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Plastics and Chemicals of Concern In Consumer Products

Plastics are used across the economy and in diverse downstream sectors such as packaging, construction, transportation, healthcare, textiles, and electronics. Durable products, ranging from construction materials to medical devices make up nearly half of the global plastics market, while packaging products are the largest uses of single-use plastics. Some plastics contain chemicals that are considered to be harmful for health and the environment. Phthalates, poly-fluorinated chemicals, bisphenol A (BPA), brominated flame retardants and antimony trioxide are considered most harmful for health and the environment.

The production of plastics increased from 1,5 million tonnes in 1950 to 350 million tonnes in 2017 and is expected to double by 2035, and almost quadruple by 2050. Plastic pollution poses a serious global environmental problem. This includes among other factors, the rapidly increasing levels of plastic waste. For example, it is estimated that in 2016, the world generated 242 million tonnes of plastic waste – 12% of all municipal waste. Less than 20% of plastic waste is recycled annually.

When looking at chemicals across the value chain, chemicals of concern- meaning chemicals that may pose a threat to human health and the environment - need to be excluded in the production and recycling of plastics to ensure there is no damage to humans and ecosystems, and to enable higher degree of recyclability. It would ultimately ensure a toxic-free circular economy of plastics.

Chemicals in Products have been a longstanding Emerging Policy Issue (EPI) under the SAICM framework. To further advance this issue, the GEF-funded project, “Global best practices on emerging chemical policy issues of concern under SAICM” addresses the use of chemicals of concern in three priority sectors: toys, building products and electronics, and aims to develop new tools and guidance to reduce the use of chemicals of concern in these sectors.

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