Our Plight with Plastic Packaging

Why You Need to Think About It If You Aren’t Already

"Every piece of plastic made still exists." Type that into your search engine and take note.

Although petroleum-based plastic disintegrates, it never goes away. It takes 500 to 1,000 years for plastic to degrade. Every year, plastic kills a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals, and smaller and smaller pieces of plastic infiltrate the natural world.

Only 5% of the plastic produced is ever recovered and billions of pounds of plastic converge in ocean currents to cover about 40% of ocean surfaces! Forty percent! That's astounding.

And we're all complicit. Now that's a hard fact to swallow! Almost as hard as swallowing a plastic bag like many animals do when they mistake plastic for prey.

Bioplastics

plastic collage

Bioplastics aren't the answer either. Yes, they break down, and yes, they are made from renewable resources, but the conversion of land to produce the biofuels and bioplastics will displace agricultural land, drive up food costs, and will inevitably result in deforestation. These side effects offset the benefits.

Also, although bioplastics are 100% recyclable, consumers will have difficulty determining which plastics are petroleum based and which are plant based. That means recycling plants are having to adapt and increase sorting costs. (Read more about bioplastics at Climate Action.)

Recycling

Not all plastics can be recycled. According to the EPA, only 6.8% of plastic used in the U.S. is recycled. Sorting  is tedious but necessary because plastic can only be recycled with similar plastic types. Plastics contaminated by food and other foreign materials will be compromised in strength and durability.

Plastic recycling contributes less than half the emissions than extraction of raw material to make the same product. When plastic bottles are recycled, 76% less energy is utilized than it would to produce the same plastic from virgin sources.

Toxins

Plastics contain Biphenol A, as do most beverage products, till receipts, and the linings of canned products. BPA is an industrial chemical that mimics estrogen and is a endocrine disruptor. It has been incriminated in a number of reproductive health issues, breast cancer, and hyperactivity in boys. Recently declared a toxic substance, countries are removing BPA from baby bottles and other infant products.

BPA is another big reason why less plastic in the environment is the best choice. Less is best!

How to Reduce Plastic in the Environment

As consumers, we have more power than we think.

  1. We can buy less. Question our needs versus our wants.
  2. We can put pressure on manufacturers to use less plastic in their packaging.
  3. We can stop purchasing products that are over-packaged.
  4. We can leave plastic packaging in stores as a statement.
  5. Make things from scratch rather than buy the processed versions, such as salad dressings, hummus, or laundry detergents
  6. Ask ourselves if we really need to put only two apples in a plastic bag when we're shopping.
  7. We can wash and re-use as many of our plastic bags (freezer bags, sandwich bags, vegetable bags) as possible.
  8. We can carry cloth bags; these cotton mesh bags from Amazon  take up little room in your purse or glove compartment, and these cotton mesh bags from Simple Ecology are multi-use. 
  9. Bring your own dishes when you might need To-Go containers from a restaurant.
  10. Recycle. Try to use #1 and #2 as they are commonly recycled across the U.S. and Canada.

Get more plastic facts and learn more ways to avoid plastic at EcoWatch.

 

 
 
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