How bad is black plastic, compared to other plastic?
July 31, 2019 3:29 PM   Subscribe

I ran across an article about black plastic being worse than other colors of plastic at likely containing harmful, unregulated contaminants. And now I'm thinking about my black phone and phone case, the black plastic lid on my coffee, the black plastic container for my takeout ...

Let's leave aside the larger environmental issues of plastic, and just focus on whether black plastic is such a potential health hazard that it's worth switching my phone case to clear plastic, getting coffee and takeout from places that use white plastic lids and clear plastic soup containers (or similar options that fall far short of glass/silicone/stainless).

The sources I find by googling seem a bit clickbaity.

Is there only this one study from the UK to establish the problem?
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming to Health & Fitness (5 answers total)
In my area, this got a lot of publicity. My city went on the record as saying that they cannot recycle black plastic because the machines can’t distinguish it and throw it away. It’s not such an issue and phone cases which presumably you would use for a long time. But if you can try and reduce your consumption of single use black plastic, that would indeed make a difference, not so much because it pollutes more or less than clear plastic, but because in my city at least, it’s straight-up landfill fodder.
posted by ficbot at 3:33 PM on July 31 [5 favorites]

If the food container is food-safe, it won't matter what colour it is.

Otherwise, what ficbot says. Current recycling sorting tech can't see black plastic. For non-disposable items, carbon black filled ABS is very strong and lasts well.
posted by scruss at 4:13 PM on July 31

I need to clarify that I'm not asking about the environmental impact. I'm asking about the health hazards, particularly for things I use for eating/drinking and things that I'm constantly touching (phone case). If one reads the links, it appears that even items that should be food safe, like black plastic kitchen utensils, are nonetheless being discovered to contain toxic contaminants. Maybe this is enough of an emerging area that it's not entirely clear yet whether this is FUD or a legit concern?
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 5:18 PM on July 31

Food-safe containers have to meet certain levels of safety. If you're eating out of it or drinking out of it from a commercial establishment, it has to be food safe. I read the article as complete FUD, with a side of buzzword-worthy nonsense about carbon nanotubes. Of course you can make nanotubes out of a carbon-rich material under the right conditions. You could make nanotubes out of rice cakes if you prepared them correctly.
posted by scruss at 6:12 PM on July 31 [2 favorites]

Maybe others with more plastics experience can chime in on this, but my limited experience using plastics items custom made for my company by another company is that "black plastic" encompasses several options for possible plastic types dyed with a multitude of different dyes. So while some (or a particular) black plastic may be less safe then others, it would be hard to make the conclusion about all black plastics. Or to compare diffèrent plastic items solely on their color.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:32 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]

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