Let's be realistic! It is nearly impossible to avoid plastic in our modern life. Even though you are a conscious consumer and very deeply pained by environmental degradation, it is not always possible to avoid the use of plastic.
Plastic has been weaved into the DNA of the urban fabric. Literally and metaphorically. Though some kinds of plastics are considered relatively safe, they contain chemicals that can affect your food or environment in the long run.
Of course, it is better to choose long-lasting, renewable and natural material rather than plastic counterparts. But our lifestyle makes it difficult to substitute plastic altogether. Plastic makes its presence felt in many forms.
Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE or PET): This kind of plastic is found in plastic bottles, furniture, carpeting, and polyester clothing. It is easy to recycle. Most junk dealers accept it and will cough up some money in the bargain.
High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE): Water pipes, plastic lumber, milk jugs come under this category. It is believed that this category of plastic has fewer health issues than most of the other plastics however since it is made from petroleum there are secondary health hazards.
Vinyl or Polyvinyl Chloride (V or PVC): Of all types of plastics this is perhaps most hazardous. PVC is found in children’s toys, pipes, shower curtains, plastic food wrap, flex boards, posters etc. V or PVC contains BPA - a very dangerous industrial chemical that finds its way in food and beverages and is very toxic for humans.
Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE): plastic carry bags, milk cartons, tubing, etc. are made of LDPE.
Polypropylene (PP): PP is used to make laboratory equipment, automotive parts, medical devices, food containers, and kitchen equipment. Its use is widespread, as it is one of the most flexible thermoplastics available. This form of plastic was considered to be safer than others but more research shows that in the long run, it affects health.
Polystyrene (PS): PS is also called Styrofoam or Thermocol and is used to make disposable plates, knives, forks, spoons, foam cups, toys, office supplies, etc. It has Styrene and benzene; two very carcinogenic chemicals, which are known to cause dangerous health hazards.
Polycarbonate (PC): It is stable, transparent, and stronger than glass. It possesses inherent design possibilities and is very flexible. This kind of plastic is used for greenhouses, DVDs, sunglasses, police riot gear, etc. PC also contains BPA, which impacts the human body in various ways.
Multi-layered plastics (MLPs) such as wrappers of biscuits, cookies, crisp/chips and glittery gift papers which form a major chunk of single-use plastics around the world are used in abundance and disposed of carelessly.
Studies show that plastic causes a plethora of diseases. DNA damage, abnormal muscle development, Alzheimer’s, lung, heart, and kidney damage, autism, breast, testicular cancer, fetal disruption, endocrine disruption, asthma, thyroid and neurological disorders are some of the major disease caused by the use of plastic.
Plastic also causes soil and water pollution due to its toxins and also threatens wildlife.
The biggest concern with Plastic is that it is not biodegradable. There is huge pressure on the environment. Most plastic is not disposed of correctly so it is neither recycled nor upcycled. Some plastics cannot be recycled at all.
There are Better Solutions:
The question is how do we avoid the presence of plastic in our lives? What measure can we take to use the four ‘R’ s effectively– Refuse, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
The most important factor is awareness. Taking baby steps can go a long way. Using steel or glass containers, cups and tumblers, carrying a cloth bag, purchasing and eating local produce can ensure a reduction of the carbon footprint on your part.
At the time of purchase ask the question to yourself, “What is the residue of this purchase on the environment” and that itself will help to change your mindset. Plastic use has made us complacent consumers. We think it is a convenient option but this a myth. In the long run, plastic is going to bite us in our back in the form of an unknown life-threatening disease. We need to shed off the easiness that plastic offers us, look hard and try harder to find alternatives that will make us live a greener life.
The planet has always managed to transform itself, survived through atrocities and sailed through the most adverse situations. The planet is not dying a slow death with the pollution we are creating, it is we who are dying a slow death.
By - Awra Mamaji