Safer States works to reduce the production of plastic and the use of toxic additives by driving down demand for both. We aim to increase transparency, eliminate the worst materials, prevent false solutions such as “chemical recycling”, and lift up solutions including source reduction and the transition to safer, non-toxic reuse systems.
The plastics crisis is threatening both our environment and our health, with front-line communities bearing some of the worst burdens. Meanwhile, the chemical and plastic industries are promoting toxic technologies like “chemical recycling” as false solutions that will only worsen the problem.
Safer States is working to address the plastics crisis by prioritizing policies that restrict the most toxic plastics (including PVC, polystyrene, and polycarbonate), phase out the worst chemicals found in plastic packaging (such as phthalates, bisphenols and PFAS), mandate source reduction and chemical transparency, and push back against so-called “chemical recycling.”
Given the growing health concerns around microplastics, we are focusing on policies that eliminate uses of intentionally added microplastics in products or require testing for these emerging contaminants. Safer is also promoting policies that support the transition to non-toxic reuse systems through both mandates and incentives.
Toxic chemicals such as benzophenones, bisphenols, chlorinated paraffins, PFAS, phthalates and many others are often added to plastics. Some of the most toxic plastics include polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polystyrene, and polycarbonate.
The chemical building blocks of plastics are associated with health effects ranging from cancer and neurological harm to birth defects, immune system suppression, reproductive harm, hormone disruption, obesity and asthma. In addition, the toxic chemicals found in plastics have also been linked to hormone disruption, impaired fertility, cancer and developmental harm, among other health impacts. These toxic plastic chemicals can leach out from food packaging and other consumer products into our food, water and indoor air. Moreover, plastic creates serious toxic impacts across its entire lifecycle, with low-income communities and communities of color most impacted.
Solving the plastics and toxics crisis will require a comprehensive approach that involves several key components: reducing plastic production, embracing safer and non-toxic materials, banning hazardous chemicals and materials, investing in accessible and non-toxic reuse/refill systems, and facilitating the transition of jobs to support these initiatives. It’s also crucial to steer away from false solutions like so-called “chemical recycling” and focus on sustainable strategies that genuinely contribute to solving the crisis.
As public concern grows over the global plastic crisis, the chemical and plastic industry is promoting technologies that they call “chemical recycling,” “advanced recycling,” or “molecular recycling,” but are actually false solutions.
These toxic technologies are often just plastic incineration in disguise and are associated with harmful air pollutants and hazardous waste generation. To make matters worse, the chemical industry has been working hard to change how the underlying industrial processes –including pyrolysis, gasification, and solvolysis– are regulated under state and federal law inattempts to gain looser environmental standards and less public oversight..
Investigations by environmental groups, such as the Global Alliance Against Incineration, reveal that these technologies are not new, they are not “advanced,” and most of them are not actually recycling; they also have a history of economic and technical failures.
An analysis done by Natural Resources Defense Council shows that most of the eight so-called “chemical recycling” facilities in the US are not actually recycling any plastic. What they are doing is generating air pollution and hazardous waste by burning plastic. Moreover, these facilities are disproportionately located in low-income communities and communities of color. To address the plastic crisis, real solutions are needed, such as reducing plastic at its source and transitioning from single-use to non-toxic reuse models.
Microplastics are tiny plastic particles, less than 5 millimeters in size, formed when larger plastic items break down or are intentionally added to consumer products such as cosmetics or cleaning agents. Similar to the PFAS crisis, they are found everywhere, from food and drinking water to the ocean and the human body. While research is still ongoing about the health effects of microplastics, recent scientific reviews have raised concerns that they may impact fertility, increase the risk of cancer, and cause other health problems. Real solutions are needed to address the danger of microplastics, such as reducing plastic at its source.
As an alliance of organizations and coalitions, the collective work of Safer States has an incredible impact both within individual states and across the country. By actively engaging in the Break Free from Plastic Pollution network, Safer States has been instrumental in promoting accessible, non-toxic, and non-plastic solutions. Through collective efforts, several states have introduced policy measures that comprehensively tackle the plastics and toxics crisis while also considering environmental justice concerns. Safer States’ commitment to driving change is making a tangible difference in shaping a safer future for communities across the country.