It's everywhere, from the wrapper on your energy bar to the water bottle that is consistently seen tucked in backpacks and gym bags. Islands of used plastic are found floating in waterways and in oceans around the world. The chemicals in plastic are becoming an issue when they are made, consumed and recycled.
What’s in Plastic?
The chemical that is used to make plastic clear is called Biphenyl A, or BPA. This is known as an endocrine disruptor that can cause neurological issues and reduced fertility in women. It can also accelerate puberty in young girls and can cause various cancers among other serious health ailments.
Plastic bottles for consuming may also contain phthalatesm, or Ph, to make them more flexible. These carry the same types of health issues that BPA bottles can cause. Look for plastic food containers and bottles that are BPA and Ph free.
Disadvantages of Plastic
The volatile organic compounds that harm the area around industrial sites that process the plastics can also be bad when people come in contact with the recycled plastics. Depending on how often people use recycled plastics, their level of consumed toxins can be rather high.
The plastic resin that is used in part of the manufacturing and recycling of the plastic bottle or item contains petroleum. This can leech into liquids and foods that humans and animals consume straight from the plastic container.
PET Bottles as an Alternative
In an effort to reduce the environmental impact of all the plastic floating around the world in bodegas and big-box supermarkets, a new material with a smaller carbon footprint was created. PET bottles are made of polyethylene terephthalate, a food-grade plastic that is hydrolyzed down to monomers. These are purified and repolymerized to make new, recycled plastic.
There are disadvantages of PET bottles. The process of turning a plastic bottle into a PET for another use requires it to be melted down, which creates volatile organic compounds. These fumes are an environmental threat to plant and animal life that live near a site that recycles PET products.
While it may seem like a brilliant idea, most recycled plastic isn't processed into more useful products from which humans and animals can benefit.
Most plastic recycling becomes a less useful product. For instance, a plastic bottle may be turned into a hat or handbag after a lengthy and environmentally unfriendly manufacturing process. These less-useful items usually end up in a landfill rather than a recycling bin, which simply prolongs the inevitable plastic trash pile up.
Consuming Liquids from Plastic Bottles
Plastic bottles that have sat in the sun before shipping or that have been stored in a car or hot garage may be high in toxins. The plastic products left in the sun can reach well over 100 degrees, particularly in desert climates that rely on the convenience of plastic water bottles.
The negatives of bottled water can extend to our four-legged friends. Having a plastic bottle on hand to ensure pets don't get dehydrated on long walks or outings is convenient. It's also bad for the environment and quite possibly the thirsty pooch.
How to Move Away From Plastic
Many people are attempting to eliminate the use of plastic bottles, utensils or snack bags in their everyday life. This can be a chore when you consider how easy it is to reach for a plastic bottle, slip a plastic fork in your lunch bag or throw a healthy snack into a plastic zippered bag.
A few ways to eliminate using plastic in your everyday life include:
- Buy glass and metal water bottles, straws and food containers.
- Instead of zippered plastic lunch bags, use glass jars with metal lids.
- Rather than throwing out olive, pickle and baby food jars or other small jars, wash them and reuse them for cut vegetables and other items that you would otherwise wrap in plastic to preserve.