By: Ashlee McNicole
October 10, 2017
Plastic is all around us. It’s the container your leftovers are stored in, the trash that washes up on your favorite beach, and the materials that make up your children’s toys. While plastic may be an affordable, convenient material versus alternatives such as glass, the effects of plastic on your health and the environment are worth noting.
Where plastic is found
Plastic contaminates air, land, and water. A recent study by Orb Media revealed that plastic is found in tap water around the world. Over 80% of the samples Orb collected on five continents tested positive for the presence of plastic fibers. In the United States, the number is even higher at 94%. This indicates that microscopic plastic fibers are being consumed on a daily basis even through a simple glass of water, which is nothing short of alarming.
Microscopic plastic fibers can get in tap water in many ways. For instance, running synthetic fiber clothing through the washer can make the plastic particles end up in a local waterway, which may eventually lead to your tap water. If plastic is in water, there’s a high chance it’s in food as well.
As of right now, there isn’t a system to filter plastic out of tap water. However, we hope that one is designed in the future so people can feel safe drinking water in their own home.
Plastic doesn’t stop at tap water either. Microscopic plastic fibers are also found in the ocean. According to Orb’s study, “Microplastics have been shown to absorb toxic chemicals linked to cancer and other illnesses, and then release them when consumed by fish and mammals.”
Every year, approximately 300 million tons of plastic are produced around the world. As alarming as that is, consider that only 10% of that is recycled, and 7 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean. It breaks down eventually into tinier pieces that become ingested by marine life, which can cause dangerous and deadly consequences.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stated that, “Marine debris has become one of the most pervasive pollution problems facing the world’s oceans and waterways.” (Source)
Why should you care?
Plastic is dangerous for many reasons. For one, it’s non-biodegradable, which means it stays intact instead of breaking down into the environment like a natural product like fruit would. It simply shrinks into tiny pieces that are microscopic. This can be dangerous because if you consume plastic, it can “migrate through the intestinal wall and travel to the lymph nodes and other bodily organs.” (Source)
Whether you are drinking from a water bottle or microwaving your food in a plastic bowl, plastics can break down and release chemicals such as “endocrine-disrupting plasticizers like BPA or phthalates, flame retardants, and even toxic heavy metals that are all absorbed into our diets and bodies.” (Source) BPA is a synthetic chemical that imitates estrogen in the body. This can impact reproductive development, blood pressure, and parts of the brain. More studies are in progress on the impact of BPA and other chemicals. However, because of what they can do to your body, it’s a good idea to limit how much you’re exposed to them.
Plastic can also impact the environment. Considering most plastic is made from petroleum or natural gas, the process of making them can damage ecosystems. Both manufacturing and disposal of plastic can pollute the air, land, and water. It can also expose people who work outside to dangerous chemicals such as carcinogens.
Eventually the plastic may turn into grocery bags such as what you use at the store. These grocery bags make up a massive portion of landfill waste. Because of the impact of plastic, many places around the world are attempting to ban plastic bags.
How to reduce plastic in your home
Removing plastic from your life doesn’t have to be difficult. You can start with a few basic steps such as the following:
Tip 1: Buy in bulk, and use your own shopping bags and containers.
Always bring your own shopping bag to the store. Disposable plastic bags are banned in some parts of the United States. Purchase products in bulk, and try to avoid frozen packaged foods since they tend to use a lot of plastic in their packaging. Remember to use cardboard instead of plastic containers or bags.
Tip 2: Reuse containers for storing food such as leftovers.
Instead of throwing away old food containers such as your glass jar of peanut butter, run the containers through the dishwasher and reuse them. Eliminate how much plastic gets sent out into the world by reusing what you have until it’s no longer usable. You can even return fruit and vegetable containers to your local farmer’s market to be reused. This encourages others to reuse containers too.
Tip 3: Make simple non-plastic choices daily to get in the habit.
There are so many ways you can eliminate how much plastic your family uses. Do your research before buying products. Buy organic when you can. If you’re purchasing a cosmetic, research the ingredients to make sure plastic isn’t one of the main ingredients (such as microbeads which you can be less wary of now due to the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015). Avoid bottled water and straws. Bring your own thermos to the coffee shop for your morning coffee. Try cloth diapers for your baby. Store food in glass containers instead of plastic containers. Most importantly, recycle!
After using some of these tips and tricks, you’ll be on your way to a healthy, plastic-free life in no time.
We hope you learned something useful about why you should avoid plastic as much as possible. Tell us, what’s one thing you do to reduce how much plastic you use? It can be as simple as using reusable grocery bags. Comment below, and please share this blog with a friend who would find it useful!
The Black Cup eliminates plastic by using plastic-free cups, lids, and straws. These are eco-friendly and are made from corn or sugar cane and bamboo. Anytime we see an opportunity to help the environment, we try our best to take it.
For more tips on keeping a healthy and happy life, like your favorite GMO-free, organic coffee shop on Facebook!