Recycled plastic bottles could release more chemicals into drinks compared to new bottles.
That’s according to a new study by Brunel University London researchers who found almost 150 chemicals that leached into drinks from plastic bottles.
Of these, 18 may exceed EU regulatory limits, the study reveals.
The research notes chemicals found in recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) could even contain higher concentrations of chemicals than those using new PET.
PET is a very common and widely-used polymer. Currently, there are no plans to ban its use.
The authors said: “These findings show that a high number of non-authorised substances may be intentionally or non-intentionally added across the lifecycle of PET bottles.”
Dr Eleni Iacovidou, Lecturer in Environmental Management at Brunel University London, spoke to ELN about the contaminants found in recycled PET bottles: “The study was a systematic evidence mapping of the food contact chemicals (FCCs) that could be migrating from PET bottles.
“We actually found 150 FCCs could be migrating from these bottles and of these 109 are not authorised substances.
“The study points to the fact that we have a lot of non-intentional substances that could come from any stage across the PET drink bottles’ lifecycle.”
Dr Iacovidou called for an improvement in the recycling processes.
She said: “If we want to improve our recycling, which is necessary to happen, if we want to promote circular economy and sustainability in the plastics economy we have to make sure that what is returned back to the system is not just sustainable, but it’s also safe.”
A Defra spokesperson said: “The UK is a global leader in tackling plastic pollution. We have banned microbeads in rinse-off personal care products and prohibited the supply of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds, and our carrier bag charge has cut sales by 95% in the main supermarkets in England.
“We are going to further and we recently consulted on banning a number of single-use plastics, including plates, cutlery and expanded and extruded polystyrene food and beverage containers. We are analysing the responses received and will provide an update on next steps in due course.
“Through powers in our landmark Environment Act, we will introduce a deposit return scheme for drinks containers to increase recycling and cut litter, and we will make companies more responsible for the packaging they produce.”
Watch the video to listen to the entire interview.