This study aims to investigate how the resource strategy, which intends to reduce wastes and increase recycling, influences human exposure to hazardous chemicals from material recycling. In order to examine the flows of hazardous chemicals in recycled material, a mass flow analysis of plastics and paper at European level, including the flow of phthalates, i.e. Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), Di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP), and Benzyl-butyl phthalate (BBP), has been performed. The result for the year 2012 shows that 26% of plastic wastes and 60% of paper consumed in Europe were recycled. This corresponds to the recycling of 6.3% of DEHP, 20.3% of DBP, and 5.1% of BBP in the percentage of total manufactured amount of these phthalates. To examine the potential influence of the phthalate exposure through recycling, a case study assessing the childhood exposures to phthalates from foods packed in recycled paper and plastics has been performed as exemplified by the two countries: Denmark and Korea. The result shows that an increase in recycled paperboard and PET bottles in food packaging causes a significant increase in childhood exposure to DBP corresponding to an additional exposure of 0.355 and 0.767 µg/kg bw/day for Denmark and Korea, respectively. Still, of the total childhood phthalate exposure, 58.5% of DBP and 77.5% of BBP exposure in Denmark and 31.6% of DBP and 65.2% of BBP in Korea remains to be identified. Finally, a conceptual framework is proposed for a circular economy based on sustainable and clean resource flows in order to increase material recycling without increasing adverse health effects.
Environment International, 2014, Vol 73, p. 312-322
REACH; Childhood exposure; phthalates; circular economy; substance flow analysis; Plastics; Paper; Recycling; zero waste society; human health; resource management; resource action plan