Horrible Plastic – what can we do?
This throw-away product we consume everyday cannot be easily disposed of. There are no bacteria to rot it away. It just stays on earth long after we die. It may form smaller particles over time but it will just impregnate the soil as toxic dust. However, plastic is photodegradable forming toxic products by the action of light. As plastic floats around the open seas exposed to sunlight it is being photo-degraded to poisonous pollution that will enter the food-chain and eventually be consumed by us. Meanwhile broken pieces of plastic are consumed by marine animals.
I have seen it quoted that for every square mile of ocean there are 46,000 pieces of plastic floating on its surface. Over one million sea creatures die from horrible plastic pollution each year, 100 thousand of them being sea mammals. There are islands of plastic in the seas, what a terrible thing, and as plastics are broken down into smaller pieces they become bio-accumulated into the flesh sea creatures. These are the fish that we eat. We are eating plasticised fish and incorporating it into our body cells.
Plastic is derived from the petroleum industry. It takes 17 million barrels of crude oil per year just to make the plastic water bottles for the USA. Over 330 billion barrels of crude oil is used by the USA for other plastic products. These figures are truly hideous. As prospecting for oil increases, destroying the environment in the process, causing wars and calamities, is it so that we can have more plastic in our lives? I really hope not.
So what can we do to reduce our plastic footprint? For me personally I have been endeavouring to make my home a plastic-free zone but it is far from easy. We can all begin by not using carrier bags when shopping but reuse bags we have already. This has been implemented in the UK by putting a 10p charge on carrier bags following on from the success in Ireland where they were able to reduce the use of bags by 90%.
It is also a good idea to buy as many products such as fruit and vegetables loose and not packaged in plastic bags. It is not easy to do this for meat and fish which is nearly always packaged but as consumers we can always enquire whether there is some plastic-free alternatives provided. Dairy products such as milk, is supplied in plastic but independent dairies, if still available in your community, may still use glass bottles. Using local suppliers tend to be more expensive than supermarkets but eating less, better quality food is always more beneficial than eating too much poor quality food. In addition, local producers tend not to use as much fuel by driving long distances to service its customers.
Toiletries and household products use much plastic. We could be really radical and use home-made products. Having studied marine pollution at University I have already been mindful of what I am flushing down the drain. I have thick hair but really, I have found that we do not need as much shampoo as we may think. As soon as excess suds are formed then you have excess product in your hair that needs to be rinsed away with copious amounts of water. As soon as your hair ‘squeaks’ it is ‘squeaky clean’ so you know when it truly clean. I have found that I could wash my thick hair well with a good quality shampoo using a small amount of product. This prevented painful rashes on the back of my neck and scalp from product residue. I could make a large bottle last nearly a year.
When I found that my favourite Aveda shampoo was owned by Estee Lauder who tests on animals I was very disappointed. Since then I have been using shampoo bars. They look like bars of soap but last for ages (it says 100 washes on the label). As they are natural products they biodegrade and there are no plastic bottles to dispose of. For conditioner I use either cold water or diluted cider vinegar to smooth down the hair’s outer cuticles which is only what conditioners do anyway. Conditioners, usually contained in plastic bottles, are full of gunk and plastic micro-beads. If your hair is dry and you need a conditioner there are many natural ways to keep hair soft and hydrated.
For cosmetics I use companies that supply in glass containers and limit their use of chemicals. I have often wanted to experiment with making my own hand-made, cruelty-free products. It is all part of my agenda to live as kind to nature as possible and live as minimalistically as possible. It also saves money which means that I can buy better quality, locally sourced food. Not only does this support local farms but there are fewer miles travelled to reach me.
So, let us all think about reducing plastic in our lives. Ultimately it will affect our health and our children’s health. Plastic products are everywhere and it is harming our natural world. Ultimately, if it hasn’t already it will harm us too. It cannot be disposed of. Plastic will be around long after we will serve our natural life spans. If we all did one small thing each to reduce our plastic footprint, it would have a tremendous effect.