New report highlights need for reusable packaging to avoid harmful chemicals
A new report by the Global Plastics Policy Centre at the University of Portsmouth has stated that reuse systems may provide a vital solution to addressing single-use packaging pollution, but highlighted the need for harmful chemicals to be avoided in reusable packaging materials.
The report was commissioned by Break Free From Plastic, a coalition of over 12,000 organisations and individual supporters from across the world. It draws upon evidence from 320 articles and papers to evaluate the role of reuse systems in addressing single-use plastic pollution and the transition to a circular economy, in which materials are reused and recycled instead of thrown away.
Reuse systems are defined in the report as ‘a comprehensive system designed for multiple circulations of reusable packaging which remains in the ownership of the reuse system and loaned to the consumer’. An example may be a deposit return scheme in which you can return water, milk or alcohol bottles after use, which are then washed, refilled and resold.
For reuse systems to effectively address single-use plastic pollution, the report highlights that when selecting an appropriate material for reusable packaging, full life cycle assessments must be considered. This refers to the environmental impacts of reusable packaging throughout extraction, production, manufacture, use, disposal and recycling of materials.
Reuse systems must also address chemicals of concern. The report states that while it is preferable for reusable packaging in reuse systems to be made from recycled materials, it identifies that recyclate (recycled material) can contain ‘unidentified toxicants’. A recent review by the Food Packaging Forum found that hundreds of chemicals including endocrine disruptors and suspected carcinogens can migrate from recycled and reusable plastic food packaging into food and drink.
For reuse systems to be safe for the environment and human health CHEM Trust’s view is that the most hazardous substances should not be present in products in the first place, to ensure that they are not recirculated in secondary, recycled materials.
To reduce your risk of exposure to harmful chemicals in reusable packaging CHEM Trust advises that your refill containers are made from glass or stainless steel.
Find out more about chemicals in food contact materials on our toxic free packaging website.