HEJSupport at North American consultation on “Innovations for Addressing the Single-Use Plastics Challenge”Blog
HEJSupport attended a North American consultation focusing on Innovations for Addressing the Single-Use Plastics Challenge held in Ottawa, Canada on 5 February 2019. The two-hour discussion session was organised simultaneously in multiple locations across the U.S. and Canada, with connections via video conference. Each location or “hub” had a maximum of 15 participants who had the opportunity to share their knowledge on innovation on single-use plastics and the shift towards a circular economy. Consultations were organised in the lead up to the fourth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-4), The information gathered from this regional consultation will inform the deliberations of Member States and other participants at the Assembly, including Ministers of Environment from around the world.
During the discussion HEJSupport highlighted the problem of plastic recycling that leads to toxic contamination of new products made out of recycled materials. It was noted that new recycled produced products contain same toxic additives as the original material, forming a dirty circle.
Thus while moving towards a circular economy, governments and the private sector should assure hazard reduction and promote the design of safer, non-toxic products from the start. This is important for both, single-use and durable plastics and has valuable links to pollution prevention, precautionary measures, and extended producer responsibility.
HEJSupport also noted that people and environment are highly contaminated with hazardous plastic chemicals in hygiene products. Women are at a particular risk noting that the average woman will use 12,000 to 16,000 disposable feminine hygiene products in her lifetime and it can take up to 100 years or more for something like a plastic pad or applicator to break down. This type of products should also be considered as a single-use plastic product not suitable for recycling or composting. Conventional sanitary pads are made up from up to 90% crude oil plastic and can contain associated plasticizing chemicals like BPA and BPS, and petrochemical additives which are known endocrine disrupting substances and are linked to heart diseases and cancer. Phthalates, mainly used as plasticizers, are a common ingredient in tampon applicators, and are known to disrupt hormone function and may lead to multiple organ diseases. Phthalates leach from finished products when handled. They can be released from a product by heat, agitation, and prolonged storage.
During the conversation HEJSupport raised concern over the impact of single-use plastic on the national economy, the global environment, and the relationship between countries. An example of Canadian garbage, not suitable for recycling and nevertheless exported to the Philippines, was provided. The waste wrongly declared as scrap plastics for recycling actually contained household trash, used adult diapers, and electronic waste. In June 2016 a judge ordered the return of the garbage-filled containers, stressing that the Philippines is not a “trash bin” .T he scandal has dragged on for five years without resolution, despite promises from the Canadian government to address the problem, including public statements made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The conversation also touched upon synthetic textile and fast fashion. HEJSupport explained that synthetic textiles are one of the main sources of microplastics in the world’s rivers and oceans. These microplastics match synthetic fibers, including polyester, acrylic, polypropylene, polyethylene, and polyamide fibers. Fast fashion makes synthetic clothes a type of single-use plastic when more cheap synthetic clothes are thrown away daily to keep up with changing fashion which fuels the industry and increases the amount of plastic waste.
In addition the participants of the regional consultations highlighted the importance of having the right regulation in place; support politicians who support regulations; promote behavioural change; improve education and strengthen knowledge on single-use plastic health and environmental effects; the need for leadership at every level; and durable set of solutions to address problem of single-use plastic, including toxic free reusable alternatives.