Susan Freinkel, author of Plastic: A Toxic Love Story, featured Clean Production Actions Plastics Scorecard in a recent article in On Earth magazine. Read on for an excerpt of Ms. Freinkel’s article:
In a 2007 Skidmore College museum exhibit titled Molecules That Matter, the exhibit’s curators noted that we are never more than three feet away from something plastic. That stunning statistic reflects just how thoroughly plastics permeate the fabric of our daily lives. So it’s sobering, then, to consider that the plastics industry is one of the largest consumers and users of chemicals known to be hazardous to human health or to the environment.
The process by which fossil fuels are transformed into an iPhone case—or a toothbrush, a Barbie, a soda bottle, a car seat, or countless other objects—consumes a mindboggling 244 million tons of toxic chemicals, according to a recent report. The recipes for many of our most common consumer plastics include carcinogens such as benzene and styrene, as well as hormone-disrupting phthalates and Bisphenol A (BPA). Indeed, 96 percent of the BPA that gets produced in our labs goes toward the manufacture of plastics.
Consumers have been concerned about the issue for years. But with plastic playing such an essential role in the global marketplace, the public demand for more information about the relative safety of different kinds of plastic has been met with a mostly tepid response from manufacturers.
Enter the Plastics Scorecard, a new tool that has been designed to evaluate the chemical footprints of these omnipresent materials. As far as I can tell, the Plastics Scorecard represents the first time that anyone has ever tried to bring this level of (you’ll pardon the pun) transparency to plastics. The hope, of course, is that—as with similar tools that are capable of analyzing the chemical footprints ofelectronics, cosmetics, and cleaning products—the Plastics Scorecard will encourage manufacturers, brand owners, and retailers to reduce industry’s reliance on hazardous chemicals that are, as of right now, such an integral part of plastics production. “We’re trying to lay out a framework that companies could use to make decisions about what would be a safer plastic,” says Mark Rossi, co-director of Clean Production Action (CPA), the Boston-based nonprofit that designed and produced the scorecard.