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The Problem With Plastic

The Problem With Plastic

How To Recycle the Right Way

Last Updated on April 2, 2020

Growing up I would microwave my Chinese takeout in Styrofoam, load up plastic Tupperware with leftovers, eat individual plastic wrapped snacks with lunch, and grab water bottles on the golf course.

Of course, I would throw all of this into a landfill without a second thought. But, I also didn’t realize the harm I was causing my body. As I’ve switched to a zero waste lifestyle, I cringe at my younger self.

I’ve tried to ditch most plastic in the house, but occasionally I thought if I was going to reuse it – it would be ok. But, I forgot how cheap plastic is.

Justin really wanted to make some popsicles which sounded like a marvelous idea for summer. I knew we would probably only use them once or twice, and I didn’t feel the need to splurge on these gorgeous stainless-steel ones from Life Without Plastic.

I was at the store and saw some of the traditional plastic popsicle makers. Justin got excited and I thought, why not? If we’re only going to use it once or twice, it’ll be OK. Well, it broke the first time we used it. Now, I’m left with a mostly unusable popsicle tray that’s headed straight for the landfill.

I would have been so much better off buying the stainless steel one. At the time, I thought I would have to buy regular popsicle sticks. I just noticed that Life Without Plastic sells reusable bamboo popsicle sticks.

So, I’ve been thinking… what is plastic? Well it’s derived from oil, natural gas, and coal.

In order to achieve its level of flexibility there are certain chemical additives used in the manufacturing process. Some of the more familiar ones include BPA, BPS, and phthalates. All of which are endocrine interrupters.

They have been linked to reproductive abnormalities, impaired brain function, cancer, diabetes, obesity, early puberty, genetic and neurological damage to babies and toddlers, miscarriage, and resistance to chemotherapy.

Did you know receipts are now made with BPA? It’s recommended that pregnant women not touch receipts. Isn’t that terrifying?

We’re also seeing an onslaught of obese animals in the wild. Their diet hasn’t changed. You know what changed? Their level of interaction with plastic. Microbeads and plastic fill waterways; litter and plastic pollution are becoming a huge problem.    

Not to mention, that plastic uses vital non-renewable natural resources that could be put to better use elsewhere. 10% of our oil production is for plastic. The manufacturing process uses tons of energy, pollutes the air with incineration and plastic particles, and exposes workers to toxic chemicals.

Most of the plastic we consume will wind up in a landfill or in the ocean. It will never biodegrade. It will only break down into smaller pieces making it even more of a hazard for wildlife and for us. There are plastic particles in the air we’re breathing right now.

This may sound super depressing. But, it’s good to be informed! Now, you can start making better choices.

Even if you’re not ready to embrace a zero waste life style there is so much you can do to stop buying plastic. Opt for things in paper, cardboard, aluminum cans, or glass. Look for natural fabrics like wool, cotton, hemp, silk and linen.

When you purchase something, you’re effectively saying, “Yes, make more of this.” We need to start voting with our dollars.

We can say, “Please make more stainless-steel popsicle makers,” and “Please, stop making crappy plastic popsicle makers.”  The power is in the consumers’ hands, our hands.

We can have a healthier ocean, healthier wildlife, and a healthier us. We can make a difference; let’s say no to plastic.

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Sources & Further Reading

http://www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/pdf/FourthReport_ExecutiveSummary.pdf

http://consumer.healthday.com/diabetes-information-10/misc-diabetes-news-181/plastics-chemicals-may-boost-kids-risk-for-obesity-diabetes-679341.html

http://www.newsweek.com/what-fat-animals-tell-us-about-human-obesity-69021

http://environment.yale.edu/magazine/fall2009/the-problem-with-plastics/

https://student.societyforscience.org/article/tiny-plastic-big-problem

https://go4ges.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/plastic-particles-found-in-honey/

http://www.npr.org/2011/04/19/135245835/our-toxic-love-hate-relationship-with-plastics

http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/dangers-of-plastic

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  1. I am full supporter of zero waste and plastic reduction, but I often question when the energy intensive nature of plastic production is used as a negative. I’m just trying to understand the full logic of the value chain argument here, when comparing alternatives. Doesn’t the manufacture of the metal alternative also use this energy and pollute too?

    1. You’re right. I should have carefully considered the pollution used while making stainless and glass. However, glass and stainless both have high recycle rates, meaning the amount of new material that needs to be manufactured is much lower. They also don’t have the chemical additives making them less dangerous. Stainless and glass products last longer, which means they’re produced less often. Plastic breaks so often and is used in EVERYTHING. So it’s pollution rates, by nature, will be much higher. Thank you for your comment. I’m definitely going to keep researching the process of manufacturing stainless and glass.

  2. It is important to look at the full life cycle, utility, and performance of each thing we buy For certain items, some plastics are still the best choice by a long shot. It is a very durable and lightweight material. Yes paper, wood, glass, and metal are much better than plastic for many things. But some reusable items are still better as plastic.

  3. Thank you for doing research on this and actually posting links to your sources of information! I see some are other blogs, but a good portion are from reliable websites (not that blogs dont contain good info, just that they are generally opinion based rather than fact based). I always like to post information for friends on FB to read and its nice to know this is good, reliable info.

    1. Hey! Believe it or not, this is actually the easiest switch to make! I hate tap water too, so we use a Brita filter. I’m sure there are better options, but we already had one and put it to good use after cutting out water bottles. We also have one at my workplace. A stainless steel water bottle filled with cold, filtered water, there’s nothing better! You can also get filters that attach right to your faucet. I’m also sure Kathryn can weigh in on this and have some more tips for you! Please consider it, it’s a great change, and so good for your family and the planet.