The Plastic World We Live In
If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve probably heard me dis on plastic at least a few times. The miracle product of the last century has turned out to be not such a great thing after all. At least, if you are the environment. Or a human body. As we’ve gotten smarter, we’ve found out a few dark and dirty secrets about this ubiquitous material.
For one thing, plastic, as we all well know by now, is barely recyclable and basically never decomposes. Turn over any plastic container and you’ll see a number in a little triangle on the bottom. That number denotes what kind of plastic it is and whether it can be recycled. For the record, only numbers 1, 2 and 3 can currently be recycled in the state of California (and we’re a pretty progressive state when it comes to environmental standards.) That means that all of the other numbers simply get thrown away. And by “away”, I mean that they actually never go away.
I found this nasty little fact on the California Integrated Waste Management Board’s web site: “… plastic film, packaging containers, durable goods, and other plastic items make up 9.5 percent, or 3.8 million tons, of the disposed waste stream in California. However, plastic is only recycled at about a 5 percent rate statewide.”
Even closer to home, recent studies have found that one of the key ingredients in many plastics, BPA (bisphenol A), leaches into our body and at even small doses may play a key role in high rates of breast and other cancers, as well as instigating early onset puberty and triggering immune system disorders. The scariest part of all is that a lot of this plastic toxicity comes from sources you would least expect…. the lining of canned foods, water coolers, Nalgene bottles, and even baby bottles.
What can we do about it? It’s not realistic to cut plastic out of our lives completely. Plastic is in everything, mostly because it’s incredibly versatile as well as inexpensive to manufacture. We live in a world conditioned to believe that disposable is better. Watch a few TV commercials and you’ll quickly see: products that can be used once and then thrown away are all the rage. Don’t even get me started on the over-packaging of almost every product out there.
I’ve made small steps to cut down on plastic in my own life. I avoid buying food or drinks in disposable plastic containers whenever I can. I buy certain foods in bulk and re-use my own containers when I shop. I never, ever microwave anything in plastic (and for that matter, I try to avoid microwaving in general… but that’s another story.) I don’t run plastic through the dishwasher. And I avoid any plastics with a 7 in the little triangle on the bottom, because those tend to be the worst BPA culprits.
I’d love to hear more proactive ideas from you. What else can we do to cut out plastic?