If you looked around you this very minute, how many plastic items can you see in your proximity? Computer or laptop, cups, bowls, food containers, CDs, toys, bank cards? Perhaps a big plastic doll house, or plastic ride-on fire truck your little ones were gifted last Christmas or as a hand-me-down a few weeks ago, or a bunch of crumpled up plastic bags you brought your groceries home in because you forgot the cloth bags at home?
Stepping outside will complete the picture. Garden decorations, lawn chairs and patio furniture, bed plant fences and pots, most of what we see today in people’s gardens and yards is made of plastic. And why not, some would say. Plastic is durable, comes in many attractive colors and designs, it can be made to look like the “real thing” such as wood, metal and glass - and it is cheap.
Plastic is anything but cheap. The price of plastic is steep and rising.
Arguments like “it takes 24 gallons of water to produce one pound of plastic”1 (GRACE Communications Foundation) may or may not sway the average consumer’s mind. But connect it to the plastic items that get thrown in the garbage because they are not recyclable or there are no facilities to recycle them in many municipalities: plastic bags, broken toys, party favors, party and various holiday decorations, car seats and bulky baby items. The list could go on and on.
With the gruesome discovery of a gargantuan size garbage patch in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, made mostly of plastic, and what’s worse, plastic bits that are too small to scoop up but too ubiquitous to ignore, the solution is but one: reducing plastic use.
Truth is, without a made-up mind that will say no to anything plastic (save for the items you really cannot do without) you will end up using it anyway. How could you not? We have come to depend on plastic more than ever before. But like never before, we are starting to learn more about the impact of plastic on human health, animal health and the environment. It is not pretty.
Some of the plastic objects we use on a regular basis may contain bisphenol A (BPA), an endocrine disruptor that has been linked to serious health effects such as obesity and type 2 diabetes,2 neurobehavioral disorders such as hyperactivity,3 infertility,4 and even cancer.5
Where to start with reducing plastic use in everyday life?
Here are some good pointers that can help you make wise choices for you and your family, and which will also have a positive impact on the environment, perhaps even on extended family, friends and neighbors; leading by example is a good thing after all.
Use stainless steel, glass or ceramic to store, preserve and warm up food.
Ditto for water. Skip the plastic containers, especially when it comes to children. Young bodies are even more vulnerable to environmental toxins.
For children's toys, stick to wood and recycled plastic. Stay away from plastic baby toys, even the ones that are said to be BPA-free.
If tempted to buy another set of (on sale) storage bins, ask yourself if you might able to get rid of some things rather than store them away and add to existing clutter.
As a general rule, check the bottom of every plastic item you have to buy. If there’s no recycling information, look for another option. In general, plastics #1, 2, 4, and 5 are more easily recyclable than #3, 6, 7, but do check with your municipality for specific details.
There are more and more plastic alternatives you can easily use to replace the seemingly irreplaceable plastic objects you thought you could never do without.
Every little action and change of attitude toward plastic use counts. As Margaret Mead said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
- Daniela Ginta
Daniela Ginta, MSc, is a freelance writer presently based in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada. She writes on a variety of topics, from parenting to health and fitness, but her main interest lies in researching and developing environmental topics. You can visit Daniela at www.thinkofclouds.com or follow her on Google+ or Twitter.
The Hidden Water in Everyday Products http://gracelinks.org/285/the-hidden-water-in-everyday-products
BPA and type 2 diabetes http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23372685
BPA exposure and effects on the brain, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18949834
Plasticizers and male infertility http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22688978
BPA as a mammary carcinogen: early findings reported in rats http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/pmid/24004942/