Tiny beads of plastic look like fish eggs or other food sources, so many sea creatures simply mistake them for food. Loggerhead sea turtles often confuse plastic bags with jellyfish, their favorite food. The effects of this are disastrous, including internal blockages, dehydration, starvation, and often, death.
Sea birds are frequently found strangled by the plastic rings that hold six-packs of soda together, or starved by stomachs full of plastic debris. Other creatures meet a painful end by getting tangled up in plastic netting.
Floating plastic debris also blocks the sunlight that sustains plankton and algae, and because plankton and algae are the foundation of the marine ecosystem, this has an enormous effects up the food chain. In some ocean waters, plastic outnumbers plankton by a factor of six to one.
There is no feasible or affordable way to clean the plastic out of the ocean. The ocean is far too violent and vast for that. The only thing we can do is clean up the beaches once all that plastic eventually washes up on them. (And because of natural ocean cycles, it eventually will.)
But if we want to really clean up our mess, the most effective, cheapest strategy is to prevent the plastic from getting there in the first place!
According to the EPA, toxic pollutants, including styrene, butadiene and methanol are released into the air during the production of plastic—for all of us to inhale. And air pollution is an ongoing by-product of plastic products as they are made, filled, packaged and transported to consumers.
According to the National Resources Defense Council :
And that’s just for bottled water! From creation to disposal, plastic contributes significantly to air pollution, and many of the chemicals that go into their production continue to leach out into the air and into the food and beverages they hold.
99% of all plastics are made from petroleum byproducts. Every year, the oil used to produce just plastic water bottles in the U.S. alone is enough to fuel about 1,000,000 cars! If you add in the oil used for everything else we make out of plastic, you can see the amount of oil wasted on stuff we throw away is simply astounding.
The more we squander what little accessible oil we have left on this planet on really stupid things like single-use plastic bottles, the more we have to procure from other countries and dangerously and expensively drill out of pristine ecosystems.
Given all the war, corruption and environmental devastation caused around the world by the demand for oil, this is neither politically nor environmentally sustainable. Anything we can do to quickly and permanently reduce our use of plastic would help improve our relationship with the people living in oil and gas-rich nations, reduce economic waste at home, and ease the huge burden that extracting fossil fuels places on communities and ecosystems worldwide.
20 Ways to Avoid the Toxins in Plastic
It is very possible to get most of the plastic out of your life, but it will take a little work. Start with the low hanging fruit first. Here are some suggestions for reducing both your use of plastic and your exposure to its toxins:1. Since plastic is found widely in processed food packaging (this includes canned foods and beverages, which have a plastic lining), the most profound thing you can do to reduce plastic toxins in your life is to change your diet to include primarily fresh, whole, unpackaged foods from the farmer’s market or food co-op. Buying in bulk or joining a buying club can make this very affordable. 2. Get your fresh eggs in cardboard cartons, not polystyrene. Get your fresh milk in bottles, not plastic-coated cartons or jugs. Many stores and farmers encourage you to return the empty bottle in exchange for savings on your next full one. 3. Avoid canned foods and beverages, including canned baby formulas. You can get many canned food items, like crushed tomatoes or broth, in glass jars or tetrapaks instead. A small handful of companies are offering their products in BPA-free cans, and the number continues to grow due to public demand. Here’s a list . 4. When shopping, use reusable produce bags to hold your produce, and reusable grocery bags to carry all your items home. Here’s an easy way to always remember them . 5. Store, reheat or freeze your leftovers in glass containers instead of in plastic “tupperware” or plastic wrap. ( These are the containers we use , and while not 100% plastic-free, we love them.) Use reusable cloth baggies instead of plastic baggies for lunches and snacks. ( We use these .) 6. Use reusable glass or stainless steel water bottles to carry water with you. Also bring your own stainless steel coffee thermos to the coffee shop or office with you. Most coffee shops have no problem putting your latté in a reusable thermos. 7. Avoid disposable plastic or polystyrene dishes and utensils. Instead, go to the thrift store and get a stack of super cheap mismatched ceramic dishes and stainless steel cutlery that you use only for parties, picnics and the like. 8. Replace your plastic kitchenware with items made from stainless steel, glass, ceramic, or even silicone instead. 9. Bring your own containers to the restaurant for both carryout and leftovers. ( I use these , and as long as I hand them over at the same time I order my takeout, no one has turned me down yet.) 10. Ask for your newspaper and dry cleaning without plastic wrap. 11. Don’t take the receipt at the register, or only handle it using gloves. Those slick, thermal-paper cash register receipts are a major source of BPA contamination via your skin. 12. Get a good water filter for your tap to replace bottled water. Or, if nothing else, buy bottled water only in reusable 5-gallon polycarbonate containers, and keep them in a cool, dark place. (We use this filter because it also removes fluoride .) 13. Make your own shampoo, lotions, liquid soaps, and cosmetics and store them in glass, ceramic or stainless steel containers. There are tons of DIY recipes on the internet you can make to replace all the plastic bottles of personal care potions you currently use. 14. Replace your toothbrush with a non-toxic one. There are many choices here . Avoid plastic toothpaste tubes (and nasty chemicals too) by making your own toothpaste . 15. Always ask for BPA-free dental sealants and BPA-free composite fillings at the dentist office. If your dentist doesn’t offer it, find one that does. 16. Use cloth diapers . 17. Because children are extra susceptible to the toxins in plastics, it is especially important to make sure your baby bottles, pacifiers, teething toys (or anything that ends up in your child’s mouth) are safe. Choose glass bottles with real rubber nipples, wood or cloth teethers, etc. (Find toxin-free baby products here ) 18. Choose wood, cloth, steel and paper-based toys for your children over plastic, whenever possible. This is especially important while your kids are still young enough to put things in their mouths. See if you can get plastic toys like Legos second hand from eBay, Craigslist or other online outlets. 19. Replace your school-age child’s plastic lunchbox with a cloth or stainless steel one. There are many non-toxic lunchbox choices here , and most are great for adults, too! 20. Make your own cleaners from non-toxic ingredients, and store them in glass jars and bottles. You can even take the spray pump off of an old spray bottle, and screw it onto a recycled glass vinegar bottle.
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