There are many reasons why BPA is still prevalent in our consumer products including the economic aspects such as BPA’s cost-effectiveness for manufacturers when including it in their products to extend their life. However, many in the waste industry wish to hold these manufacturers responsible for making hard-to-recycle products that end up in landfills because there is no end market for them. They also want to hold the government more responsible for not implementing recycling programs that make it easy for the public to take part.
Other economic aspects include the annual global production of over six billion pounds of BPA and the continued growth that is expected; the market for BPA is massive (Vogel, 2009). Manufacturers started adding BPA to common products like food containers because it can be used as a protective coating for metal cans that prevents contamination and extends product shelf life (Metz, 2016). In studies, lower-income individuals and those reporting low food security and receival of emergency food assistance had higher BPA concentrations in their bodies compared to those with higher income and food security (Nelson, Scammell, Hatch, & Webster, 2012).
Now that China has implemented bans and introduced policies to restrict the number of recyclables imported, plants have to deal with recycling they cannot profit from. Because of this, excess recyclable material is sent to landfills because it can’t be otherwise processed. This is where contamination risk increases because the available recycling and waste facilities were not structured for a domestic waste/recycling market. John Casella, Chairman, and CEO of Casella Waste Systems firmly believe that municipalities need to change their programs and make public policy decisions because the cost of selling material that isn’t recyclable and therefore wastes material, will eventually reflect on consumers (Rosengren, 2018).
Many different aspects influence this hazard and how society can manage this reduction in waste material export such as political aspects including governmental agencies like the FDA. In 1996, Congress passed the Food Quality Protection Act which included language directing the EPA to establish a testing and screening program for endocrine disruptors. This led to an agreement on the definition of an endocrine disruptor and its adverse health effects, which influenced the current understanding of this hazard as it is defined. In 2006, a government-sponsored assessment of BPA literature was coordinated by the Division of
Extramural Research and Training at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Thirty-eight endocrine disruptor and BPA experts concluded, based on several hundred studies, that BPA at concentrations found in the human body is associated with changes in body size, brain structure, breast, testis, and behavior of laboratory animals. Members of Congress also sent letters to the FDA commissioner to demand greater attention on the safety of BPA. Many environmental health advocates and researchers also came before state legislatures to support bills restricting BPA in children’s products. Retailers and producers responded to consumer concerns and in March 2009, six major baby bottle manufacturers announced the removal of BPA from their products. Sunoco, a BPA producer, is now requesting that its business consumers provide written confirmation that no BPA will be used in food containers intended for children younger than three years.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not prohibited the use of BPA in any food products or advised adults to avoid exposure. In fact, in its reexamination of the issue in January 2010, the FDA cautioned against making any changes in food packaging or consumption by either industry or consumers that could jeopardize food safety or reduce the intake of food needed for good nutrition. However, these regulations have been amended and the use of BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups has been banned in the United States which is evidence of the importance of manufacturers for the future of our recycling programs (Metz, 2016).
One organization in support of BPA use in packaging and products is the American Chemistry Council (ACC) which represents companies who are involved in the business of chemistry. They state that the BPA is beneficial in manufacturing because it is durable, shatter-resistant, lightweight, and transparent, which are characteristics needed for optical lenses, safety glasses, vehicle windows, and healthcare equipment (Metz, 2016). The lightweight properties of BPA increase automobile, airplane, and train fuel efficiency which reduces costs (Metz, 2016). The ACC also identifies a reduction of carbon emissions as an environmental benefit of BPA use, as well as less need to sterilize healthcare equipment which reduces waste (ACC, The Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group, 2009; Metz, 2016).
Government agencies support the use of BPA as a safe consumer product even though many agencies (FDA, World Health Organization [WHO], Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]) have concerns about BPA based on research findings that state the need for further research of its effects (Metz, 2016). The benefits of new bans and policies like China’s National Sword are primarily directed toward companies that can provide for the growing demand for recycling of recycled materials rather than disposal in landfills. However, responsibility for the implementation of publicly-accessible, cost-effective policies that reduce contamination, must fall onto packaging manufacturers, collection companies, and local governments (Rosengren, 2018).