannot currently send a star to Carol because you have done so within the last week.
 

Kath P. (10)
Friday February 22, 2013, 1:02 pm
Plastic is an abomination. The compostable bags which our community is required to buy are made of plastic which is broken down by chemical enzymes activated in the sun. YUCK
Compost is now full of tiny bits of plastic
 

Birgit W. (145)
Friday February 22, 2013, 2:17 pm
Thanks
 

JL A. (275)
Friday February 22, 2013, 2:24 pm
You are welcome Birgit
 

Past Member (0)
Friday February 22, 2013, 6:56 pm
It's a very good idea! I really hope it gets established.
 

JL A. (275)
Friday February 22, 2013, 6:57 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Laura because you have done so within the last week.
 

Julie F. (67)
Friday February 22, 2013, 7:45 pm
I agree with Laura M. Something has to be done.
 

JL A. (275)
Friday February 22, 2013, 7:52 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Julie because you have done so within the last week.
 

Past Member (0)
Friday February 22, 2013, 9:39 pm
I also agree with Laura M cheers JLA
 

Jabi Yeonnmin (170)
Saturday February 23, 2013, 12:17 am
How horrible!
 

Tim C. (1918)
Saturday February 23, 2013, 12:23 am
thanks
 

Jaime A. (32)
Saturday February 23, 2013, 12:24 am
Noted, thanks.!!
 

Ruth S. (304)
Saturday February 23, 2013, 5:28 am
The only ones that destroy everything are, Humans!
 

Lydia W. (172)
Saturday February 23, 2013, 5:38 am
I have to agree with science on the labeling of plastics .
Although I do truly avoid plastics , bottled water , margarines in tubs , ect .
Plastic has permeated our world ,its absolutely awful .

 

Shanti S. (0)
Saturday February 23, 2013, 7:06 am
Thank you.
 

JL A. (275)
Saturday February 23, 2013, 8:37 am
You are welcome Tim, Jaime and Shanti.
 

Terry V. (30)
Saturday February 23, 2013, 5:58 pm
Thank you big oil companies for making plastic available to us :(

POLLUTION


Think Ecologically...Reduce. Reuse. Recycle
 

JL A. (275)
Saturday February 23, 2013, 8:27 pm
Thank you Terry for reminding us all of who deserves the credit/blame for being inundated with plastic and for posting the links to the two short topical videos! You cannot currently send a star to Terry because you have done so within the last week.
 

Melania Padilla (179)
Tuesday February 26, 2013, 9:34 am
All of them! Plastic is killing the planet! Shared and noted
 
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