Did you know that one million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and nearly 90% of wet wipes contain plastic! Plastic is all around us and is a huge part of our everyday lives.
It’s actually unlikely that anyone can get through a whole day without encountering plastic in some form. Just take one look around your house, it’s in nappies, the food in your fridge is likely wrapped in plastic, Ziploc bags, clothing and even in many baby wipes.
But this plastic is negatively affecting our planet – and our health.
The creation of plastic contributes to global warming. For example a plastic bottle is made from PET, or polyethylene terephthalate, a resin derived from petroleum and natural gas. These unsustainable, carbon intensive fossil fuels release greenhouse gases into the air.
Every ton of this plastic that is produced creates three tons of CO2. Not only does the creation of plastic create problems, so too does the breakdown.
Plastic pollutes our planet through the land, oceans, air and now also our bodies. In a new study, scientists have detected microplastics deep in the lungs of living people for the first time. Polypropylene, used for packaging and pipes, and PET, commonly used for beverage bottles, were the two most common types of plastic found. Microplastics are tiny plastic particles that result from both commercial product development and the breakdown of larger plastics.
91% of plastic doesn’t end up being recycled and most of our waste ends up in landfills, where the huge piles of decomposing trash have been found to release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere further adding the global warming crisis.
Nearly half of all plastic products are discarded after just a single use and usually ends up in 1 or all of the following places: landfill, our oceans and our sewer systems where it can stick around for over 100 years.
In 2018 75.5% of the 35 million tons of US plastic waste ended up in landfill where it remains for over 100 years contaminating our food, air, and water supply.
15.8% was incinerated releasing toxic greenhouse gases whilst only 8.7% was recycled.
Plastic buried deep in landfills can leach harmful chemicals that spread into groundwater.
Plastic that doesn’t reach landﬁll can instead end up in our oceans. Larger items, such as plastic bags and straws, can choke and starve marine life, while smaller fragments (microplastics) can be mistaken for food by millions of marine animals and cause liver, reproductive, and gastrointestinal damage in animals.
Microplastic then eventually enters our food chain, making its way into our bodies.
Drained fat & oils mix with other non- biodegradable items like plastic wet wipes to form giant fatbergs. A Fatberg is a very large mass of solid waste in a sewerage system, consisting especially of congealed fat and personal hygiene products that have been flushed down toilets. These fatbergs can clog up drains and pipes blocking sewage. When it rains the blockage causes the sewage to overflow into rivers and seas.
The drains that flow from our houses are quite narrow, and it only takes a few wipes to totally clog them and can cost millions every year to fix the issue.
Everyday wipes, typically contain plastic so they don’t disintegrate like toilet paper does. If flushed, once they reach our seas and rivers, they can stay around for over 100 years.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO COMBAT THIS PROBLEM?
Switching to plastic free alternatives is a great way to help reduce the issues cause by plastic. Here are 8 easy switches to make today:
Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year, which require 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture, an average of 365 plastic bags per person per year. That’s one plastic bag per day per person. A shocking statistic! (Source: biologicaldiversity.org)
Never get caught short in a supermarket again by ensuring you always carry a reusable shopping bag. Try and opt for environmentally friendly ones such as canvas tote bags etc.
Standard plastic pegs are generally quite cheap but also break easily eventually ending up in landfills. Swapping to metal or wooden pegs is a much better alternative for the planet.
Did you know that 1.2 billion metres of cling film end up in landfills in the UK each year. Beeswax wraps are a great alternative! (Source: allgreen.co.uk)
Many baby wipes on the market contain plastic meaning they can stick around in landfill for over 100 years or end up on our beaches and in the ocean. Switch to a plastic free alternative such as Waterful. Not only are the wipes 100% plastic free and 100% biodegradable, they are also made with 99.9% purified water and tested by dermatologists to ensure they are safe to use on even the most sensitive of skin.
552 million plastic bottles – and that’s just from shampoo alone – reportedly wind up getting discarded in the US every year. (Source: Forbes.ie) Similar figures appear for hand soap. A great alternative is shampoo and soap bars.
Bottled soft drinks
As mentioned before, one million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute. Switching to soft drinks in cans is a great way to reduce this problem. Although cans are not totally environmentally friendly, they are better than plastic! Recycling aluminium can conserve 95% of the energy used to produce it from raw materials. One recycled can save enough energy to power a television for three hours. (Source: ibottling.com)
Avoid using plastic cutlery and opt for reusable metal cutlery or there are also wooden and compostable alternatives for those on the go.
There are so many kids toys on the market made with plastic. Why not opt for something a bit more sustainable such as a wooden toy from jiminiy.ie
Yes, your impact, in the grand scheme of things, is tiny. And you are not going to solvie the issue on your own. But, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try! One small change gains power over time. Keep the habit up for several years, and you’re making a big impact. Choosing to opt for a reusable bag could prevent hundreds of plastic bags from ending up in landfill.
Remember lots of people making a few small changes is better than nothing at all!