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Incorporating Health Impacts into the Circular Economy: A Comprehensive Assessment of Worker and Consumer Safety in the Plastic Production and Recycling Industries
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1  Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology
Academic Editor: Simeone Chianese


The world's plastic production is expected to double in the next 20 years, causing significant environmental and sustainability challenges. That’s where the necessity to shift to a circular economy (CE) from a linear economy becomes evident. CE aims to solve the huge plastic waste challenges by introducing newer strategies of repairing, recycling, reusing, and designing products with a longer life cycle and lesser environmental impacts. While most of the existing approaches to quantifying circularity consider different economic and environmental factors, they often neglect the health aspects. This article emphasizes the need to incorporate health impacts into the concept of the circular economy, focusing on the plastic industry. It highlights the health effects on the workers during production and on consumers throughout the product's life span, including recycling and reuse. The health risks associated with the occupational safety hazards, chemicals utilized in plastic production and recycling, and chemicals released from plastic containers (such as carcinogens, bisphenol A, and phthalates) during prolonged use were analyzed. It also examines the challenges of connecting health impacts to circularity and proposes methods to address worker and consumer health aspects in assessing circularity. Three examples of plastic production and recycling industries are presented to illustrate the fact that, despite significant recycling efforts, the circularity scores of their products need to be lower due to the substantial health impacts experienced by the workers.

Keywords: Circular economy; Plastic pollution; Health impacts; Sustainability
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