I like to focus on plastic because of the opportunity.
There are literally thousands of opportunities each day to use less or find ways to use what you do consume more than once before you toss it.
Not only because it’s everywhere but also because there are so many ways to replace it, if that’s what your hear tis truly being called to do. After all, humans life for thousands of years without plastic and truthfully plastic didn’t become mainstream in the 1990s.
It’s a new idea that everything is disposable, and it’s up to us to change that mentality.
Let me show you:
When you reduce plastic even a tiny little bit, that means there’s less:
– waste in our landfills
– garbage on the streets
– toxic manufacturing
– third world countries being buried in trash
– wildlife ingestion
– chronic illness and disease
– production of a resource we are running out of
– money spent on cleaning it up
– pollution and carbon emissions
– “everything is disposable” mentality
– noxious material that never truly breaks down
– injury to wildlife
– recycling expenses
and more importantly, less demand.
Here are just a few of the thousands of reasons that using and consuming less plastic, no matter how small it seems, is worth it.
Plastic is Everywhere
If you start looking for it, you will see plastic everywhere. It’s so much more than just bags and bottles. I once made a list once of all the placed I found plastic in my home that was hundreds of items long. Everything from my electronics and appliances, consumables packaging, fabric, furniture, and clothing, utensils, ink, books and bookcases, tea bags and bandages were made from it.
But what’s even scarier is that it’s actual inside of the products we use. The literal detergents, cleaners, and cosmetics we use and even food that we eat are made from or contain plastic.
Here are some uncommon places in your home you may find plastic:
– hair care
– nail polish
– dish soap
– hand soap
– crayons and pens
– soaps and detergents
– cleaning products
– fish and seafood
– sports equipment
– non-stick coatings
– flame retardants
– tools and equipment
– laundry detergent
– gas and fuel
– grease and lubricants
– vitamin capsules
– tea bags
– hair dye
– carpets and rugs
– aluminum cans
– milk and paper cartons
…and seriously, so much more.
Researchers estimate that more than 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced since the early 1950s, but what’s interesting is that a very small percentage of that was made before the 1990s. (1)
From 2000-2010 we made more plastic than in the 50 years before hand, combined.
In fact, worldwide use of plastic has increased 20-fold in the past 50 years and by 2050, we’ll be making more than three times as much as we did in 2014. (2)
Can you imagine what our world will look like with three times as much plastic?
This is a photo of base area of my hometown ski resort after the snow melted in April, 2021. There was trash EVERYWHERE. It’s like I said, if you start looking for it, you will see plastic everywhere.
Plastic Is Wasteful
Plastic is also a serious source of waste.
It’s more than the #1 cause of waste, all ten of the most littered items in the world are plastic including food wrappers, cigarette butts, plastic bottles, bottle caps, straws, plastic cutlery, grocery bags, take out containers and lids. (3)
At the time I am writing this in 2021, companies are producing 300 million tons of plastic per year, which equates to the approximate weight of the human population, per year.
But the most frightening part are the trends.
With each passing year we move further away from durable, most sustainable forms of plastic and increasingly depend on more disposable, single use forms, increasing demand for it’s production and, obviously, the amount of waste that’s created.
And despite what we’ve been lead to believe with the recycling symbol placed on more or less all of it, over 80% of all that’s produced ends up in the landfill.
Plastic Isn’t Recycled
Maybe it’s just me but until recently (let’s say, the past 10 years) I didn’t see that much plastic waste laying around. I used to think it was a third world problem. They were using and improperly disposing too much plastic, not me. Not my family.
We threw it in the trash just like we were supposed to. Eventually, in the early 1990s we got recycling programs so that we could do even better.
But it’s all a façade. Plastic isn’t as recyclable as we’ve been lead to believe.
The truth of the matter is that under 9% of all tangible plastic, not the stuff in our products or upholstery but the stuff we see and use as plastic, is actually recycled.
There are seven different “types” of plastic and each of them comes with there own set of positives and negatives. With that being said, there is one commonality amongst them all that you should always consider.
When the toxic chemicals contained in plastic dissolve into whatever’s inside they can contribute to a wide range of physical, mental, emotional and reproductive health issues. Generally speaking there are three main chemicals that are worth being aware of.
While chemical leaching can occur any time plastic is being used, it occurs much more quickly the longer the plastic is being used and in the presence of high temperatures.
What Are They: Phthalates, often called plasticizers, are a family of man-made chemical compounds developed to be used in the manufacture of plastics, specifically Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC or Vinyl), also known as Plastic #3. (4)
They are also commonly found in solvents, and personal care products.
Why They Are Dangerous: In lab animals, phthalates are weak endocrine disruptors and androgen blocking chemicals. This means that, when absorbed into the body, phthalates can either mimic or block female hormones and suppress the hormones involved in male sexual development. Phthalates can also cross the placenta.
How To Avoid Them: Avoid all products that list the word “fragrance” as an ingredient. For plastic products with recycling codes 3 and 7 may contain phthalates or BPA. Look for plastic with recycling codes 1, 2, or 5 and always look for “phthalate-free” on the label.
What Is It: Antimony is used as a catalyst in the manufacture of plastics, especially Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE), also known as Plastic #1, but is also used in the manufacture of manufacture of lead storage batteries, solder, sheet and pipe metal, bearings, castings and pewter, etc.
Why Is It Dangerous: Common symptoms of antimony exposure include headache, coughing, anorexia, troubled sleep and vertigo (Stemmer, 1976). One study reported that respired antimony compounds could trigger premature births and spontaneous abortions (Belyeava, 1967).
Exposure to high levels of soluble antimony exert a strong irritating effect on the gastrointestinal mucosa and can trigger sustained vomiting, and eventually death. Other effects include abdominal cramps, diarrhea and cardiac toxicity.
While the US Environmental Protection Agency considers a concentration of 6 parts per billion to be “safe”, a 2007 study found that it takes just 1.3 days in sustained temperatures of 85°F to leach that amount of the poisonous chemical from a water bottle, and just 12 days when the sustained temperature was 70°F. (6)
How to Avoid It: Avoid Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE), also known as Plastic #1, which is commonly used in the production of water and beverage bottles and pantry items including peanut butter, salad dressing, cooking oil, etc.
When using these items, be sure to store them at or below 60°F, if possible.
What Is It: Bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic chemical used in the production of polycarbonate plastics since the 1950s to help make them harder and also clear (think eyeglasses, hard water and infant bottles, compact discs, impact-resistant safety equipment, and medical devices), but the main source of human exposure is through food beverage. (7)
Bisphenol A can leach into food from the protective internal epoxy resin coatings of canned and carton packaged foods along with other consumer products such as polycarbonate tableware, food storage containers, water bottles, and baby bottles.
Why Is It Dangerous: Exposure to BPA is a concern because of the possible health effects on the brain and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children. It can also affect children’s behavior. Additional research suggests a possible link between BPA and increased blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. (8)
How To Avoid It: Thought common belief is that BPA has been phased out, it most definitely has not been, especially in hidden applications such as protective linings and coatings on canned and carton food packaging.
To reduce your exposure, avoid these items, especially in highly acidic applications like tomato based sauces and any Polycarbonate plastics, which are generally labeled as type #7.
I would love to to hear what you are doing to use less plastic in the comments section of this blog post! You can do so by scrolling down just a bit and bee sure to subscribe to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the fresh, new ideas I’ve got coming up soon!
The New Plastics Economy Rethinking the future of plastics . (2016). World Economic Forum. http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_The_New_Plastics_Economy.pdf.
UN Environment Programme. (n.d.). UN Environment Programme #BeatPlasticPollution. Retrieved July 7, 2021, from https://www.unep.org/interactive/beat-plastic-pollution/
Hirsh, S. (2020, September 9). The Most Littered Item on Beaches Is No Longer Cigarette Butts
. Green Matters. https://www.greenmatters.com/p/most-littered-item-plastic-food-packaging
Zero Breast Cancer. (n.d.). Phthalates The Everywhere Chemical. Retrieved July 7, 2021, from https://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/assets/docs/j_q/phthalates_the_everywhere_chemical_handout_508.pdf
World Health Orginization. (2003). Antimony in Drinking-water. World Health Organization Water Sanitization. https://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/chemicals/antimony.pdf
Belyeava AP (1967) [The effect produced by antimony on the generative function.] Gigiena Truda i Professional’nye Zabolevaniya, 11:32–37 (in Russian).
Stemmer KL (1976) Pharmacology and toxicology of heavy metals: antimony. Pharmacology and
Therapeutics Part A, 1:157–160.
Westerhoff, P., Prapaipong, P., Shock, E., & Hillaireau, A. (2007). Antimony leaching from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic used for bottled drinking water. National Library of Medicine, 42(3). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.watres.2007.07.048
Bisphenol A (BPA). (n.d.). National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Retrieved July 7, 2021, from https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/sya-bpa/index.cfm
What is BPA? Should I be worried about it? (2021, May 14). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/bpa/faq-20058331
If you want to be notified when I release new blog posts drop your email address in the box below!