ecofriendly Lifestyle

We've Got a Plastic Problem

Tuesday, February 16, 2016 Kali

We’ve got a plastic problem. As Americans we are generating virgin plastic more than ever. The biggest problem with it is that it never goes away. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade. While the durability of plastic is useful and convenient to humans, it is devastating to nature. Plastic undergoes a process called photodegradation. The sun will break down the plastic into smaller pieces without breaking into simpler compounds. A toy from 1950 is still somewhere on this planet. Doesn’t that just blow your mind?

Plastic and its byproducts are contaminating our cities, oceans, marine life, and contributing to health issues. Some of the plastics we use in everyday life are known to be toxic. For example, a plastic labeled as “#3”, which is also known as PVC or vinyl, contains phthalates and heavy metals. These create dioxins when it burns. A toxic plastic most of us have heard is Bisphenol-A (BPA), which has been recognized as a chemical that disrupts hormones. Plastics also contain thousands of possible additives but the plastic manufacturers aren’t required to reveal their formulas.

The small bits of plastic produced by photodegradation are called nurdles or mermaid tears. These nurdles are floating in our ocean. Marine lives of all sizes, from plankton to whales, are accidentally eating small bits of plastic, which poisons them and leads to fatal blockages. Marine life, including coral, is getting strangled by plastic fishing nets. Fish and wildlife, that you may eat, are becoming intoxicated. The toxins from plastic have invaded the food chain and end up affecting human health.

Because of its longevity, there are literally patches of trash in the middle of our oceans. Because circular currents of the ocean (think a toilet-bowl flushing motion) the trash from the shores of North America and Asia have made a giant Texas sized patch of plastic. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is located near Midway Island in the North Pacific Ocean. To date, researchers have found five patches in our oceans.

You may be thinking, “Okay. I’ll just recycle my plastic instead!” There is a common misconception that anything with a recycling label slapped on there means it can be recycled. The reality is that some heavier, non-recyclable plastics get filtered out of the recycling programs and put into the landfills anyway. While some can be recycled, it is never a guarantee. The best option is live a plastic-free lifestyle. There will be more posts speaking to this.

Here are some easy starting points to eliminate plastic, whether you live in Chicago, suburbs or the rural areas:

  • Ditch the single-use water bottle. Get a reusable water bottle. Try a one made of stainless steel.
  • Use reusable grocery bags. No matter where you grocery shop, you can ask them to use your reusable bags.
  • Stock up on mason jars. Use these to store food and other household items instead.
  • Shop your local farmer’s market. You’ll be getting much more nutritional food and they’ll love you bringing that reusable tote!
  • Say bye to soda. This is an easy way to eliminate plastic bottles.
  • No more frozen meals. I know they are super convenient, but your body and the planet will thank you for it.
  • Do It Yourself. Find some easy starter DIY projects, like cleaning with vinegar and water in a reusable bottle.
  • Buy second-hand. Clothes, DVDs, books, toys all can be easily bought at a thrift shop. You’ll save money, too!
  • No more single-use plates, cups, silverware. Do the dishes instead.

Read more from Kali at Style Conscious


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