Look around you; at home, in school, in your office, inside the comfort room, in that department store, or just about anywhere you turn, you see plastics. Plastics are everywhere because they are flexible, cheap, and relatively easy to use in just about anything. Unfortunately, this goodie has been one of the major causes of numerous deaths of just about every species on earth. It has also increased air, water, and land pollution that contribute greatly to the worsening effects of global warming. Well, this harmless looking thing is never really harmless after all. Hence, as a wise consumer, it is important to consider the harm of the product to the health as well as the environment before purchasing.
The Alternatives to Plastic
Basically, plastics are made from non-renewable petroleum and natural gas by industries and factories. The processes used to manufacture plastic are no doubt a major source of industrial and air pollution since it these release harmful chemicals like sulfur oxides and nitrous oxides to the air. Aside from that, the chemicals styrene, benzene, and trichloroethane are also included in the production process. Imagine this: one would need more than 100 times chemicals to produce one, which is about 1/10th of the needed amount of toxins used to create the very same size of a bottle out of glass. Constant emissions of the mentioned products would add more and more harm to our environment since these are major contributors of global warming.
The Effects of Plastic to the Environment and our Body
If you think that only diamonds are forever, think again; plastics are forever, too, but not for good. And its residues are greatly manifested with the terrible deaths of animals that have ingested plastics and plastic-made materials. In fact, a case in North Pacific showed the case of the deaths of birds and aquatic life in the area as plastics accumulated and became the size of Texas in a span of 3 years. How is this possible? Some plastic materials escape from garbage trucks or landfills and get into bodies of water and lands, which are then mistaken as food by animals. When stayed in water for a long time, it absorbs other chemicals, multiplying its toxicity. When gone airborne, it photodegrades into dust and ends up in soil and air, carrying chemicals found in its surroundings. The sad thing about this truth is that fishes may eat them, which can end up in our plate.
Since we also accumulate plastic in so many ways, it can also harm our body. For example, food stored in PVCs can introduce toxic chemicals to it like adipates and phthalates. These chemicals can cause a plethora of health issues including liver and kidney damages. Some manufacturers may include plasticizers in their foods, especially those fatty ones. When eaten frequently, these alter the body’s natural processes and cause complications to any existing health problem. Studies show that it can cause kidney damage to animals, which can eventually kill them. Furthermore, it can delay the development of an unborn baby and increase the risk of a person acquiring diabetes and heart related issues.
So how do you suppose to keep those things without any plastic in sight? The answer is pretty simple. All you have to do is find alternatives to plastic. Bottles are one good alternative to plastic. We used to drink our milk and juices from bottles, right? Apart from that, we can also use these to refill it with water without worrying about future health consequences. Don’t worry; there are also harmless plastics out there. Firstly, we have the recycling symbol #2 HDPE or High Density Polyethylne, which is mostly known for its use in edible products; very low cost; flammability; toughness; and impermeability to chemicals like gas. Most of it is used in fuel tanks, buckets, bottles, refrigerator components, pipes, and cleaning chemical containers. This is also the type used in orthopedic implants.
Another option is the recycling symbol #4 LDPE or Low Density Polyethylene. LDPE’s are more flexible, more resilient, and more translucent than HDPE. LDPE is generally easy to process; easy to seal; permeable to low water; resistant to acids and other chemicals but not resistant to high temperatures; and it also has vapor shields. This type of plastic is mostly used in plastic wraps, food trays, food storage containers, frozen food packaging, bread bags, and the likes.
We also have the PLA, which are plastics made out renewable materials like sugar cane, corn, and any other products that are high in starch ingredients. These are even called bioplastics and they are processed with fewer amounts of toxins. The production phase of PLA is more eco-friendly compared to conventional plastics, which make it more popular than its other counterparts. Although they’re not generally recyclable, they can actually be used as compost, making them totally useful still. Apart from that, reports also show that this type of plastic is even useful when fed to domestic animals like pigs. Nevertheless, most consumers use it as compost instead of turning it into animal food.
While we cannot entirely say no to plastics, it’s then best to choose a more eco-friendly plastic product in the market, which is all enumerated above. All you have to do is flip the bottom portion of the product and you’ll see whether it’s #2, #4 or PLA. It’s that simple actually. Can you do that now?