In a mere 30 years, plastic will outweigh fish in our oceans. Sea animals and birds consume plastics mistaking them for food. Researchers have found plastic items such as straws, carrier bags, Tetra Pak lids, lego, Coca Cola wrappers, can holders, and balloons among other debris in the bellies of living as well as dead sea animals! The Natural History Museum reports that 274 pieces of plastic were found in a single bird in a recent study.
But it's not just the fish that's eating plastic
Plastic takes roughly 500 years to decompose, but the truth is that it never completely goes away, it breaks down into nano-plastics and continues to live on. Nano-plastics are found in our waterways, buried in the soil and even in the air we breathe. The results are way more devastating than we ever imagined. It is suspected that plastic contamination in the soil is at least four times higher than in the ocean, which eventually contaminates our produce.
It is estimated that we consume around 5 grams of plastic every week, which is about a heaped tablespoon.
What is the fuss about plastic anyway?
Why does plastic consumption matter?
The first-ever Plastic Health Summit was held in October 2019 in which scientists presented research results on how harmful plastics can be for human health. Findings were worrisome and indicated the urgency to take action. Biochemist Liz Bonnin revealedthe results of tests carried out on her body to check for the presence of plastic. Not surprisingly, the reports exposed Liz had Diethylhexyl Phthalates and Bisphenol A among other plastic chemicals in her body. Both DEHP and BPA are known to cause serious health problems even in small quantities. The sobering truth is that, given the widespread nature of plastic pollution, we all have likely been exposed to the harmful effects of the material.
Another report on the public health impact of plastic details that prolonged exposure to toxins leaching into our food, chewing of plastic teethers etc. are associated with serious health issues such as endocrine disruptions, cancer, impaired immunity, reproductive challenges, birth defects, and developmental defects. Nano-plasticscan traverse the blood-brain barrier and the placenta causing irreversible damage. Clearly, it's not just our planet that's under attack. It is time for us to clean up our act and change our habits.
6 things you can do now to cut down your plastic footprint
1. Single-use plastic bottles are not a good fit for refill and reuse. Remember, plastic bottles have been exposed to UV rays and high temperatures during transportation and handling before they got into your hands. Pick one of these snazzy reusable bottles instead.
2. Plastic degrades at extreme temperatures. We know that plastic food containers should not be used in the microwave. Exercise the same level of care when using them in the dishwasher at high temperatures. This is true for BPA-free plastic containers as well. Choose glass or stainless steel containers for food storage instead. Some stainless steel options here.
3. Remember, plastic also deteriorates at extremely low temperatures. It is best to avoid using plastic food containers or freezer bags in the freezer as they will leach chemicals into your food when it is thawed. Instead of using plastic containers or single-use freezer bags, opt for plastic-free silicone storage pouches that are marked safe for freezer-use.
4. Most plastic baby bottles are marked BPA-free, but we now know BPA is not the only toxic chemical used in plastic production. Sterilising plastic baby bottles in boiling water or using them in a bottle warmer are not the wisest ideas. Remember, even in small quantities, these toxins could be detrimental to babies' developing bodies.
5. Low-grade plastic is used to pack take-out food, which most certainly interacts with the hot, fatty and salty food contents. Some eco-minded folks end up reusing take-out food containers for food storage in an attempt to cut down on their plastic footprint. This is one of the worst possible uses of low quality plastic which rapidly degrades under extreme temperatures. Avoid ordering from restaurants that deliver food in plastic containers.
6. Switch to refillable products, starting with cleaning products. Spruce refillable cleaning products are free of single-use plastics. Buy our refillable bottles once, and get a subscription of concentrated, plastic-free cleaning products refills sent to your door. All you have to do is add tap water at home. You can save over 30 single-use plastic bottles from entering the landfill each year by switching to our innovative, single-use plastic-free cleaning products.
More on the blog: Save our oceans from plastic pollution.
Photo credits: Reuters Graphics