Now you might be saying “but I don’t eat fish”, “I’m a vegetarian” or, “I’m vegan, that doesn’t affect me.” I wish I could say it was that simple, but it’s not. That’s because most plastic in the U.S. is made from natural gas. The extraction process releases a slew of air contaminants, which indirectly end up in our food supply. After all, whatever goes up, must come down, and these contaminants eventually find their way onto the earth (and also in the water). Water, which is used to drink, eat, and water crops with, mind you. And water that land animals drink. In other words, no part of the earth is unaffected by the pollution caused by plastic. And just because it’s microscopic, does not mean it’s not there.
This video was featured on National Geographic and can provide you with even more information on plastic waste. It’s 3-D animated and dives into how our consumption of plastics has affected both marine life and human life. Believe me when I say we truly are affecting our own health when we invite plastic into our lives! The film was produced by motion graphic artist Andreas Tanner and is only 4 minutes and 39 seconds long. Give it a watch.
If for some reason you cannot watch it, know this: Food isn’t the only thing that has plastic in it. Microplastics are actually added to certain products, like toothpaste and shower gel. To me, toothpaste is worse because you literally put that right in your mouth. One tube of toothpaste can contain up to 10 percent of microplastics. Think about that before you brush your teeth. Personally, I make my own toothpaste, and I highly recommend you do the same. But I hope you’re starting to see all the ways we are silently, and obliviously, ingesting plastic.
|Credit: Janet A Beckley|
- Toxic chemicals leach out of plastic and are found in the blood and tissue of nearly all of us. Exposure to them is linked to cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption and other ailments. Pleasant, right?
- There are thousands of landfills in the United States. Buried beneath each one of them, toxic chemicals from plastics drain out and seep into groundwater, flowing downstream into lakes and rivers.
- Chemicals in plastic which give them their rigidity or flexibility (flame retardants, bisphenols, phthalates and other harmful chemicals) are oily poisons that repel water and stick to petroleum-based objects like plastic debris. So, the toxic chemicals that leach out of plastics can accumulate on other plastics. This is a serious concern with increasing amounts of plastic debris accumulating in the world’s oceans.
- Wildlife become entangled in plastic, they eat it or mistake it for food and feed it to their young, and it is found littered in even extremely remote areas of the Earth. In our oceans alone, plastic debris outweighs zooplankton by a ratio of 36-to-1.
- More than 8.3 billion tons of plastic has been made since its initial creation. Only 9 percent of plastic actually gets recycled. The rest ends up in landfills, is burned or becomes litter.
- Stop buying items packaged in plastic. This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many things actually are packaged in plastic. Consider learning more about the zero waste movement and educating yourself on how to cut back on single-use plastics the most. Some single-use plastics you should completely eliminate are: Plastic water bottles, cutlery, cups, straws, bags, etc. Replace them with reusable items instead!
- Make your own toothpaste. This will help you avoid any gross microplastics that may be lurking in your toothpaste. Plus, lets face it, most toothpaste is packaged in (you guessed it) plastic. Here’s a DIY toothpaste recipe I recommend.
- Learn how to recycle plastic. Since only 8 percent of plastic is recycled, it’s clear to me most people don’t know what they’re doing. Every state has different rules and regulations on what’s recyclable, so you cannot just throw something in the recycling bin and hope for the best. Here’s what you can and cannot recycle in NYC. If you don’t live in NYC, try googling your state’s recycling laws. In general, this is a great guide to plastics and how to tell which are easiest to recycle.
- Shop at the farmers market and bulk bin stores. This will dramatically reduce your plastic waste. Just don’t forget to bring reusable bags, produce bags, and glass jars! If you’re not familiar with bulk food shopping, or shopping without plastic, here’s a good guide.
Lets stop eating plastic. What are some tips you have to share?