This story was originally published by Going Zero Waste and is repurposed here as part of a third-party collaboration. Kathryn is the founder of the popular blog ‘Going Zero Waste’ which has sparked an online movement and encouraged people to reduce everyday consumption in order to eliminate our reliance on landfills.
The Problem With Plastics
Growing up I would microwave my Chinese takeout in styrofoam, load up plastic Tupperware with leftovers, eat individual plastic-wrapped snacks with lunch, and grab water bottles on the golf course. Of course, I would throw all of this into the trash without a second thought, where it would head straight to the landfill. I didn’t realize the harm I was causing my body (and the harm I was causing the environment!) As I’ve switched to a zero waste lifestyle, I cringe at my younger self. I’ve tried to ditch most plastic in the house, but occasionally I thought if I was going to reuse it – it would be ok.
One summer afternoon, Justin really wanted to make some popsicles which sounded like a marvelous idea. I knew we would probably only use them once or twice, and I didn’t feel the need to splurge on these gorgeous stainless steel ones from Life Without Plastic.
I was at the store and saw some of the traditional plastic popsicle makers. Justin got excited and I thought, why not? If we’re only going to use it once or twice it’ll be okay. It broke the first time we used it. Great. I thought, Now I’m left with a mostly unusable popsicle tray that’s headed straight for the landfill. I would’ve been so much better off buying the stainless steel ones. (I just noticed that Life Without Plastic sells reusable bamboo popsicle sticks).
So, I’ve been thinking… what is plastic?
Well, it’s derived from oil, natural gas, and coal. In order to achieve its level of flexibility there are certain chemical additives used in the manufacturing process. Some of the more familiar ones include BPA, BPS, and phthalates. All of which, are endocrine interrupters. These interrupters have been linked to reproductive abnormalities, impaired brain function, cancer, diabetes, obesity, early puberty, genetic and neurological damage to babies and toddlers, miscarriage, resistance to chemotherapy… the list goes on. Did you know receipts are now made with BPA which is why it’s recommended that pregnant women not touch receipts? Isn’t that terrifying?
We’re also seeing an onslaught of obese animals in the wild. Their diet hasn’t changed. You know what changed? Their level of interaction with plastic. Microbeads and plastics fill waterways; litter and plastic pollution are becoming a huge problem.
Not to mention, plastic uses vital non-renewable natural resources that could be put to better use elsewhere: 10% of our oil production is for plastic production. The manufacturing process uses tons of energy, pollutes the air with incineration and plastic particles, and exposes workers to toxic chemicals. Most of the plastic we consume will wind up in a landfill or in the ocean. It will never biodegrade. It will only break down into smaller pieces making it even more of a hazard for wildlife and for us. There are plastic particles in the air we’re breathing right now.
What To Do Now
You might think this sounds super depressing. But it’s good to be informed! Now, you can start making better choices. Even if you’re not ready to embrace a zero waste lifestyle there is so much you can do to stop buying plastic. Opt for products in paper, cardboard, aluminum cans, or glass. Look for natural fabrics like wool, cotton, hemp, silk, and linen.
When you purchase something, you’re effectively saying, “Yes, make more of this.” We need to start voting with our dollars. We need to say, “Please make more stainless steel popsicle makers,” and “Please, stop making crappy plastic popsicle makers.” The power is in the consumers’ hands, our hands. We can have a healthier ocean, healthier wildlife, and a healthier us. We can make a difference; let’s say no to plastic.
To learn more about living a zero waste lifestyle, head to www.goingzerowaste.com.