Let’s be real about plastic, shall we? It’s wonderful how it’s light, cheap — and everywhere. You buy big rolls of it to wrap and cover foods; you get plastic for your produce; and you carry your groceries home in it. You buy plastic toothbrushes, toys, and cleaning and beauty products — all in plastic. When you’re finished with it, you just throw it into the trash or recycling bin and — voila! — it’s gone, right? Think again!!!
Now, let’s be really honest about plastic. And I mean inconveniently honest. Plastic is found in everything these days: food, hygiene products, phones, computers, cars and even gum. Although most plastic is said to be recyclable, the truth is that most of it is downcycled, a process of converting waste materials or useless products (such as plastic) into new materials or products of lesser quality and reduced functionality. For example, a plastic milk carton can’t be recycled into another carton, so instead it becomes plastic lumber. After its lifecycle as lumber is over, the plastic (lumber) will end up in a landfill anyway because it cannot be recycled again. Compare this to paper, which can be made into all kinds of other paper that, in return, can be recycled again.
Plastic pollution poses a major threat to our wildlife, our environment — and us — because the majority of the world’s plastic never gets recycled: it ends up in a landfill where it can take 1,000 years to break down because it’s not biodegradable. During this time, it will pollute both soil and water. It’s kind of ironic how the very same durability that is the problem with plastic is also why humans favor it.
Unfortunately, too many plastic bags end up in the ocean and pose a danger to marine wildlife. Birds and marine animals can ingest or get entangled in plastic bags that are floating around. It’s estimated that about 100,000 marine animals die each year due to plastic trash in our North Pacific Ocean alone. A matter a fact is that there are over 5 trillion plastic pieces weighing over 250,000 tons floating in our oceans and seas. This amount translates into 700 pieces of plastic for every human on earth. A new study found that 17 billion pounds (that is 8 million metric tons) of the stuff spews into the ocean every year from 192 countries with coastal access. So, yes, basically the Pacific Ocean has become the world’s largest landfill.
Besides littering our oceans, plastic contains toxins (such as BPA, the most controversial) that leak into soil, water, wildlife and our bodies. These very harmful toxins cause damage to our hormones and nervous system, and create all kinds of problems and illnesses. Research shows that since the WW2 there has been a dramatic increase in breast cancer and that girls reach puberty earlier. These developments have been linked to BPA exposure.
My family have committed ourselves to a plastic-free life. It’s still a work in progress. But we never get plastic produce bags or shopping bags, we avoid plastic toys, and we try to shop bulk as much as possible. As well, we make our own cleaning supplies (they smell and work great). Adding to those changes, I have switched from plastic wrap to bee wraps for food storage. And we’ve transitioned from plastic toothbrushes to bamboo, and use no plastic baby bottles or sippy cups. To get more tips on switching to a non-plastic home, check out this article and this one..
Plastic is just one of the worst things created by humans and is so dangerous. Companies who produce it spend a great deal of money campaigning about how safe it is when the truth is far from that, and we’re not told about it. The plastic industry in the U.S. alone is the third largest industry, and it’s responsible for 400 billion dollars in shipments. We have to remember that the plastic business is producing this volume of material because of consumer demand, so less demand will create less plastic. I challenge you all to reduce your use of plastic today for the health of the planet and marine life, as well as that of humans.
To learn more about plastic waste go here: