It’s Plastic-Free July! (Okay, we know it won’t be totally plastic free, but we can support each other in doing our best!) Why am I so passionate about going plastic free? For starters, roughly half of our global annual plastic production is destined for a single-use product, such as plastic water bottles. This means we create something that will be used in minutes and then thrown away (91% of plastic is not recycled) where it pollutes our land and oceans for hundreds of years. And humans use about 1.2 million plastic water bottles per minute in total! For more mind-blowing statistics like this one, see this site.
BPA & Phthalates
Not only does plastic pollute earth’s ecosystems, it also pollutes our bodies. BPA and phthalates are often called the “everywhere chemicals” because they are found in so many plastic products, plastic packaging and cosmetics. It’s important to recognize that they can affect developing babies and children because of their consequences on sexual maturity and reproduction. Both chemicals are known to disrupt hormones and can cause physical and systemic changes in the body. Avoid them by choosing products that say they are “BPA and Phthalate Free” and by choosing plastic-free products in general. The first step in being plastic free is learning which products you use contain plastic, not just as packaging, but also as an ingredient (look for words like polyethylene, polypropylene and nylon). You will likely be surprised!
Effects of Plastic on Your Health
Because plastics contain harmful chemicals, they can have a damaging effect on our health. For example, plastics in food storage containers can leach into your food, especially when heated (do not heat plastic in the microwave!). These plastic chemicals have been associated with health problems such as hormone-related cancers, infertility and neurodevelopmental differences like ADHD and autism. Whether you are aware of it or not, you eat, drink and breathe microplastics every day. Because plastics are not biodegradable and microplastic surfaces attract bacteria that carry human diseases, when we ingest them unknowingly, they can cause a number of health problems including attacking our immune system, brain function, and endocrine system. For more current info on scientific studies and reports on the impact of plastic on our health, visit The Plastic Health Coalition.
Unfortunately, the majority of plastic doesn’t get recycled and then gets put in our landfills. Irrespective of what you think of recycling, it’s important to decrease your use of plastic so it doesn’t get put in our landfills and pollute our planet. If you do recycle, make sure you are educated on which items can be recycled and which cannot (if non-recyclable and recyclable items are mixed in the bin, they will typically not recycle any of it). Below is a list from the City of Phoenix website of what’s recyclable and what’s not for your convenience:
Silicone vs. Plastic
When thinking about plastic alternatives, it’s important to note that silicone is not the same as plastic. It is actually a synthetic rubber that is better for the environment than plastic because it does not break down into smaller pieces or release toxins into the air when burned. However, if not recycled properly, it would still remain in landfills indefinitely. There are some great silicone alternatives – sandwich bags, reusable straws, baking equipment and cleaning equipment – that can be found to replace your plastic products.
There are many other options to choose from when replacing plastic, but it can take time and creativity. Consider making a list of the top 3 plastic products you will focus on replacing with alternatives this month and focus on those. Here is a list of a few alternatives to start with below:
5 Plastic Alternatives:
- Replace plastic food storage containers with mason jars in your fridge & freezer
- Replace Ziploc with silicone sandwich bags
- Replace plastic grocery bags with your own canvas bags (and recycle plastic grocery bags at the store)
- Replace single-use plastic water bottles with your own reusable water bottle or thermos and bring to parties, appointments, meetings (some restaurants will even fill your bottle or thermos instead of giving you their disposable cups)
- Replace single-use plastic cleaning spray bottles with a reusable glass spray bottle filled with a natural all purpose cleaner: 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water
It also may be helpful to look around your house and make a list of all the plastic products you consume and use on a daily basis. This can raise awareness for yourself and your family of areas where plastic could be replaced to improve both your health and the health of our environment. Awareness is the first step, then action!