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Why is Plastic So Harmful to Humans & the Environment?

Hiiii UnMake Your Markers! I have wanted to dive deeply into plastic on the blog for a while now. Besides having a ratchet impact on the environment, plastic is a public health problem. Read that again.

Why is Plastic So Harmful?

  1. Environmental Pollution: Plastics do not biodegrade, meaning they persist in the environment for hundreds of years (probably longer). Plastic waste often ends up in oceans, waterways, and landfills, polluting the environment and harming wildlife.
  2. Health Risks: Certain chemicals used in the production of plastics, such as bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates, can leach out of plastic products and potentially cause health problems in humans, such as hormonal imbalances, developmental issues, and even cancer. Someday, people will care about this a lot more than they currently do. 
  3. Carbon Footprint: The production and disposal of plastic contributes to greenhouse gas emissions because plastic is made from fossil fuels. The mining and manufacturing of plastics is not a clean process and needs to be more carbon-heavy too. Finally, humans incinerate a lot of plastic, yet again releasing carbon. Plastic is one of many ways that humans are contributing to climate change.
  4. Resource Depletion: The production of plastic requires fossil fuels, which are non-renewable resources that are rapidly depleting.
  5. Microplastics: As plastics break down into smaller and smaller pieces, they can become microplastics, which are harmful to the environment and can enter the food chain when consumed by aquatic life and animals, and ultimately humans. Microplastics are in our blood now; that’s horrifying. 

Can We Use Less Plastic?

We can move away from using single-use plastic. I believe it with all that I have. While plastic has many benefits, its negative impacts on the environment and human health are significant, and alternatives are necessary. So… what can we actually do?

  1. Reduce: One of the easiest ways to reduce plastic waste is to use less. Do this by carrying reusable bags, water bottles, and containers and choosing products with minimal packaging.
  2. Recycle: Recycling is essential to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills and oceans. Check with your local recycling program to learn what types of plastic are accepted.
  3. Use Alternatives (see below): There are many alternatives to single-use plastic available, such as glass, metal, paper, and compostable materials. For example, using reusable cloth bags, metal or glass straws, and bamboo or wooden utensils are good alternatives to single-use plastic.
  4. Support Legislation: Governments and companies can play a role in reducing plastic waste by implementing regulations, incentives, and bans on certain plastic products. Here are some ideas for supporting plastic bans. 
  5. Educate: Raising awareness and educating others on the negative impacts of plastic can help create a culture that values sustainability and reduces our dependence on single-use plastic. Knowing about hidden plastics is helpful too. 

This monumental undertaking will require a collective effort from individuals, governments, and businesses. Let’s talk more about the many alternatives to plastic that can be used for packaging, containers, and other everyday products. 

The Alternatives

  1. Glass: Glass is an excellent alternative to plastic as it is durable, non-toxic, and can be recycled.
  2. Metal: Metals such as stainless steel and aluminum are also durable, non-toxic, and can be recycled. They are often used in place of plastic for water bottles, food containers, and other products. Here are some of the benefits of metal recycling. 
  3. Paper: Paper products, such as paper bags, cups, and straws, are biodegradable and can be recycled.
  4. Plant-based materials: Many plant-based materials, such as bamboo, hemp, and sugarcane, can be used to make biodegradable and compostable products, such as utensils, plates, and packaging.
  5. Biodegradable plastics: Some types of biodegradable plastics are made from plant-based materials and can break down into natural environmental components, making them a more sustainable alternative to traditional plastic. There is so much cool sciency stuff happening in this area, I can’t wait to see what they come up with. 
  6. Reusable cloth: Reusable cloth bags, wraps, and other products are an environmentally-friendly alternative to single-use plastic bags and plastic wrap. Soft plastics are the worst, ugh. 

What Can Plastic Do to Your Health?

Some plastics contain harmful chemicals that can leach out and potentially cause human health problems. Here are some examples of plastics and the potential health risks associated with them:

  1. Bisphenol A (BPA): BPA is a chemical commonly used in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. It has been linked to a range of health problems, including hormonal imbalances, developmental issues, and even cancer.
  2. Phthalates: Phthalates are a group of chemicals used in the production of many plastics to make them more flexible. They can interfere with hormonal function and have been linked to developmental problems in children.
  3. PVC: Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a type of plastic commonly used in construction materials, medical devices, and packaging. It can contain toxic additives, including phthalates and lead, harming human health. PVC, aka plastic #3, is the most toxic and most harmful plastic to humans. When they put in additives, it’s considered “generally” safe to carry our drinking water 🫠. 
  4. Polystyrene: Polystyrene, also known as Styrofoam, is a type of plastic commonly used in food packaging and disposable containers. Styrofoam can release potentially harmful chemicals when heated and has been linked to cancer and other health problems.

Overall, it is crucial to be aware of the potential health risks associated with certain plastics and take steps to minimize exposure to these chemicals. Using alternatives to plastic, such as glass, metal, and plant-based materials can help reduce the risk of exposure to harmful chemicals.

I think there are many, many climate change deniers out there today, but surely everyone can get on board with not harming humans.

It’s going to take a lot; the first step is for someone like YOU to take the time to read this post up to this point. Thank you for caring. Thank you for reducing your carbon footprint. Thank you for being here. Our actions, together, can change our planet for the better. Let me know how you plan to reduce your plastic use in the comments below.



#unmakeyourmark #sustainability #climatechange #uselessplastic #plastic pollution