Plastic Recycling Results in Rare Metals Being Found in Children’s Toys and Food Packaging

Some of the planet’s rarest metals – used in the manufacture of smartphones and other electrical equipment – are increasingly being found in everyday consumer plastics, according to new research.


Scientists from the University of Plymouth and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign tested a range of new and used products including children’s toys, office equipment and cosmetic containers.

Through a number of detailed assessments, they examined levels of rare earth elements (REEs) but also quantities of bromine and antimony, used as flame retardants in electrical equipment and a sign of the presence of recycled electronic plastic.

The results showed one or more REEs were found in 24 of the 31 products tested, including items where unregulated recycling is prohibited such as single-use food packaging.

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