The world is in love with plastics for many reasons. Not the Mean Girls plastics, everyone hates them.
But the water bottles, shavers, cutlery, toothbrushes etc. It’s lightweight, flexible, durable and versatile. It’s advanced medicine, transport, electronics – and food packaging. It’s great right!
But did you know that the demand for these disposable items mean that plastic is produced at 350m tonnes per years and it’s continuously increasing.
The trouble with this is that plastic never breaks down and every piece of plastic ever made is still living somewhere on our planet. Some of these plastics can be recycled and continue living on earth as a new product. Margarine and ice cream tubs, yogurt pots, fruit punnets and ready meal trays, drink, shampoo and detergent bottles could be reincarnated if you like.
However, there are many different types of plastic and the sorting process is very labor intensive.
“Only 14 per cent of plastic packaging is recycled, with the remainder, worth £60-90 billion worldwide lost as waste.”
There are plastics that can’t be recycled including plastic wrap, cling film, bubble wrap (I know it hurts, I’m sorry), plastic bags, crisp packets, sweet wrappers, polystyrene, soft plastic/metallic packaging, plastic bottle caps TO NAME BUT A FEW.
Simon Ellin the Chief of the Recycling Association singled out Pringles, Lucozade, supermarket black plastic meat trays and cleaning spray bottles to be themes difficult/impossible to recycle.
So one major problem is that we keep producing tonnes and tonnes and tonnes of plastic and were just leaving it around the world. But there are other negative impacts.
Look at this little guy. He shouldn’t be eating plastic. He should be eating plants and insects! But the poor thing and 100,000 other marine creatures like him are eating plastic and 10% of marine life have died from being entangled in plastic bags that we are manufacturing and not taking responsibility for. It’s said that by 2050 there could be more plastic in the sea that fish!
It also pollutes the air, land and water as well as exposing worker to toxic chemicals when it’s being manufactured and incinerated. “Serious accidents have included explosions, chemical fires, chemical spills, and clouds of toxic vapor. These kinds of occurrences have caused deaths, injuries, evacuations and major property damage.”
Plastics used in cooking and food storage is also affecting our health. Chemicals that are typically hormone-mimicking and endocrine disrupters are evidenced to be coming from plastics.
There is a link between these chemicals and health problems “chromosomal and reproductive system abnormalities, impaired brain and neurological functions, cancer, cardiovascular system damage, adult-onset diabetes, early puberty, obesity and resistance to chemotherapy. Exposure to BPA at a young age can cause genetic damage, and BPA has been linked to recurrent miscarriage in women. The health risks of plastic are significantly amplified in children, whose immune and organ systems are developing and are more vulnerable. The evidence of health risks from certain plastics is increasingly appearing in established, peer-reviewed scientific journals.”
We can tackle plastic pollution and we should as soon as possible. In fact there is a prize of £1.5million prize for environmentally friendly packaging design, backed by the conservation charity the Ellen MacArthur Foundation – New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize.
Chris Grantham from the London branch of the global design consultancy Ideo said, designers would need to produce items that could be used again and again as pressure on materials increases from a growing population.
Mr Grantham’s ideas about how to tackle the issue include; if products are bought online products do not need branding and complex designs; supermarkets can fit a mini projector to project branding onto blank containers.
Here’s a short list of ways to reduce plastic pollution with your own bare hands from the Natural Resources Defences Council:
1. Wean yourself off disposable plastics.
Ninety percent of the plastic items in our daily lives are used once and then chucked: grocery bags, plastic wrap, disposable cutlery, straws, coffee-cup lids. Take note of how often you rely on these products and replace them with reusable versions. It only takes a few times of bringing your own bags to the store, silverware to the office, or travel mug to Starbucks before it becomes habit.
2. Stop buying water.
Each year, close to 20 billion plastic bottles are tossed in the trash. Carry a reusable bottle in your bag, and you’ll never be caught having to resort to a Poland Spring or Evian again. If you’re nervous about the quality of your local tap water, look for a model with a built-in filter.
3. Boycott microbeads.
Those little plastic scrubbers found in so many beauty products—facial scrubs, toothpaste, body washes—might look harmless, but their tiny size allows them to slip through water-treatment plants. Unfortunately, they also look just like food to some marine animals. Opt for products with natural exfoliants, like oatmeal or salt, instead.
4. Cook more.
Not only is it healthier, but making your own meals doesn’t involve takeout containers or doggy bags. For those times when you do order in or eat out, tell the establishment you don’t need any plastic cutlery or, for some serious extra credit, bring your own food-storage containers to restaurants for leftovers.
5. Purchase items secondhand.
New toys and electronic gadgets, especially, come with all kinds of plastic packaging—from those frustrating hard-to-crack shells to twisty ties. Search the shelves of thrift stores, neighborhood garage sales, or online postings for items that are just as good when previously used. You’ll save yourself a few bucks, too.
6. Recycle (duh).
It seems obvious, but we’re not doing a great job of it. For example, less than 14 percent of plastic packaging is recycled. Confused about what can and can’t go in the bin? Check out the number on the bottom of the container. Most beverage and liquid cleaner bottles will be #1 (PET), which is commonly accepted by most curbside recycling companies. Containers marked #2 (HDPE; typically slightly heavier-duty bottles for milk, juice, and laundry detergent) and #5 (PP; plastic cutlery, yogurt and margarine tubs, ketchup bottles) are also recyclable in some areas. For the specifics on your area, check out Earth911.org’s recycling directory.
7. Support a bag tax or ban.
Urge your elected officials to follow the lead of those in San Francisco, Chicago, and close to 150 other cities and counties by introducing or supporting legislation that would make plastic-bag use less desirable.
8. Buy in bulk.
Single-serving yogurts, travel-size toiletries, tiny packages of nuts—consider the product-to-packaging ratio of items you tend to buy often and select the bigger container instead of buying several smaller ones over time.
9. Bring your own garment bag to the dry cleaner.
Invest in a zippered fabric bag and request that your cleaned items be returned in it instead of sheathed in plastic. (And while you’re at it, make sure you’re frequenting a dry cleaner that skips the perc, a toxic chemical found in some cleaning solvents.)
10. Put pressure on manufacturers.
Though we can make a difference through our own habits, corporations obviously have a much bigger footprint. If you believe a company could be smarter about its packaging, make your voice heard. Write a letter, send a tweet, or hit them where it really hurts: Give your money to a more sustainable competitor.
So you know what to do. Go do it. Please.
Mean It fashion- it was hard to stop choosing things I like from here. What a great selection!
“Our mission is to source ethical fashion around the world and offer well-designed, desirable and luxurious pieces in one marketplace. Clothing and accessories designed and produced in a sustainable way, using environment-friendly materials. Vegan pieces. Fair trade and upcycled items. All made by teams that have control over the production process, making sure there is no wrongdoing in any sense. Brands we are very proud to sell.”