We are surrounded by plastic. With a great percentage of the products that are used in our modern life being manufactured in this durable material. But the ease and mass production of plastic has a huge down side… vast amounts of plastic waste and toxic chemicals.
Each year we create enough plastic waste worldwide to circle the globe four times round! And the sad fact is 50% of this plastic is only used once before being discarded.
As well as garbage dumps and landfills around the world being full of plastic waste, there is large scale marine pollution happening with the worlds oceans accumulating greater quantities of items made of plastic every year.
“In the end we, we will conserve only what we love. We only love what we understand. We only understand what we are taught.”
Babia Dioum Senegalese Ecologist.
However, the message does finally seem to be sinking in with news that France recently passed new laws banning plastic cups, plates and cutlery that are not made of biologically sourced materials. The law comes into effect in 2020.
Joining them in the fight to tackle this issue is the great city of San Francisco.
It is the first city to place a ban on plastic bottles, phasing in the initiative over the next four years, it will slowly stop the sale of plastic water bottles that hold 21 ounces or less in public spaces.
Great news but a whole lot more needs to be done by all of us to put a halt to the sheer scale of plastic waste we are using and producing.
The leaching of the toxins from this plastic garbage is unwittingly consumed by each and every human being.
The plastic that is dumped into the ocean releases organic pollutants, which are then ingested by fish and ending up in our human food chain.
Research has shown that the urine of 95% of us has detectable levels of phthalates!!
Most plastics are made from petroleum but plastic products can contain other chemicals that we need to worry about too.
The chemicals of concern are “phthalates” ( DEPH -Diethylhexyl phthalates and BPA – Bisphenol A). These chemicals are used to make the plastic soft or flexible.
DEPH is classified by the US EPA as a probable human carcinogen.
BPA the basic building block of any polycarbonate plastic, which is used for water bottles and in food packaging, starts to break down releasing toxins when repeatedly washed or exposed to heat.
Since 1940 BPA has been recognized as a chemical that can interfere with normal hormone function.
Also heavy metals like lead, mercury and cadmium have been found in plastics and although the amount contained is small these harmful chemicals are ingested because of contamination to the products contained or wrapped in this plastic.
Implications to our health depends on the toxin but breast cancers, mental development, hormone function, ADHD and allergies are all thought to be a result of the consumption of the harmful chemicals released by certain plastics.
The challenge comes when trying to determine the impact to human health that the toxins contained in plastics is having.
In a study conducted by Rolf Halden, associate Professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering at Arizona State University, they concluded in one of the largest reviews ever published on the effects of plastic, that whenever you have a mix of food, plastic and heat there is an opportunity for chemicals to get into the food.
In this informative video he explains the good and bad choices you can make in the types of plastics you use…
It is however, very difficult to measure because we have all been exposed to plastic contamination for years it is difficult to determine any exact effects.
Recent reports found plastic in 10, yes 10! foods made in and imported out of China! This includes, believe it or not Plastic Rice!!
Another very scary fact recently presented in the Royal Society’s summer science exhibition is that plastic waste dumped in UK seas will end up as marine pollution in the Arctic sea within 2 years!
Using the fantastic Plastic Adrift research software they found after reaching the arctic it then circles the pole for many years.
Talking of marine pollution…
Along with microbeads in many of our so called green body care products such as body washes and toothpaste being washed into our water ways, plastic waste that finds its way to the seas is having a massive impact on wildlife.
In January 2016 in Germany two Sperm whales, washed up dead on the beach with their stomachs full of plastic and car parts!
It’s impossible to avoid contact with plastic, that is undeniable but the misuse and amount of plastic around the globe is unsustainable.
The usefulness of the product has to be looked at in terms of lifespan in the environment and the time being used.
Take cotton buds, used for a matter of seconds and then thrown away, unless the plastic stick is biodegradable it will last in the environment for many many years. Wooden cotton buds are a much better option.
Water bottles of the throwaway kind are one of the biggest offenders. The Teflon coated dental floss again used once then discarded.
There are ways to manage the amount of plastic that is tipped into landfill by using the three R’s – REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE.
Plus as seen in the video above, we can now add RETHINK and RESTRAIN. Rethink about the products you are buying and the lifestyle choices you are making, can you cut down on plastic?
And Restrain is connected to thinking about how we can do a lot of things but we can only do them for so long. How much longer can we put these pressure on our planet?
For example meat sold in a supermarket, packaged in a plastic container, thrown away days later after being opened.
By wrapping the same meat product in shrink-wrap or similar there is a reduction in the plastic that goes to waste by 70%.
And by using reusable plastic crates in the delivery of goods to supermarkets an estimated 30,000 tonnes per annum have been reported by one chain of retailers (Figures supplied by Marks & Spencers Ltd)
Recycling plastic packaging to make new items of plastic packaging or textiles reduces the amount of plastic debris in our environment.
The need for more recycling is the responsibility of both industry and society and there is a big need to view end of life plastics as raw material and not waste.
The mismatch of 10,000 years of contamination against a minutes of use needs to be addressed by looking for replacements.
There is a need to explore polymers made from renewable materials and digestible by microorganisms. This will also help to conserve the ever depleting oil reserves and benefit the environment and the health of the human race.
Find alternatives to plastic products, buy and store foods in glass Kilner jars or metal containers. Do not heat food in plastic containers or store fatty foods in plastic wrap or containers.
Polycarbonate drinking bottles with Bisphenol A should be avoided. Try to use Reusable BPA free Water Bottles instead.
Clothes, bedding and furniture, try to buy those that are made with natural fibers.
Try and avoid giving young children plastic teethers or toys. Difficult to do, we know but even if you replace a selection of plastic toys with Wooden toys, you’ll be going a little way to do your bit and also help look after your family.[adrotate group=”44″]
Bamboo Eco Friendly Toothbrushes can go a long way to helping. In fact bamboo is a wonderful alternative for plastic and wooden products in many forms, brushes, flooring, clothing are just 3 examples
You might think that something as small as a toothbrush would not make any difference but with over 30 million toothbrushes being thrown away every year by Australians alone, adding up to approximately 1000 tonnes of landfill every year try to imagine what this figure is on a global scale. Mind blowing!
Stop and think for a minute about putting plastic into your baby’s mouth and letting them suck on it for hours. Avoid this with BPA free Soothers / Dummies.
Non plastic kitchen utensils and work surfaces can help you lower the amount of plastic your food comes into contact with in your kitchen, such as a Bamboo cutting board.
If you enjoyed reading this article you may also like to read about The Dangers of Microwaving Yourself with your WI-FI
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