How And Why You Need To Eradicate Single-Use Plastics From Your Life
The 5p charge has decreased plastic bag use by 84% since its adoption. Find out why single-use plastics are so detrimental to our health and the environment.
Although the first type of plastic can be traced back to the 13th century, plastic has been used in the mainstream since the 1930s when scotch tape was first invented in the US. Since then, this incredibly versatile material has been adapted for use in all manner of ways, whether to package food, manufacture toys or to create artificial organs. Unfortunately though, plastic comes with two major downsides – its detrimental effect on the environment and its negative impact on human health.
A Million Bottles A Minute
There are constant reports in the press regarding the effects of single-use plastic on the environment, but a particularly sobering fact reported by the Guardian earlier this year, found that 1 million plastic bottles are purchased every minute around the world and this number is likely to jump 20% by 2021. Yet, under half of the bottles bought in 2016 were recycled and only 7% of them were turned into new bottles. Instead, between 5-13 tonnes of plastic are leaked into the world’s oceans each year, causing damage to fish, birds and other organisms that live there. By 2050, it is estimated that there will be more plastic in the sea, than fish.
Cancer And Infertility Risk
However, it is not just sealife that is affected. Every time that humans drink water from a plastic bottle, or eat food that has been packaged using plastic wraps, particularly in the case of microwave meals, they are exposing their body to toxins and chemicals such as Bisphenol-A (BPA), among others. These chemicals act similarly to oestrogen and can create problems with hormone balance, causing infertility. The chance of developing breast or prostate cancer are also increased when you ingest these toxins.
While there’s still major work to be done in decreasing society’s reliance on plastic, and removing it from our bodies and the environment, there is at least a glimmer of hope in the form of various awareness campaigns. Most consumers will be aware that retailers now charge 5p for plastic carrier bags or offer bag-for-life alternatives made from recycled plastic to encourage shoppers to reduce wastage.
But former Asda CEO, Andy Clarke believes that supermarkets need to go one step further and commit to eliminating plastic packaging altogether. He explains “Go into any supermarket in the country and you will be met by a wall of technicolour plastic. Be it fruit and veg or meat and dairy, plastic encases virtually everything we buy. Regardless of how much is invested in Britain’s recycling infrastructure, virtually all plastic packaging will reach landfill or the bottom of the ocean sooner or later. Once there, it will remain on the earth for centuries.”
But what can be done in the meantime? While we wait for largescale retailers to make major changes to their product packaging, there are many ways that individuals can act responsibly to reduce their plastic footprint.
Tips such as always carrying a reusable water bottle, never using plastic straws or disposable cutlery and switching plastic for paper cups will all help to make a difference. Beyond that, remember to spread the word – if you feel that your workplace could make some positive changes, such as ditching plastic cups, then don’t be afraid to mention them to your boss – there’s a good chance that your suggestions could save the company money in the process.
The revolution against plastic has begun, but it’s in its infancy at the moment. Make a difference and get rid of single-use plastics from your life, starting today!