Why Is Black Plastic Food Packaging Causing Growing Concerns?
Image Credit: Black Plastic Containers | Image Credit: Google.com

The rampant and unchecked use of plastic presents a host of alarming disadvantages for both the environment and human well-being. One of the most pressing concerns is plastic pollution, which leads to the degradation of ecosystems and harms aquatic life. Non-biodegradable plastics persist in the environment for centuries, clogging waterways, littering landscapes, and releasing toxic chemicals as they break down. Additionally, the production of plastic contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, exacerbating climate change. 

However, many people are cutting down on the use of plastic by shifting to reusable bags or using refillable water bottles; however, there’s one aspect that is often overlooked. Plastics are often used in food packaging and serviceware in restaurants. Besides, the excessive use of black plastic in restaurants has come under scrutiny owing to its detrimental effect on the environment as well as potential health risks.    

Why Is Plastic Black In Colour? 

Black plastics are generally used for food packaging, namely takeout containers and disposable cutlery, which are not at all recyclable in most recycling facilities. This is due to the nature of black plastic, which is made of carbon black pigments added to the plastic resin during the manufacturing process. These pigments darken the plastic, which makes it difficult for the optical sorting systems used in the recycling plants to differentiate between black plastic and other materials. Thus, a significant amount of black plastic gets deposited in landfills, creating the problem of plastic waste and contributing to environmental pollution.   

Impact Of Black Plastic On Health   

Reportedly, black plastic may result in health risks due to the presence of carbon black pigments. Carbon black possesses polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which fall under the category of possible human carcinogens as defined by the International Agency For Research On Cancer (IARC). These compounds contribute to several health issues, like respiratory problems and cancer.  


Besides, harmful chemicals in black plastic are known to get transported to the food we consume. Also, certain chemicals like phthalates and bisphenol-A (BPA) found in black plastic leach into food when exposed to high temperatures. This means that when hot food is served in black plastic containers, there’s a high possibility of transporting chemicals to the foods we consume. This causes health issues in the body.   

What The Expert Has To Say 

The founder of the Amulya Boondh Foundation, Dr. Aarati, took to Instagram to share her thoughts about black plastic containers. She stated, "Black plastic is extremely difficult to recycle and actually poses massive difficulties to recycling centres because it contaminates other plastics. The Near Infrared Radiation (NIR) sorting practised in many other countries is now adopted at a few centres in India too, along with informal manual sorting. Conventional plastic-sorting facilities utilise Near Infrared Radiation, or a light beam that bounces off the plastics, to identify and sort them. The technology, however, has a low sensitivity to black pigments and other dark colours, which absorb the light from the infrared radiation. Therefore, it can't be sorted." 

She also mentioned, "Black plastic is most often sorted incorrectly, or really, not sorted at all. Black plastic most often ends up in the trash rather than in the recycling center, where it can be turned into new products. So, if it isn't contaminating plastic that can be recycled, rendering that plastic un-recyclable, too, then it’s hurting the environment in a different way by going to the incinerator or a landfill. Black plastic is toxic on its own because it contains highly poisonous additives and flame retardants. In fact, any hot food or liquid like curries, soups, gravies, sambar, or rasam should not come in contact with any type of or any coloured plastic."   

Where Is It Used?   

Black plastics are often used as food packaging containers for serving go-to foods, which are frequently consumed by people all across the globe. This causes people to be exposed to health risks caused by black plastic. The main reason we should avoid it is that restaurants have a vital role to play in addressing the issue of black plastic usage. Shifting to more sustainable alternatives, such as compostable or biodegradable material, can significantly reduce the environmental footprint. Besides, adopting transparent and recyclable packaging options enhances people's trust and promotes healthier practises.