By switching the plastic used in its IV bags, Dignity Health care system kept 700,000 pounds of high-concern chemicals out of the environment, according to a new analysis that measures the “chemical footprint” of plastics.
The Plastics Scorecard v.1.0, produced by the Business-NGO Working Group (BizNGO), a collaboration of companies and NGOs, offers what it says is the first comprehensive method for assessing and reducing chemicals of high concern in plastics. It’s a tool to help companies choose safer plastics, BizNGO says.
- Five out of 10 commonly used polymers score a failing grade due to the intensive use of high-concern chemicals at every step of manufacturing. These are polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polycarbonate (PC), polystyrene (PS), styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS).
- Three polymers — polylactic acid (PLA), polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) — are much further along the path to safer chemicals, because their core inputs are not chemicals of high concern.
The Plastics Scorecard also offers a 5-step program for companies seeking to reduce their chemical footprint:
- Ask if a chemical additive or plastic is even necessary for the product.
- Use safer additives for plastic products and avoid chemicals of high concern.
- Use safer polymers to reduce chemicals of high concern in manufacturing.
- Close the loop by using post-consumer recycled content, but beware of legacy toxic chemicals.
- Redesign the product to eliminate additives and/or plastics altogether.
The total natural capital cost of plastic in the consumer goods industry is more than $75 billion per year, according to research released last month by the Plastic Disclosure Project, the UN Environment Programme and natural capital analysts Trucost. The report says companies could become more sustainable by improving the way they measure, manage and report the amount of plastic they use in their business operations and supply chains.