Have you noticed how plastic is everywhere? It’s on the news, in various articles, advertisements say “BPA free”, that we shouldn’t use plastic and sometimes that plastic might be a better option. Well I, at least, was confused about all this and to understand the fuss about plastic I decided to research it. There is a lot of information and there is definitely room for more research under each sub-topic, but to keep you (and myself) interested I will share just the main issues with plastic.
Yes, you’ve heard it before, it is filling the landfills and littering the ocean. Firstly it clogs our waste facilities and storm drains. Plastic photo-degrades; it brakes into smaller and smaller pieces perhaps resulting in the microplastics. You also might’ve heard about the recent boycott on oxo-degradable plastics: the lightweight plastic that was supposed to be the solution for plastic pollution as it degrades faster than other more durable plastics. However, the problem is that there are no results to support that it degrades harmlessly, but rather now researchers believe that it might be the leading problem of microplastic pollution. Microplastics can also be found in our synthetic sports clothes which get into the waterways when we wash them, to which there is no great solution yet.
Our second problem with plastic pollution is harming our wildlife. The bigger pieces of plastic get tangled into wildlife (you’ve all seen the horrible pictures of turtles with straws in their noses) and the smaller pieces, as well as microplastics, get eaten by the wildlife when they mistake them for food. Animals either choke on the plastic or fill themselves on it, which means they eat less nutritious food, therefore producing less and weaker offspring. At the moment it affects the food chain. When an animal eats another one that is half-full of plastic, the plastic is then stuck in the predator, which might then be eaten by another predator… and you get the drift. It disrupts the ecosystem drastically, but it is hard to tell what the repercussions are. The microplastics are already found in our tap water and in the fish we eat.
It might contain toxic chemicals
Plastics and the chemicals they’ve been made out of are not well researched. Our governments used to believe the small amounts of the toxic chemicals that are in the out everyday plastics are harmless, but who can say how much of it really is safe when plastics are everywhere; household appliances, technology, textiles, interiors, toys. Recently we learned that phthalates are very toxic and we have almost completely gotten rid of them from the production of items, but we will never completely be rid of them because they’ve washed out into the oceans where they keep degrading and being eaten by the marine life.
Now we also know that BPA is toxic and that is why there are so many water bottles and food boxes being marketed as BPA-free. But why is BPA still allowed in any products? And how do we know that the chemicals they replace the BPA with are safe for our use?
Many toxic plastics have been found to be able to imitate hormone such as estrogen, but as most plastics aren’t researched well enough it is still hard to tell which ones are really harmful to us.
There is a lot of research on the plastic bottles and food packaging and how it affects our bodies. Yes, the chemicals do leak into our food and drink slowly. The chemicals affect the hormone balance and they are linked to nearly all health problems people have today; deformations in genitals, premature puberty, decreased sperm quality, increase in cancer, infertility, type 2 diabetes, allergies, neurological problems and ADHD to mention a few.
The one good thing about plastic is that it is very durable and therefore it is used in many different items and can last for a long time. However, the problem is that as plastic is not designed originally for recycling it can’t be upcycled into new and better use, but rather has to be downcycled. It is often mixed with different chemicals which are difficult to extract from each other. After it’s use, to make plastic usable again some more chemicals need be added again. The other chemicals are added either for the durability or to make the plastic cheaper to produce and are often unnecessary. Many plastics are still not recyclable and burning them produces toxic dioxide. If these plastics were made without toxic chemicals with ingredients which would be easily upcycled then plastics could be a great option for some products.
Plastic is considered maybe even more dangerous problem to our planet than the climate change. It has taken over our world; it can be found in places where people can’t even go. Writing this article also made me think about all the products where plastics can be found and I couldn’t think of an item where it couldn’t be found. Can you?
Things NOT to do with plastic:
- Don’t through it into nature
- Don’t through it into general waste where it will end up in the landfill
- Don’t burn it, as most plastic emits dioxide
What To Do:
- Reduce the amount of plastic and cans you are using or at least become aware of what type of plastics you are using. Prefer glass and ceramic products. There is a great explanation on this here.
- Opt out for natural with everything: clothes, homeware, toys. Or at least research it well.
- Use Guppyfriend washing bag. It is designed to reduce the number of microfibers leaking into our waterways.
What do you think about plastic?