New Data Shows Recycled Plastic Pellets from Malaysia Contains Hundreds of Toxic Chemicals

Recently published data from thirteen countries including Malaysia identified nearly 500 chemicals in recycled plastic pellets, including pesticides, industrial chemicals, PCBs, and other toxic substances. In pellets from Malaysia, a total of 123 chemicals were detected in two samples that were analyzed. The data is especially relevant now as government officials from Malaysia will be participating in the Global Plastics Treaty negotiations in Ottawa, Canada later this month.

As a participating organisation of the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), a global network of public interest groups working for a toxics-free future, the Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) acquired recycled plastics (called plastic pellets) from recycling company in Penang and had them analyzed for toxic chemicals. The testing was conducted by a group of scientists in Sweden, Germany and Denmark and the data was recently published.

In the first sample from Malaysia, a total 107 chemicals were detected whilst in the second sample a total of 111 chemicals were detected. 95 of these chemicals were present in both samples. Out of the 30 chemicals detected at the highest concentration, it is noted that half were traces from various stages of the production of different types of plastics. These 30 chemicals also included several bioactive substances, including pesticides such as chlorpyrifos, and pharmaceuticals. In addition, they included three Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs).

At the Global Plastic Treaty talks, some countries favour approaches that would rely on plastic recycling as a significant tool for resolving the plastics crisis. But the new data adds to the increasing evidence that plastic recycling is a vector for the spread of toxic chemicals and therefore should not be considered a useful tool in the struggle to end the health and environmental threats from plastics. Chemicals found in recycled plastics may already be making us more susceptible to cancer, heart disease, reproductive disorders, diabetes, obesity, and other serious health conditions.

Plastics are made with toxic chemicals, so when plastic is recycled these chemicals end up in the recycled material. An effective Plastics Treaty needs to address the health and environmental threat from plastic chemicals and include approaches to control plastic production.  We cannot recycle our way out of the toxic plastic problem.

Many previous reports have found that plastic recycling is a vector for spreading toxic chemicals. Plastics are made with 16,000 chemicals, at least 25% of which are known to be toxic, and for most of the remaining chemicals there is no information on their human health or environmental impacts. Recycled plastics can also contain chemical contaminants from the way the original plastics are used. For example, if plastic pesticide containers are recycled, the toxic pesticides can end up in the recycled material.

Also, the process of plastic recycling can create new toxic substances, adding even more chemicals to recycled plastic. This means that workers in plastic recycling facilities, consumers who use recycled plastic products, waste workers who handle recycled plastics, and communities near recycling and waste operations are all at risk from exposures to a stew of toxic chemicals.

Currently, there are no international requirements to monitor chemicals in recycled plastics or make the chemical content of plastic materials and products publicly available and accessible.   This means that the spread of chemicals from recycled plastics is currently untraceable and uncontrollable. International controls are needed due to the extensive international trade in chemicals, plastics, and plastic waste.

The new Plastics Treaty will be an important instrument to address toxic chemicals in plastics in many ways. To do so, it is important that the Treaty contains strong, legally binding control provisions that call for:

  • the elimination of toxic chemicals throughout the full life cycle of plastics;
  • mandatory, publicly available, and accessible disclosure of information on chemicals; and,
  • measures to control plastic production volumes.



Mohideen Abdul Kader
Consumers’ Association of Penang

Press Statement, 18 April 2024


The IPEN brief “Hundreds of Toxic Chemicals Present in Recycled Plastic Pellets” is available at


Country Information on Chemicals in Recycled Plastic Pellets from Malaysia: