Blog by-AMBER MEDINA VASQUEZ
A topic and question that comes up frequently in our household is “How do we reduce our plastic consumption”? It seems that everywhere we go, our environment invites the opportunity to be enveloped in plastic!
From the cars we drive, cell phones, computers, shoes and clothes we wear to the foods and products we purchase, it’s inescapable. The long standing argument is how do we make a difference that will impact our planet and our health? It feels next to impossible and can become overwhelming to say the least.
Evidence is mounting that the chemical building blocks that make plastics so versatile are the same components that might harm people and the environment. And its production and disposal contribute to an array of environmental problems, too. For example:
Chemicals added to plastics are absorbed by human bodies. Some of these compounds have been found to alter hormones or have other potential human health effects.
Plastic debris, laced with chemicals and often ingested by marine animals, can injure or poison wildlife.
Floating plastic waste, which can survive for thousands of years in water, serves as mini transportation devices for invasive species, disrupting habitats.
Plastic buried deep in landfills can leach harmful chemicals that spread into groundwater.
Around 4 percent of world oil production is used as a feedstock to make plastics, and a similar amount is consumed as energy in the process.
Plastic is so resilient that even burying it deep within the earth doesn’t keep it from impacting the environment. Currently it accounts for approximately 10 percent of generated waste, most of which is landfilled. But, placing plastics in a landfill may simply be storing a problem for the future, as plastic’s chemicals often sink into nearby land, contaminating groundwater.
Plastic’s problems extend way beyond the human body. More than one-third of all plastic is disposable packaging like bottles and bags, many of which end up littering the environment.
Although most of us have been exposed to images of plastic necklaces around land and sea animals which is by now burned into the public eyes, ingestion of plastic fragments is much more common. Once inside, plastic can pack a one-two punch by both clogging an animal’s stomach and poisoning it with chemicals that have concentrated in the plastic. Chemicals are then transferred to the food web when other animals (i.e. humans) consume them.
More than 180 species of animals have been documented to ingest plastic debris, including birds, fish, turtles and marine mammals, according to the report.
Unfortunately, the impacts on wildlife suffers the same pitfalls as human health and there is already evidence that chemicals associated with plastics harm wildlife.
So, back to our original question-“How do we reduce our plastic consumption?” The answer is “one piece at a time.” It takes great effort and consciousness to suss out each item we purchase but we can each make a significant impact by at least trying to use less and less products involving plastic. The future of our health, our children’s health and planet are worth it!
photo from-World Wildlife Foundation