Oh boy, we botched it these past 80 years, and now we must deal with the consequences of mass-produced plastics and polyesters.
The world produces more than 300 million metric tons of plastic annually. That amount grows bigger every year.
Most plastics are not biodegradable.
Instead, they break into tiny pieces – microplastics – the size of a seed, a grain of rice, or microscopic bits ingested by everything and everybody.
Microplastics are found literally everywhere, on land and sea, in the air we breathe and the food we eat.
In the ocean, some microplastics kill the plankton, the bottom of our food chain.
The plankton that do survive suffer impaired reproduction, growth and mobility.
When they get eaten, their microplastics go into the larger animals, of course.
Land animals are also filling up on microplastics.
Research shows that microplastics can even drift up through the roots of vegetables.
Our tap water contains some microplastic, but bottled water carries twice as much of it.
Most of our chewing gum is plastic.
One study estimated that each of us already consumes about 5 grams of plastic per week, about the size of a credit card.
How much of that stays with us? Or is excreted? How much is harmful or not?
Scientists don’t yet know. But they’re working to find out.
About 60% of our clothing is made of synthetic fabrics such as polyester, nylon, spandex, which are composed of plastics.
Every time you wash these synthetics, plastic microfibers go down the drain, into the environment.
When these clothes are thrown out, they add to the burden of microplastics in land, air, and water.
Many plastics cannot be recycled.
Many that can be, don’t get recycled, because it’s cheaper to make new plastic.
(If we only had a brain …)
More industries (and more people) should use biodegradable plastics.
It is up to us humans to drop the plastic habit.
We consumers have more power than we realize, if we would stop using plastic.
Start with small steps to quit using plastic.
10 Tips – How to Reduce Plastics
- Don’t trash your plastic food containers – but avoid buying more.
- Reuse glass jars as food containers (or any non-plastic).
- Try beeswax sandwich wraps instead of baggies.
- Use your own water bottle, not disposable bottled waters.
- Avoid plastic straws and plastic utensils.
- Bring your own container for restaurant leftovers.
- Avoid plastic produce bags, plastic in tea bags (common even when they look like paper), and food sold in plastic containers whenever possible.
- Try reusable produce bags. Or buy your fresh produce “naked” without baggies.
- When you do buy food in plastic containers, reuse and repurpose them rather than immediately throwing plastic back into the environment.
- Wear natural fabrics such as cotton, wool, linen, hemp. And buy your clothing second-hand to reduce your ecological footprint. (Washing synthetic clothes less often will reduce the spread of microplastics into the environment.)
(Most of this post is paraphrased from a great article, “Plastic, Plastic Everywhere” in the April 2021 issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter.)
(Thanks to Flickr and Wikimedia for these now-combined images.)