Why a “sustainability scale” is needed in labeling of plastic products?
Innovations in solid waste and waste gas treatment at Ecotech China
Low-recycling rates even in the best-equipped countries are to some extent a result of the simplistic labeling of plastic products. "Instead of 'yes-no' recycling labels, which are often misleading, a 'sustainability scale' could take account of recyclability but also other factors such as the environmental cost of production and potential human health risks from additives", said the authors of the study conducted by the
The University of Exeter and the University of Queensland.
Estimates of recycling rates vary dramatically. For example, Germany recycles 62% of its plastic waste -- well above the European average of 30%. Meanwhile, China recycles an estimated 25%, while the figure in the USA is just 8%.
"Requiring packaging to carry region-specific directions for disposal would shift responsibility away from consumers and towards regulators and plastic producers," said first author Stephen Burrows, whose research is funded by QUEX Institute, a partnership between Exeter and Queensland.
"This is vital because the mix of plastic products is so complex and confusing, the industry must be responsible for clear, accurate, and accessible instructions on how best to dispose of plastic items.
"The same is true for the chemical additives found in many plastics. These chemicals are added to plastics to give them certain properties such as color, flexibility, and fire resistance.
"Requiring producers to list all additives would be a major step towards informing the public and helping them make decisions regarding environmental impact and human health."
The researchers stress that their recommendations should not detract from the urgent need to use less plastic -- especially single-use items. At present, about 368 million tonnes of plastic are produced worldwide each year.
Professor Tamara Galloway, from the University of Exeter, said: "Our recommendations for a sustainability scale are designed to reduce some of the confusion around plastic disposal. "The ultimate aim is to protect the environment and human health from the harmful effects of plastic waste."
Professor Kevin Thomas, from The University of Queensland's Queensland Alliance for Environmental Health Sciences and Minderoo Centre for Plastics and Human Health said: "We hope that our recommendations initiate a reassessment of plastics labeling and that implementation of a sustainability scale will allow individuals to make informed decisions in how they use plastics. "This is just one small necessary step towards helping people help the environment," he added.
After banning garbage imports in 2018, China improved waste management and recycling practices and issued a regulation requiring mandatory garbage sorting, among several other measures. However, there's still much to be done, and Ecotech China is here to present you with some of the innovations in the field of solid waste and waste gas treatment.
Ecotech China is one of the largest events dedicated to the latest waste management technologies and practices. The event offers a perfect opportunity to explore a wide spectrum of products, including solid waste treatment and recycling equipment, waste gas treatment, waste management, sludge treatment, environmental engineering, and soil remediation technology, and gathers upstream and downstream of the industry chain all under one roof!
We anticipate that the 2022 edition of Ecotech China will cover more than 200,000 square meters of exhibition space, and gather more than 3,000 exhibitors and 100,000 visitors from home and abroad. We are looking forward to seeing you there!