Microplastics found in Industrial Soft Drinks

In Italy, the first analysis carried out by Il Salvantente found microplastics in industrial soft drinks.

We live immersed in plastic. It can be found everywhere; we see it in the seas, dragged by the waters of our rivers, even scattered on mountain peaks or in the countryside that we still consider uncontaminated… Now we are beginning to realize that we eat and drink it. And we can do very little about that, if things do not change. In fact, what comes from our food, spices, water and, as shown by the first analysis carried out by Il Salvagente on 18 industrial beverages, from cola to orangeade, from lemonade to iced tea, we cannot see it with the naked eye nor can we avoid it.

The danger, in this case, has a specific name and a scientific definition, even though researchers and analysts have only recently started to look into it, and a level of risk that is still largely unknown. It is called microplastics, this is the definition of solid particles that are insoluble in water, even with dimensions that are much smaller than 5 millimetres. So small it is hardly distinguishable and perhaps for this very reason just as, if not more, insidious than the larger fragments from which it comes. Which, needless to say, are the most commonly used polymers, such as polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, polyamide, polyethylene terephthalate, polyvinylchloride, acrylic, polymethyl acrylate.

For some years now, those who look for it, regardless of what they are analyzing, find it. It is found in the fish fillets we consume, where they accumulate in incredible quantities, in seafood, in sea salt, in bottled waterin water (from rivers and taps, even in mineral water). It is even present in products like honey.

It is inevitable, therefore, that it would also be detectable in the soft drinks that the monthly consumer guide magazine sent to the Maurizi Group laboratories. If anything, it is hardly surprising that none of the kinds of tea, cola, lemonade, orangeade, or tonic water under analysis were saved.

Microplastics are served (at the table and in your glass)

Seven Up, Pepsi, San Benedetto, Schweppes, Beltè, Coca-Cola, Fanta, Sprite are just some of the brands to end up under the microscope and – with a slight surprise – all gave an unambiguous response: the presence of microplastics has not spared any product, all 18 bottles were found to be contaminated, with values that ranged from a minimum of 0.89 mpp/l (microparticles per litre) to a maximum of 18.89 mpp/l.

. . .

A ‘vehicle’ for poisons

Seen from Brussels, for example, the question of plastic particles that we ingest is not considered as so worrying: “According to current knowledge, it is unlikely that ingestion of microplastics ‘per se’ is an objective risk to human health”, writes the European Union.

Seen from Helsinki, from the headquarters of the European Chemical Agency (the ECA), the perspective is different. “Some of the additives or organic contaminants that are added to plastics can be toxic”, the agency stated in black and white in a document a few months ago. And it is not just Finnish scientists to be concerned about this. There are numerous studies – all very recent, seeing that the issue is relatively new – that show how microplastics can become a convenient ‘vehicle’ for toxic substances, concentrating and transporting pollutants such as bisphenol, some phthalates, pesticides and other carcinogenic molecules as well as interfering with the endocrine system.

And it is not just the dangers of the substances added in the processing of plastic, but also of those that it collects as it travels during its long life. According to the French agency Centre national de la recherche scientifique, particles of less than 5 millimetres have the capacity to “bind to organic pollutants in the environment such as PCBs, dioxins or PAHs” and pathogenic microorganisms. There are not sufficient studies to quantify the impact on humans, but the risk is already evident: ingesting particles that are invisible to the naked eye that, once in our organism, release their load of poisons.  “We don’t want to find ourselves in the same dramatic situation as we did with asbestos”, Matteo Fago explains, “a material considered safe and inert for many years before it was discovered, too late, how serious and extensive the damage it had produced on human beings was.”

September 26, 2018

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https://ilsalvagente.it/2018/09/26/in-italy-the-first-analysis-carried-out-by-il-salvagente-find-microplastics-in-industrial-soft-drink/

 

 

Kenya brings in world’s toughest ban on plastic bags: four years jail or $40,000 fine + Update

Producing, selling and using plastic bags becomes illegal as officials say they want to target manufacturers and sellers first.

Kenyans producing, selling or even using plastic bags will risk imprisonment of up to four years or fines of $40,000 (£31,000) from Monday, as the world’s toughest law aimed at reducing plastic pollution came into effect.

The east African nation joins more than 40 other countries that have banned, partly banned or taxed single use plastic bags, including China, France, Rwanda, and Italy.

Many bags drift into the ocean, strangling turtles, suffocating seabirds and filling the stomachs of dolphins and whales with waste until they die of starvation.

“If we continue like this, by 2050, we will have more plastic in the ocean than fish,” said Habib El-Habr, an expert on marine litter working with the UN environment programme in Kenya.

“This is something we didn’t get 10 years ago but now it’s almost on a daily basis,” said county vet Mbuthi Kinyanjui as he watched men in bloodied white uniforms scoop sodden plastic bags from the stomachs of cow carcasses.

Kenya’s law allows police to go after anyone even carrying a plastic bag. But Judy Wakhungu, Kenya’s environment minister, said enforcement would initially be directed at manufacturers and suppliers.

It took Kenya three attempts over 10 years to finally pass the ban, and not everyone is a fan.

Samuel Matonda, spokesman for the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, said it would cost 60,000 jobs and force 176 manufacturers to close. Kenya is a major exporter of plastic bags to the region.

“The knock-on effects will be very severe,” Matonda said. “It will even affect the women who sell vegetables in the market – how will their customers carry their shopping home?”

Big Kenyan supermarket chains like France’s Carrefour and Nakumatt have already started offering customers cloth bags as alternatives.

 

Reuters, August 28, 2017

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/aug/28/kenya-brings-in-worlds-toughest-plastic-bag-ban-four-years-jail-or-40000-fine

 

UPDATE:  Visiting Kenya a year into its plastic bag ban

A big step divides opinion

Until this time last year, the bags that have now been written out of quotidian existence were widely used, especially at places like Nairobi’s bustling Kangemi market where traders sell everything from fruit and veg to clothing.

The recyclable  fabric totes that now hang on each stall are 10 times the price of their illegal plastic predecessors. Many customers bring their own bags or carry their goods in buckets instead.

For Wilfred Mwiti, who regularly shops at the market, the plastic bag ban isn’t a problem. On the contrary.

“I’m okay with the ban and my feeling is that the government should work out a way in which the remaining bags could be eliminated,” he said, referring to packaging on individual food items.

But not everyone has embraced the new rules with such enthusiasm. Although she acknowledges the environmental benefits of the law, sweet-potato vendor Martha Ndinda is still struggling with the new reality.

 Market traders and shoppersTraders and shoppers alike have had to rethink the way they go about their daily business.

“I used to sell sweet potatoes in plastic bags, they were packed in plastic bags for them to remain fresh. But now they’re becoming dry so fast,” she said.

Unwrapped unemployment

The biggest critic of the ban is the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM). Prior to the new rules, the country was home to 170 plastic-producing companies that employed almost 3 percent of the Kenyan workforce.

Sachen Gudka, who runs a label-manufacturing company, is chairman of KAM and one of the country’s most influential businessmen.

He says a lot of companies, which received no government compensation following the ban, had to close in its wake, and that around 60,000 jobs were lost as a result, directly and indirectly. He would have liked to see the legislation phased in more gradually.

“Kenya used to have a thriving economy in terms of plastic bags to the neighboring countries, all those export earnings have now been lost to Kenya,” Gudka said.

The future is recycling

Betty Nzioka of NEMA, is hoping those neighboring countries will soon follow Kenya’s lead, resulting in “a collective ban across East Africa.”

A sprawling waste site littered with plasticPlastic dumped on waste sites like these is easily blown about and ends up in waterways and in places where it is ingested by unsuspecting animals.

Until that happens, the authorities will continue to face challenges, such as the illegal import of plastic bags from countries such as Uganda.

On the whole however, Nzioka is pleased with public willingness to accept the changes, and welcomes the upshot of cleaner streets and fewer plastic bags turning up in fishing nets  and cows’ stomachs.

Well before the ban, in 2013, student and photographer James Wakibia launched a social media campaign with the hashtag #ISupportBanPlasticsKE, calling for an end to single-use plastic bags.  Wakibia’s activism attracted widespread attention, including from the government in Nairobi, which put a ban at the top of its to-do list.  Plastic carrier bags and their smaller, thinner counterparts used for packaging fruit and vegetables have now been outlawed for a year.

Wakibia wants the government to implement more ambitious rules and would like to see the ban expanded to include further products like bread packaging.  “Many are exempt from the ban of plastic bags,” he said. “My call is to ban all single-use plastic, like plastic straws.”

That’s a move that wouldn’t be popular with KAM.

James Wakibia

. . . Wakibia is now working with activists from Zambia and Sudan on a forward strategy. Because even though his route into Nakuru is now largely free of plastic bags, he knows the broader issue is far from solved.

READ FULL ARTICLE AT:

https://www.dw.com/en/visiting-kenya-a-year-into-its-plastic-bag-ban/a-45254144