Plastic products are made from the essential polymer mixed with a complex blend of substances including catalyst remnants, polymerization solvents, and a wide range of other additives deliberately added to enhance the desirable characteristics of the final product. Additives include bisphenols, phthalates, flame retardants, and further emerging and legacy contaminants. With a few exceptions, additives are not chemically bound to the polymer, and potentially migrate within the material reaching its surface, then possibly leach out to the environment. Leachates are mixtures of additives, some of which belong to the list of emerging contaminants, i.e. substances that show the potential to pose risks to the environment and human health, while are not yet regulated. The review discusses the state of the art and gaps concerning the hidden threat of plastic leachates. The focus is on reports addressing the biological impacts of plastic leachates as a whole mixture. Degradation of plastics, including the weathering-driven fragmentation, and the release of additives, are analysed together with the techniques currently employed for chemically screening leachates. Because marine plastic litter is a major concern, the review mainly focuses on the effects of plastic leachates on marine flora and fauna. Moreover, it also addresses impacts on freshwater organisms. Finally, research needs and perspectives are examined, to promote better focused investigations, that may support developing different plastic materials and new regulations.