The Plastic Problem
For too long, the narrative has focused on plastics in the ocean and the impact of plastic on ocean wildlife. Don’t get me wrong – this is an issue. However, this narrowly focused narrative limits the scope to people who live near the ocean. So anyone who isn’t on the coast can easily shrug their shoulders, and go on – sipping water out of their single-use plastic bottle, thinking that the problem doesn’t touch them.
This is false. Plastic is a problem for all of us!
Recently, two data visualization specialists working for Reuters created a graphic that shows the sheer scale of plastic consumption globally. They stacked up plastic bottles next to some of the world’s most iconic structures as part of a feature called “Drowning in Plastic
.” View the graphic here
– where in a matter of minutes, you’ll see the animated simulation reflecting real numbers of plastic bottles globally, piling up to fill your screen.
Why Plastic is Harmful to Our Health
Many plastics contain chemical additives which can leach into our food, water and ultimately into our bodies. For example, BPA is found in plastics commonly used for food storage. BPA is an endocrine disruptor can cause major health problems, particularly for children and young people.
We are eating the equivalent of a credit card per week.
Microplastics, small plastic pieces found in the ocean, in our soils, air and drinking water, are increasingly alarming. A report published recently by the World Wildlife Fund
looked at data from 52 studies on microplastics and found that people are at risk of ingesting around 5 grams of microplastics per week. That is equivalent to eating a credit card, once a week! An earlier report in the Environmental Science & Technology journal reported that Americans consume an estimated 45,000 microplastic particles per year from seafood, water, sugar, salts and alcohol alone. People who drink bottled water may be ingesting an additional 90,000 micro plastics per year.
You should never eat food from black plastic food containers commonly used by food delivery joints. Research has shown that black plastic contains all kinds of harmful chemicals
. In a nutshell, the problem with black plastic stems from the processes used in recycling centers. Current recycling processes do not sort black plastic from other plastic, which means that plastic used in old electronics ends up mixed in with food-grade plastic. So you have plastic that is filled with lead and flame-retardant chemicals, like bromine, which are chemicals never meant to go on your skin or in your mouth, that get mixed into other plastics, melted down and reshaped into food containers. The result is that there are poisons additives that exceed legal limits
Ways to Ditch Plastic
If the concern about plastic is already on your radar, then you’ve probably stopped using plastic bags at the grocery store, stopped buying bottled drinking water, and use paper or metal straws. These are great steps in the right direction! But if you’re like me, as soon as you make these changes, suddenly you notice plastic everywhere else in your kitchen, bathroom and throughout your home. Here is a list of other suggestions as ways for you to cut your plastic usage:
- Keep reusable bags in your car and use them anytime when shopping as a replacement for standard plastic bags.
- Refill a stainless steel water bottle and stop buying bottled water.
- Buy a metal straw or biodegradable paper straws – keep this with you, and when eating out, skip the plastic straw.
- Stop using plastic bags at the produce section at the grocery store – they’re completely unnecessary.
- Buy fresh bread that comes in paper bag or at the bakery where you can put it in your own cloth bag
- Do some research in your area to find a local dairy provider where you can buy milk in a returnable glass bottle. Costo sells milk in cardboard containers which is a great option as well.
- Choose wine bottled in glass with natural cork stopper.
- Clean with vinegar and water – ditch cleaning solutions in plastic containers. Mix 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water for an all-purpose cleaning spray.
- Use powdered dishwasher and laundry detergent in a cardboard box.
- Use reusable sandwich/snack bags over plastic baggies.
- Choose glass food storage containers over Tupperware or other plastic containers.
- Avoid non-stick cookware, it is coated with Teflon or other resins.
- Bring your own cutlery – carry a reusable spoon, knife and fork in your bag so that you don’t need to use single-use silverware when on the go.
- Buy in bulk – this cuts down on plastic food packaging.
- Wear clothes from natural fibers – synthetic fibers are a key contributor microplastic pollution.
I’d love to hear from you!
If you’re already on top of this, what are some other ways you’ve implemented to cut back on plastic usage? Or if this is your first effort in reducing your plastic usage, let me know how it goes! Making lifestyle changes can be difficult, but I promise – once you create new habits, the hard part is done and you’ll be living a healthier life!