There is no point in denying the fact that plastic is everywhere! From packaging on our foods at the supermarket to the toothbrush we use every day. Why so much plastic? Bottom line - it’s cheap, but most of us are completely unaware about not only the damage plastic does to the environment, but also the damage it does to our health. We need to re-evaluate our reliance on plastic and heavily reduce it, or the impacts on our health and the planet could be catastrophic.
Why should we reduce the amount of plastic we use?
It's not breaking news to hear that our planet is just not coping with the amount of waste we are producing. One of the biggest contributions to this excess waste is all the plastics we use. Plastics are not biodegradable and are damaging our environment at an alarming rate and plastic pollution is something a lot of us sadly don’t even think twice about. Little changes make a BIG difference.
- Every square mile of ocean has approximately 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it
- Only 1 in 200 plastic bags are recycled
- Plastics take up to 400+ years to biodegrade and leach the chemicals within them that entire time into the earth or the water supply
- Plastics remain toxic even after they break down
This is the shocking reality we are facing every day and only a small proportion of the population are doing something about it.Health
We've all had a takeaway at some time in our life and what does the food come in? Plastic tubs. Who isn't guilty of keeping the leftovers and microwaving them the following day or keeping the plastic tubs to store food you will reheat at some later stage? I hear you saying "Yes, what's your point?". Our increasing reliance on plastics is having a detrimental affect on our health and we are not even realising it.
There are many chemicals in plastics known as ‘endocrine-disrupting chemicals’ or EDCs. These comprise of BPAs and phthalates and are capable of interfering with the way our glands produce hormones, which govern virtually everything our bodies do from how we sleep, heal, grow, reproduce and burn energy.
Researchers suggest that these EDCs are especially dangerous if taken in by very young children or unborn babies. A report published in 2013 by the World Health Organisation states that exposure to EDCs are linked to problems including breast and prostate cancer, infertility, diabetes, early puberty, obesity, autoimmune disease, asthma, heart disease, stroke, ADHD and other learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Take this as an example: the average age of menarche in young girls was 13yrs old in 1960 and today we have children as young as 8/9 years old.
There are many chemicals in plastic that are detrimental to our health including BPA, BPS and Phthalates. Bisphenol-A (BPA) has received heavy media attention for its health risks. BPA is used in plastic to make it more resistant to damage and to make it last longer, but did you know that it was once given to animals to make them gain weight before slaughter? BPA disrupts hormones and mimics the effect of estrogen in the body, leading to weight gain and hormone imbalance. Think you’re safe with BPA free items? You’re wrong. ALL plastics affect our endocrine system, immune system, and several other systems of the body including the fertility of both men and women. A recent research paper that appeared in Environmental Health Perspectives, found that almost all commercially available plastics, including the ones that are marketed as being BPA-free, leach synthetic estrogens. Even when these plastics weren’t exposed to conditions that are known to unlock these potentially harmful chemicals, like heat, putting them in a microwave or putting them in a dishwasher or leaving a plastic water bottle out on the dashboard of your car in the sun. Just normal contact with food or water is enough for these chemicals to leach into the food and the water. What’s worse is that the chemicals in BPA-free plastics have actually been found to have greater estrogenic activity than BPA itself.
There are of course many factors that affect your health and hormone function including diet, exercise and lifestyle. We cannot control everything in life, but we can all make a conscious effort to think more carefully about our choices and make small alterations to our lifestyle decisions to limit our exposure to such chemicals.
How can you reduce plastic exposure?
There is a solution and an alternative for every plastic item out there. Make little swaps.
Your toothbrush - Experts recommend a new toothbrush every 3 months. That's 4 brushes per person per year. That’s 260 million toothbrushes disposed off each year just in the UK! Multiply that across the world and the results are mind-blowing. It's in the billions! Consider an eco-friendly alternative like a bamboo toothbrush.
Water Bottles - We’ve talked about the chemicals leaching from plastics into our food and liquids, but how many of us own a re-usable plastic water bottle of some kind? Most children have one they use daily when at school or during sports and where do these get left? Out in the sun on the playing field during lunch break, or in cars when out and about. There are many alternatives to plastic bottles: stainless steel, glass and ceramic to name but a few. All of these alternatives are eco-friendly and chemical free!
Food containers and lunch boxes - Again, there are many alternatives to plastic food containers and tupperware; glass, stainless steel and reusable food wraps made from soy or bees wax! We at ‘Nature & My’ are the first in the UK to introduce a plastic-free alternative to the food container/lunch box made from organic rice husk! They are microwave, oven, freezer and dishwasher safe, chemical free and 100% biodegradable! Good for Nature, Good for You.
Baby Products – Something you may not have given second thought to, but there’s plastics in almost all baby essentials, from plastic baby bottles and dummies to nappies and wipes. Beaming Baby offer nappies that are the 'World’s Most Biodegradable'. They contain 54% less chemicals than standard nappies and 38% less than other eco-nappies and are completely chlorine-free. They are over 77% biodegradable, (including the packaging) and that's 53% more biodegradable than standard disposable nappies and 33% more than other eco-nappies! There are also safer alternatives for baby bottles including glass and stainless steel. Both options are 100% chemical free, durable, lightweight and recyclable.
Remember, little changes make a BIG difference. Re-think the use of plastics and their effects on your health and on our environment.