What you never knew about plastic
Since the 1950’s when large-scale production of plastic began, it is estimated that more than 9 billion tonnes of plastic have been manufactured – all of which still exist in some shape or form today; that’s the equivalent of 1.3 million empty double-decker buses worth of plastic.
The purpose of this article is to share with you the effects that plastic has on our health and what simple things you can implement right away to make your 2019 kinder on both your body and our planet. I’ve also created a Christmas gift list for you with some environmentally conscious ‘must haves’ in case you don’t know what to ask Santa for this year!
The same properties that make plastic so popular – durability and chemical stability – can also make plastic a major pollutant to our environment.
When plastic isn’t disposed of or recycled correctly, it can end up in our waterways, degrading so slowly that there are now massive “plastic islands” floating in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Bit by bit, grocery bags, kids toys, boxes and trinkets break into micro-fragments that marine life and seabirds mistake for food.
The plastics or plastic by-products accumulate in the tissues of these animals, and as a result, animals further up the food chain, including us humans, are then consuming these animals and taking on concentrated doses of these toxic compounds which can have an endocrine (hormone) disrupting effect in our bodies.
Imagine a world where seafood is off the menu because it has become too toxic for human consumption; this is where we are heading.
HOW DOES PLASTIC AFFECT OUR HEALTH?
The chemicals in plastic products can disrupt our cellular function in a number of ways. They can bind to the steroid receptors of our cell membranes which are otherwise occupied by hormones, thus disrupting the action of that hormone, or they can be structurally so similar to a hormone that the body can mistake the two, which scrambles our body’s intra-cellular communication somewhat.
When chemicals in our environment mimic natural hormones and have a biological effect on our bodies, this is known as “Environmental signalling”. This mechanism is increasingly being explored as it explains the link between increased exposure to environmental toxins and ill-health. These chemicals, also known as ‘endocrine disruptors’ can alter the body’s hormonal system and consequently produce adverse immunological, neurological, reproductive and developmental effects including metabolism interference, weight loss/gain difficulties, thyroid dysfunction, early puberty and allergies.
In a nutshell – chemicals send messages to us, but when our cells receive information, they are confused and, as a result, cellular function is distorted.
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?
While the biggest positive changes will be made from the top down with more environmentally minded policies being introduced at a government level, we as individuals can still take action.
So much of life’s apathy is down to the lack of collective effort to prevent or induce change. Collectively, we can make a difference.
5 SIMPLE THINGS YOU CAN IMPLEMENT NOW
- Food wrap. Abandon clingfilm and tinfoil and switch to glass tupperware or a beeswax flexible cover. If you do use clingfilm, ensure it’s LDPE-based plastic and not polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and regardless of what type it is, never use it in the microwave.Heat causes toxic additives such as the plasticizers, stabilizers, flame retardants and lubricants that are added to the clingy plastic to become loose, which causes them to then migrate into our foods, particularly fatty foods such as cheese, which we then ingest causing harm to the body.
- Plastic bottles. Switch your plastic bottle for a reusable BPA free bottle which keeps liquids cold. If you do drink from a plastic bottle, don’t drink liquids from a plastic bottle that has been sat in a warm car. The same logic as above applies, the warmth from the sunshine will mobilise toxins in the plastic and allow them to migrate into your water.
- Reusable bags. Purchase reusable grocery bags made of natural materials such as cotton and use them as often as you can.
- Beach cleans. Get involved in a local beach clean or do one yourself. Check out the Menorca Preservation Fund for the next organised beach clean or take an extra bag with you on your hikes and beach walks so you can pick up a few bits of plastic yourself every time you go on a walk. We integrated a beach clean with our latest Menorcan Retreat and our Retreaters LOVED it! We kept picking up litter for the rest of the Retreat wherever we went on our hikes as everyone became so aware of it. Once you see it you can’t unsee it.
- Single-use plastics. As consumers, every time we buy a product we are voting for the kind of world we want to live in. The biggest culprits are plastic straws, bags, bottles, cutlery coffee cups and lids. Swap these with more environmentally friendly and durable materials such as glass and stainless steel, or natural resources such as bamboo and hemp.
7 BIRTHDAY GIFTS TO DO GOOD FOR THE PLANET (AND MAKE YOU A HEALTHIER HUMAN)
Tom Dyer, if you’re looking for birthday/spontaneous gift inspiration for your wife, consider the list below 😉
- Insulated bottle – ‘Chili’ or ‘Klean Kanteen’ are my favourite brands. They are leak-proof bottle that keeps hot liquids hot and cold fluids cold (ideal for hikes and cuppas/coffee on the go).
- A ‘KeepCup’ Travel Mug – go into any cafe and ask for your takeaway tea or coffee to be filled in this mug instead of the non-recyclable cup and lid they would ordinarily give you.
- A set of stainless steel or reusable BPA free straws.
- Bamboo or reusable picnic cutlery for picnics.
- Beeswax food wraps – made of beeswax, organic jojoba oil, natural pine resin and 100% cotton, these wraps are a great alternative to using cling film and tin foil. They also don’t leach any harmful chemicals into your food.
- Reusable mesh produce bags – drawstring bags made from cotton that you can use to pick and pack loose fruit and vegetables with instead of using thin plastic bags.
- Menstrual cup – For all the menstruating ladies this is a great gift to yourself; try ditching tampons and sanitary towels and replace them for a menstrual cup instead. ‘Mooncup’, ‘Athena’ and ‘OrganiCup’ are all great brands.
Wishing you a brilliant rest of your week and see you in our next post for more healthy inspiration.
Jess and Tom