Plastic is not the best substance in the world. As Beth Terry, author of the book, My Plastic Free Life, told me, "there are a multitude of reasons" to reduce our plastic use. First there is the waste and litter issue. Most folks know that plastic is not biodegradable, Terry said. However, many people think recycling plastic solves the problem. What they may not realize is that "plastic recycling is really down-cycling because plastics are recycled into secondary products that are not further recycled," according to Terry.
Plastics are accumulating in our oceans, and that affects us humans. "Plastic is getting into the lowest levels of food chains in the ocean and getting eaten by fish and making its way up the food chain to us, and are finding pieces of plastic inside fish," Terry explained. "Why that's a problem is because plastics contain additives, many of which are toxic and endocrine disruptors."
Plastic is all around us. It encases the laptop I am typing this article on. It is in most if not all of the other electronics I use. It is in single use bottled water, which I choose not to use. Those are the things we can readily point to and say, "That's plastic." But there are hidden sources of plastic in our homes.
1. Paper packaging.
Paper packaging is my top pick because it seems so unlikely. Many times we pick a product packaged in paper because we think it's more environmentally friendly. Or as Terry put it, "A lot of times people think paper is a good alternative." The problem is that many times food products packaged in paper are lined with plastic. Take a carton of milk. It is packaged in paper, but lined with plastic. Other sources include the paper that butter is wrapped in, hot and cold paper drinking cups, and plastic lined paper bags. If you see a shiny coating on that paper packaging a food product, chances are great it contains plastic.
2. Lining of cans.
Canned foods are definitely convenient, but that convenience is hiding a scary truth. The lining in those cans is plastic and that plastic is toxic. "Pretty much all cans are lined with plastic," Terry said. Bisphenol-A (BPA as it's commonly called) is what many food manufacturers use to line cans, and has been linked to a slew of health problems. There are manufacturers using alternatives, but the problem with them is that many companies just won't tell us about the replacements. The best way to avoid BPA and its alternatives is to not buy canned foods. Just say no to canned foods, friends.
3. Metal jar lids.
Glass is a great non-toxic alternative to plastic, but the metal lids on top of those glass jars are plastic. However, that may not be a problem if toxicity is your main concern. As long as the lid doesn't actually touch the food or beverage it's probably safe. Even Terry admits that she occasionally buys food in glass jars. However, she buys in bulk as much as possible, taking her own non-plastic containers.
4. Wine corks.
When we think of wine corks we don't think of plastic, but some wine bottles are stopped with plastic. If you want to avoid plastic wine corks, check out the website corkwatch.org, which allows you to search for wines by brand or type. For instance, the Cabernet Sauvignon by 14 Hands contains a natural cork.
5. Chewing gum.
This is one that absolutely floored me. While I rarely if ever chew gum, I never imagined that plastic is in most chewing gum products. My jaw hit the proverbial floor when Terry informed that "almost all chewing gum contains plastic in its base." However, there are completely natural and non-toxic alternatives by Glee Gum.