Plastic is no longer only an environmental problem; it affects our health too

Today Palma has held the “Deplasticize food” conference to face the threat of plastic in people’s health.

Under the pretext of service, product protection and hygiene, single-use plastic packaging, take away and over-packaging have proliferated

The use and dispose culture not only implies a significant increase in waste and affects natural ecosystems – especially in our seas and oceans – but also has worrying effects on people’s health.

This has been the starting point of the “How to de-plasticise food: toxicity in packaging and the agents involved in reducing it” conference, organized by Rezero, the Balearic Government and the University of the Balearic Islands (UIB), which has brought together experts and representatives of the different sectors of the food chain this Friday at the UIB Campus.

The event was inaugurated by the President of the Balearic Government, Francina Armengol, the Rector of the University of the Balearic Islands, Llorenç Huguet and the person in charge of Rezero in the Balearic Islands, Roser Badia.

The theme and repercussion of the debate has gathered a large and heterogeneous audience from different environmental, health or business sectors.

During the first part of the Conference, Doctor Nicolás Olea of ​​the University of Granada, has made a scientific presentation on the problem of plastics in food. According to Doctor Olea “humans are at the top of the food chain which makes us receivers of all kinds of pollutants which reach us amplified due to many of them bioaccumulating and biomagnifiying. It is not surprising, therefore, that monomers and chemical additives that make up the polymers we know as plastics circulate freely in any individuals’ blood, are found in the tissues and are excreted in the urine. “

Jane Muncke, Managing Director of the Food Packaging Forum, has intervened from Zurich with conclusive data on the chemical migration of packaging to food, warning of human exposure in small but constant doses.

Continuous exposure to these toxic compounds, many of them endocrine disruptors, is linked to diseases such as hypothyroidism, diabetes or infertility. Inadvertent consequences which are beginning to be understood now, according to Dr. Olea. Thus, the latest epidemiological studies show that, despite the fact that some organochlorine substances (DDT, dioxins, PCBs) have decreased their presence in the human body in recent years, others such as plastic residues (phthalates, bisphenols), polybromines and parabens have increased very significantly.

A large number of these hormonally active plastic residues are detected in the urine of adults. Their main route of entry into the human body is food and their containers due to the migration of substances with hormonal action from the plastic to the food; from food to the body and from the body to the urine. Roser Badia, has presented the Salut de Plàstic (Plastic Health) Campaign, where a urine test was carried out on 10 Balearic opinion leaders in the fields of culture, sport, science and medicine: “The fact that 100% of the samples have tested positive for the presence of plastic metabolites (an average of 21 substances of phthalates and phenols) shows that citizens are subject to invisible and constant contamination derived from the current model of production and packaging of foods “.

The second part of the Conference wanted to have a positive impact on how to reverse this situation by proposing a transversal and collective debate with representation from all the sectors that intervene in the food chain; from the administration to the producer, distribution and consumer sectors..

The table has been moderated by Rosa García, General Director of Rezero and representatives of the entire food chain have participated and have assessed the situation of plastic as well as responsibility and the collective search for solutions. The round table has had a wide range of declarations of which the following have been highlighted:

Joan Ripoll Director from Eroski: “It is the consumer who in the end has the strength to demand a new model”.

Juan Velasco d’Especias Crespí:We have a strategy in place to gradually reduce plastic in our production. But, being small, we have many limitations: economies of scale are against us. Any change I make takes three years to happen. Packaging is necessary for us as it offers information of what the consumer buys. We make paprika, but not just any paprika, ours is from Mallorca and I want it to be known… We have to be able to communicate it “.

Maria Antonia Font, General Director of Health:The solution to the problem is difficult to find, but it involves going through these meetings and debating in order to take action. Today, plastic is the only thing we have to protect food. But it is true that now it’s against us. We have to find an alternative to plastic which we do not have right now, especially when 80% of the meat we consume in the islands comes is imported. “

Sebastià Sansó,General Director of Waste and Environmental Education:The administration must set an example. Like promoting water fountains. Measures that can be carried out without major disruption. The great challenge will be to be able to effectively implement the Waste Law. Without social and business involvement it cannot be done. “

Antoni Agulló of the UIB: 150,000 containers of water are consumed each year at the university. We must be an example of good practice: we carry out actions such as community gardens, a local market, a cinema cycle, a circular economy project to compost, meatless Monday, etc “.

Margalida Ramis from the GOB: “We package for sanitary reasons, not health ones. The costs on health are not accounted for. We will have to demand that governments prioritize a change in the logic of production and distribution, so that they not stick to the price logic. “

JR Balanzat t of the Cooperative Supermarket:We are a project that aims to put consumption in the hands of people and where sustainability criteria prevail.”

The conference has served to highlight the need, on the one hand, for a greater knowledge of all agents regarding the problem of the presence of plastic in contact with food throughout the food chain and, therefore, the human health. And, on the other hand, the will of the sectors to promote change and eliminate or reduce plastic, mainly single-use, throughout the chain has been debated.

According to the participants, this needs participation at many levels: a change in consumer habits in favour of a healthy lifestyle, but especially a change in policies, both at the legislative and level of production by economic agents linked to food, packaging and distribution. The event was closed by Sebastià Sansó, General Director of Waste, who recalled the Balearic Government’s commitment to the Waste Law recently presented at COP25.

The Conference ended with the idea that it is urgent to detect, structure and facilitate a change of model in the way we produce, distribute and consume and that this challenge is a shared responsibility.

Source: Rezero, 2019

Video presentation of the Conference: >>

Plastic Health Campaign:
Video campaign >>

Further information:

Carme Verdaguer
Communication from Rezero in the Balearic Islands
646203815 // comunicaciobalears@rezero.cat
Redes sociales: @rezerocat

Roser Badia
Project manager in the Balearic Islands
680821244 // roserb@rezero.cat