Plastic consumption and waste: Why we need to choose what to buy

Plastic consumption and waste: Why we need to choose what to buy

One of the biggest technological advances of the last century is the use of plastics. Today’s world is impossible without plastics. From the keyboard I’m typing on to write this information to the pen I use for my handwritten notes – you name it, plastic surrounds us.

Plastics, however started with raw materials like oil and coal – fossil fuels that are being tapped to extinction.

The demand for plastic reaches a very wide spectrum of usage. From water pipes to surgical gloves, it has many helpful and useful applications. But the increased production and use has resulted in major consequences such as improper disposal and mismanagement of used plastics.

Where do plastic litter end up?

Due to improper disposal and waste management, plastics and its by-products end up in our lands, oceans, rivers, lakes, and atmosphere. Most plastics contain complex chemical compounds that do not break down or biodegrade and therefore continue to give off harmful chemical substances that leach into our soil and water and disrupt the chemistry of aquatic and terrestrial environments. For example, plastic fragments that end up in natural waterways like lakes, oceans and rivers can be ingested by fish and other marine and aquatic animals. Plastic litter has also reached natural areas such as forests, harming wildlife.

Effects on your health

There are countless controversies and studies on the effects of plastic on human health such as possible disruption to our endocrine system and ingestion up the foodchain. There are studies that show ocean-caught fish and other shellfish have been ingesting microplastics. Could this mean we are now ingesting plastics too? Very likely.

The Environmental Health News website has a very well-referenced and detailed article on the environmental toll plastic has caused.

What to do with plastics

We cannot totally get rid of plastic because the material serves its purpose in many things we use such as cars, IV bags in hospitals, smart phones, eyeglasses, etc. Since plastic is one of today’s smartest technology, we can also use plastic to lessen our overall environmental impact.

By this I mean, we can learn to make better choices in how and when to use plastic.

For example:

  • we can choose to bring reusable bags for our groceries
  • choose to bring water in re-usable containers or glass bottles, and
  • reduce our consumption of bottled water

Since plastic is re-usable in many ways, we can also prolong the use of this product by being creative on how we re-use them in our homes without endangering our health, recycling them properly and ensuring we dispose plastic properly.

For example, if you buy a pack of canned pop or drinks, make sure to cut the plastic rings or any plastic or rubber ring for that matter before you toss them in the recycling bin. This is so important as this lightweight plastic waste can get easily blown in the wind and end up somewhere where wildlife can access it. There has been countless issues with plastic rings getting stuck on bird's beaks, on fish, turtles, etc. You get the picture. Basically, before you toss that plastic waste in the recycling bin, think about where it could possibly end up aside from the recycling plant. Is it a possible hazard to wildlife? If so, do your best to remove or cut it into something that will be less threatening.

Ultimately, only use plastic when you absolutely need it and when there is no alternative. Otherwise choose bioplastics, whenever available or buy products made from recycled plastic. But truly, the most sustainable solution is to choose products with less to no plastic packaging as these are the single-use plastics that pollute.

- Rubylyn Paulin 

Unicorn Baby carries products that are alternatives to the plastic ones that are widely available in the market. We have bamboo toothbrushes, re-usable snack bags, cloth diapers, plates and snack containers made out of recycled milk jugs and naked bars of soap among others in our collection. We continue to seek out products that are sustainable and have the least amount of packaging or plastic in them.

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