Why go plastic-free

To secure the distribution and storage of goods they get packaged. Some brands use the appearance of the wrapping to identify the product while others only use it as protection against damage. The main materials used are plastic, glass, paper, wood and metal. Some are single usage, while others can be used multiple times.

By setting recycling goals and deadlines the Directive of the European Union EUROPEN [1] aims to ensure the recycling of used packaging and minimizing the impact on the environment. In the requirements on reusable wrapping it is defined that the volume and weight have to be limited to a minimum and it has to be produced in such a way to decrease packaging waste.

FOUNDATIONAL OF EFFECTS PLASTIC

Plastic does not biodegrade which means it stays in the environment for a really long time. Today plastic can be found anywhere we look. In rivers, oceans, littering up parks and on the sides of roads.

Oceans

By finding its ways into the oceans it either tends to build huge islands floating around in the middle of the sea or gets washed up on the beaches. When researchers visited to Henderson Island, they were surprised to find an estimated number of 38 million pieces washed up on shore. The marine animals mistake plastic bags for jelly fish or simply swallow them like fish and that way plastic finds its ways into the food chain and ultimately into our body. It can also lead to starvation by making animals feel full or they might get entangled in bottles, nets and other things. Besides starvation due to a lack of nutrition, it can also result in intestinal blockage and poisoning. Researchers have found bits of plastic in more than 90% of the world’s sea birds, in wales and half of all the sea turtles. They have predicted that by 2050 the mass of plastic in our oceans will be higher than the one of all the fish. [2]

Production

Plastic is made from fossil fuels which are gained by a process called fracking. This process is used to recover natural gas from underneath the earth by fracturing the soil with water, sand and chemicals. Nevertheless, this method has been used for a long time but due to the exhaustion of many other natural gas sources it has been used more often. [3] The risks of fracking are contamination of our drinking water, soil and air due to chemicals. It raises pressure to underground rock formations and creates cavities which may collapse. Fossil fuels are then turned into resin pellets to create plastic which can be easily discarded, so mostly single use plastic.

The manufacture of plastic can have other side effects as well. The British chemical industry giant has 75 factories in more than 22 countries and they regularly report fires, explosions and chemical leaks. [4]

Health

This material doesn’t only have negative effects on the environment though. We often underestimate the impact it can have on our health. For example, we consume microplastic through our nutrition mostly by eating marine animals who have swallowed them unintentionally. To increase its performance chemicals have been added which may impact our hormone functions and the brain development of children. Unfortunately studying, the effects microplastic can have, is very challenging which leads to us knowing little about it. Nevertheless, researchers are still worried about the matter and they are positive that it can’t be good for our body. [5]

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical found in plastic which can have severe effects on our hormone system. The most common effects it can have are on our metabolism, heart rate, digestion and fertility. Through packaging and kitchen utensils BPA can find its way into our body very easily. It gets metabolised in the liver and exits through our urine.

2018 the World Health Organisation found microplastic in 90% of our bottled water and the concern researchers are having about the effect of microplastic are increasing. [6]

Plastic is an efficient material and can be used in many different ways. The main problems about plastic in our society is that it often gets disposed in a wrong way which leads to polluting our environment and the amount of it. Even if it gets disposed properly wind can play a role as well and carry it away. I am not saying don’t ever use plastic again, because I know how practical it can be used and how difficult it would be to avoid it. All I am saying is PLEASE be more intentional about the amount of plastic, especially single use plastic you allow into your life.

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