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23 August 2019

The problem with plastic

Stephanie Fay

I grew up using plastic in my daily life, just like many others. Plastic bags, plastic containers, plastic cups, plastic straws… I didn’t think twice about it. Anything I didn’t reuse, I put into the recycling bin and felt like I was doing my part. What I didn’t know then (that I know now) is that only 9% of plastic gets recycled – the vast majority ends up in our waterways and landfills. Back then I was also unaware of the devastating damage created all along the life-cycle of each piece of plastic I was using.

I first became aware that plastic was becoming a real problem after watching the Netflix documentary, Plastic Ocean. People dumping plastic waste into our waterways and into our environments seemed like the main issue (and that, in itself, was enough for me to mobilize) but I soon learned that the scope of the problem was much larger.

The problem with plastic

Here’s what I’ve come to realise. Plastic is dangerous at every step – at every point in it’s existence. Here’s why:

How plastic is made
Plastic is made using fossil fuels, which are riddled with problems of it’s own – like oil spills. Then to convert these fossil fuels into plastic, chemical processing plants are used which emit all kinds of dangerous pollutants.

Once the plastic is in our hands
Plastics can contain toxic substances that have harmful effects on us. Most plastic products can release chemicals like BPA, which is known to mimic estrogen and can be an endocrine disrupter. This is true for everything from baby bottles to tupperware.

When you’re done with the plastic
Even when we’re finished using the plastic, it stays around for hundreds of years. Plastic will never fully degrade. Every piece of plastic you’ve ever touched is still in existence on this earth right now. Since only a small fraction of plastics actually get recycled, all that existing plastic is now making an appearance in our drinking water, food, oceans – it’s now even raining plastic!

Be part of the movement
The goal, understandably, is to reduce plastic all along this chain: to use less plastic on a daily basis and to become as plastic-free as possible.

Living more plastic-free means making small changes that really add up. Like using a reusable water bottle, carrying your own shopping bags when doing your groceries, and saying no to plastic straws. By being a little more mindful when it comes to the plastic-free alternatives available, we’ll be able to make a massive and positive impact on our world.