It would be difficult to eliminate all plastics from any environment and then again, if successful, would the area still be functional? For instance, consider my office. It contains a computer, modem, telephone, answering machine, keyboard, printer, speakers, microphone, camera, pen, TV and remote – all plastic vacuum-formed products. You get the picture.
If I were to remove plastic products from my office, what would be left? A desk, coffee cup, stapler, file folders and a few pencils.
My office would remain minimalist at best – in fact, it would no longer be considered a functioning, working environment.
The Devastation of Plastics
Since WWII, innovative plastic applications challenged the integrity of the wood, steel, paper and glass industries and engulfed the consumer market with cost efficient, plastic products. But now we have a very serious situation on our hands.
Microplastics have been polluting the air, soil and oceans resulting in an incontrovertible impact on global biodiversity. And to make matters worse, we are ingesting and inhaling microplastics on a daily basis - polluting our bodies with, as of yet, unknown health implications.
Witnessing the devastation and toxic ramifications to our natural environments caused by plastic products, governmental policy makers and analysts around the world have been implementing measures and standards of management and responsibility to the plastics industry.
When I am out shopping, I do take notice of products that are made with plastic alternatives, which generally gives me pause and redirection of purchase – regardless of added cost or inconvenience.
Here are some helpful tips on how to reduce plastics from your everyday lives, reduce your carbon footprint and be healthier and happier.
Reusable Water and Coffee Containers - instead of plastic water bottles and plastic-lined coffee cups and lids, reap the cost saving and health benefits with a reusable container.
Creative Ways to Pack Food - pack your lunch in a mason jar, thermal glass bottle, and stainless steel stacking container with clasps or a Bento box. Consider using a cloth sandwich bag and bamboo utensil set as well.
Juice Containers - instead of buying juice in plastic containers, make freshly squeezed juice at home. It will definitely taste better and be so much healthier for you and your family.
Reusable Bags for all your Shopping Needs - single-use grocery bags will soon be eliminated from the majority of food and department stores. Most re-usable bags fold up into small pouches, which you can tuck into your purse or jacket pocket.
Laundry Detergent - purchase your laundry detergent in boxes rather than hard plastic containers.
Say ‘NO’ to Styrofoam Food Containers - majority of restaurants use Styrofoam for take out orders and doggy bags. Consider bringing your own reusable container and/or asking management to integrate bio-degradable containers.
Fresh Bread - opt to purchase your fresh bread from a local bakery that is wrapped in a paper bag.
Wine - purchase wine that comes with natural cork – not plastic stoppers.
Disposable Lighters - instead of purchasing plastic disposable lighters, use matches or a refillable metal lighter.
Local Farmer’s Market - purchase your fruit, vegetables, eggs, cheese and meat from your local farmer’s market. It will be a heck of a lot fresher, last a lot longer and be so much healthier!
Disposable Diapers – Every year 7.6 billion lbs. of disposable diapers are discarded in the US and 4 million lbs. are discarded into landfills in Canada. Consider using cloth diapers. According to Environment Canada, a disposable diaper takes approximately 500 years to decompose. While using disposable diapers is very convenient, especially for busy Moms and Dads, the alternative is much healthier for your baby, reduces the carbon footprint and will save you a lot of money.
Cleaning Products - there are a lot of cleaning products you can make at home, i.e. vinegar and water, baking soda, etc. Because they are organic and biodegradable, there is no toxicity and you will not only save a lot of money but also eliminate more plastic bottles and containers in your home.
Razors - instead of shaving with disposable razors, use replaceable blades.
Facial Products - avoid using facial and scrub creams that contain exfoliating plastic beads – they are comprised of polyethylene.
Soap - use bar soap instead of soap in a plastic container.
Trays and Molds - choose stainless steel ice cube trays and popsicle molds
Green Bins - use bio-degradable bags for your food waste in your green bin. Better yet, create a compost in your backyard!
Toys - when purchasing toys for children, opt for wood or a natural product - anything except plastic.
Synthetic Fabrics are made of plastic - purchase clothing made from natural, not synthetic materials. Tiny particles of microplastic, commonly found in oceans around the world, have been traced to synthetic fabrics.
Prepare to be Disgusted - chewing gum was originally made from a natural rubber called chicle, but after WWII chemists made a synthetic rubber called polyethylene and polyvinyl acetate which replaced chicle. Majority of chewing gums are now made with synthetic rubbers. If the ingredients on a package of gum lists “gum base” as an ingredient, it may contain petroleum, lanolin, glycerin, polyethylene, polyvinyl acetate, petroleum wax, stearic acid or latex.
Christmas Trees - buy a real one. A real Christmas tree smells great! It says, “Merry Christmas.”
Create a family tradition and call it 'Christmas tree Day'! Take your family out to a local farm, chop down your own tree and take it home.
Make hot chocolate or apple cider with cinnamon and serve it with ginger cookies. Fill the air with Christmas carols. Your kids will be happy - and ever so thankful!
Christmas Wrap – wrap gifts in natural paper and be creative with the decorations, i.e. pine cones, candy canes, a piece of spruce, mistletoe or holly.
Forget the gift tags, kids can write the recipient’s name on the wrapping paper with crayon and add a special, personal note.
Children love to be creative and whimsical! I do too!
Watch Out for these Toxic Plastic Containers
On the bottom of every plastic container is a triangle composed of three arrows with numbers 1 to 7 in the middle.
# 3 polyvinyl chloride - contains dangerous components like lead and phthalates commonly used in plastic wrap, squeeze bottles, peanut butter jars and children’s toys.
# 6 polystyrene - contains toxic substances styrene and benzene, suspected carcinogens and neurotoxins that are hazardous to the brain and nervous system. Polystyrene is commonly found in Styrofoam, disposable dishes, take-out containers, plastic cutlery, etc.
# 7 polycarbonate – contains Bisphenol A and is commonly found in most metal food can liners, clear plastic sippy cups, sport’s drink bottles, and juice and ketchup containers. #7 is a catch-all for many types of plastic that doesn’t fit into the first six categories. Biodegradable plastic is also labelled as #7.
# 2, 4 and 5 are safer plastics. Number 4 signifies low-density polyethylene (LDPE) (plastic bags, six-pack rings, tubing, etc.) Number 5 signifies polypropylene (PP) (auto parts, industrial fibres, food containers, etc.)
# 1 is safe, but should not be reused.
Microwavable? Think Again…
When a plastic product states it is microwavable, it just means it won’t melt in your microwave.
It doesn’t mean the plastic packaging won’t release harmful chemicals into your food.
If we made a collective, concerted effort to implement just a couple of changes from plastic to a natural product, our world would be a much healthier and happier place.
Just a thought…but a really good one.
For additional information, Diligencia Investigative Reporting recommends the following articles and websites:
Baby Center – cloth vs. disposable diapers
Good Housekeeping – make your own home cleaners
Non-toxic Revolution – The Seven Types of Plastic and What They Really Mean to your Health
For additional information, Diligencia Investigative Reporting recommends the following articles: