Plastic - It is cheap to produce, easy to transport and convenient to use. But what happens to it after you’ve consumed its contents?
Most plastic bottles are made of Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) which does not biodegrade as natural ingredients do and if thrown away (instead of recycling), and left in a ‘sheltered’ area, such as buried in a landfill, these bottles will stay intact. They will take many years to break down into smaller pieces – and this is only if they are exposed to the sun. When bottles are discarded irresponsibly, the toxic broken down pieces of plastic from these bottles make their way to our waterways and the open sea and are eventually eaten by fish and other sea animals - which are in turn eaten by humans.
Did you know that we produce 1.5 million tonnes of plastic waste every year? (http://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/stories/5-reasons-not-to-drink-bottled-water). That is a lot of waste! And although recycling makes a difference, it is miniscule when it comes to the effect that using plastic has, not just on the environment, but also on our health.
Here are some things you may not have known about plastic:
1. It starts with the production: According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, toxic pollutants (eg styrene, butadiene and methanol) are released into the air which we then inhale.
2. Even though it has been banned in some countries, BPA (Bisphenol A) is still commonly used in some countries to produce plastic bottles as it helps to harden the plastic. This could have adverse effects on your hormone level and cause various issues such as damage to brain tissues, cancer, heart problems and even others such as obesity, diabetes and ADHD. (http://www.webmd.com/children/environmental-exposure-head2toe/bpa)
3. Even if we choose “BPA-free” containers, there are still other toxic and hormone-affecting chemicals that leach into our drinks and can also cause health issues such as cancer, infertility and others. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3222987/) A good example is phthalates which are endocrine-disrupting chemicals that have been linked to a wide range of developmental and reproductive effects, including reduced sperm counts and liver cancer. (http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/01/15/dangers-of-drinking-water-from-a-plastic-bottle.aspx).
4. Toxins are released even faster and in larger quantities when heat is applied (like leaving your bottles in the car during summer) or if it is around for a long time and re-used for quite a while.
So what is the alternative?
Start using glass or stainless steel bottles and containers. Like every change in life, this takes some effort and can seem difficult to achieve at first because everything seems to be in plastic bottles. Even though you might not be able to eliminate plastic bottles 100% from your life, even a reduction of 90% or more will be beneficial for your health and our environment - Imagine if all 8 billion people around the globe do it!
My approach is that I avoid plastic bottles whenever I can. I installed a water filter at home, have a glass bottle with me to drink and use a glass to drink from. Of course the challenge comes in when I am travelling. I do carry my water bottle with me but finding a place to refill it can be a little difficult at times – it’s not impossible though. I am currently based at a hotel in the Maldives with a zero plastic policy. If such a huge organisation can implement this across the board, we can do it too! All it takes is a little effort, both for you and the environment that we live in.
Say ‘No!’ to plastic.