Facts About Plastic
Plastic production is off the charts
The popularity of plastic, which began rising in the 1950s, is growing out of control—18.2 trillion pounds of plastic have been produced around the world, according to a study published in the journal Science Advances, a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. And there’s no sign of slowing down, considering scientists say that another 26.5 trillion pounds will be produced worldwide by 2050.
Plastic ends up in our oceans
“Every piece of plastic that has ever been created will remain in the environment in some form, but once we conveniently throw out our trash at home, wind and runoff carry our waste from landfills and streets down the sewer and directly to the ocean,” says Mystic Aquarium’s chief clinical veterinarian Jennifer Flower, DVM, MS. “With the average American throwing away 185 pounds of trash per year and globally producing over 320 million tonnes of plastic annually, the marine environment is taking a big hit from our daily disposal of plastic. Our plastic consumption is directly affecting the marine life in the ocean including fish, which is a main source of food for humans as well. Often our society is so focused on making our lives more convenient in the short term, but in the long run, our health and the health of marine life are at the expense of those everyday conveniences.”
BPA mimics human hormones
BPA (bisphenol A) is a chemical that has been used in the production of plastics since the 1960s and often comes into direct contact with food, including plastic packaging, kitchenware, and the inner coatings of cans and jar caps. Studies show that BPA interacts with estrogen receptors and play a role in the pathogenesis of several endocrine disorders, including female and male infertility, early puberty, breast and prostate cancer, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). There’s a reason you see so many products being marketed as BPA-free these days.
BPA linked to obesity
As a known endocrine disruptor, BPA can interfere with normal endocrine system functioning, including the serum levels of hormones that regulate metabolism. There is growing evidence that BPA may play a role in the development of obesity both in utero and later in life.
BPA affects thyroid function
Thyroid hormones, which regulate energy in the body, are also altered by BPA. In November 2016, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published evidence linking BPA with autoimmune thyroid disorders (such as Hashimoto’s disease). Lab tests measuring BPA exceeded measurable detection limits in 52 percent of individuals with elevated thyroid antibodies. The toxic levels of BPA had caused their thyroid gland to be under autoimmune attack.
BPA causes birth defects and miscarriages
A new study has found evidence that BPA may negatively impact women’s reproductive systems and cause chromosome damage, birth defects and miscarriages. Researchers from Washington State University and the University of California, Davis, found that monkeys exposed to BPA in utero experienced reproductive abnormalities that increased their risk of giving birth to offspring with Down syndrome or even suffering a miscarriage.
BPA increases diabetes risk
A report issued by the US Endocrine Society indicates that exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs)—like BPA—can raise your risk of diabetes. The group pointed to numerous studies, including a long-term epidemiological study which tied EDCs to type 2 diabetes
Bottled water is full of microplastic
Large pieces of plastic break down into microplastics. A recently released study tested 259 water bottles from 11 brands sold across nine countries, including the United States. The findings? A whopping 93 percent of those tested contained microplastic contamination—at an average of 10.4 plastic particles per liter of water. That’s double the plastic contamination found in tap water. Of these plastic particles, 65 percent were “fragments” of plastic, including the plastic used to make the bottle caps.
Heat and plastic don’t mix
According to Harvard medical experts, when food is wrapped in plastic—or placed in a plastic container and microwaved—BPA and phthalates may leak into the food. They note that migration is likely to be greater with fatty foods, such as meats and cheeses. “Heated plastic leaches chemicals 55 times faster, so whether you’re reheating a plate in the microwave, putting hot food in a storage container, or using a plate that’s been run through a hot dishwasher, you’re upping your chance of chemical leaching,” says Casper. If you want to microwave leftovers, choose a glass dish like Pyrex and leave the BPA-free lid off just to be safe.
Plastic promotes Alzheimer’s disease
“Plastic promotes the formation of toxic brain proteins linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease,” says Jennie Ann Freiman MD, author of The SEEDS Plan, a book inspired by her own mother’s Alzheimer’s disease. “The brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease are riddled with plastic deposits. Anyone with brain fog or impaired thinking should take note.”
Scratches in plastic lead to leaching
Bits of plastic get into your food from containers through a process called leaching, and when plastic is scratched, it speeds up the leaching process. For that reason, be sure to throw out worn plastic items (such as food storage containers). To further avoid this toxic transfer, eat less canned food and more frozen or fresh food. Also, avoid using bottles and plastic containers that are made from polycarbonate (often marked with a number 7 or the letters PC) and phthalates (marked with a number 3 or PVC).
Not all plastic is recyclable
Did you know that plastic bags, straws, and coffee cups aren’t even recyclable? For instance, National Geographic cites the problem with recycling a coffee cup: While the outside of a coffee cup is made of paper, there’s a thin layer of the plastic inside (to protect you from getting burned and to insulate the cup from cooling too quickly). Those two different materials would need to either be separated by hand or with a special machine, and that practice is too time-consuming and expensive.
You’re eating plastic dust at every meal
No matter how clean you think your house is, a Heriot-Watt University study reveals that you could be swallowing more than 100 tiny plastic particles with every meal. So where is it coming from? The soft furnishings and synthetic fabrics all-around your house, which mix with dust and then fall on your dinner plate. The scientists concluded that the average person swallows up to 68,415 potentially dangerous plastic fibers a year simply through eating.
Plastic water bottles aren’t being recycled
Water bottles are made of completely recyclable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, which means they are 100 percent recyclable. However, of the approximately 50 billion plastic water bottles Americans used in 2006, we recycled just 23 percent; essentially, we toss 38 billion water bottles a year into landfills. Current statistics show that 1 million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and that number is expected to rise another 20 percent by 2021. So ditch single-use plastic bottles and invest in a reusable bottle, like Simple Modern that is made entirely from stainless steel—even the lid.
Plastic entanglement kills marine life
According to Greenpeace, all known species of sea turtle, 54 percent of all marine mammal species, and 56 percent of all seabird species have been affected by entanglement (mostly by plastic rope and netting) or ingestion (mostly by plastic fragments and microplastic) of marine debris. This includes an estimated 58 percent of seals and sea lions, plus whales, dolphins, porpoises, and manatees.
Plastic emits methane
A study published in PLOS One found that some of the most common plastics release the greenhouse gasses methane (the primary component of natural gas) and ethylene (a hydrocarbon gas) when exposed to sunlight. Researchers noted concerns over the scale of plastic production and waste, as these could contribute to greenhouse gas emissions over time—and these can impact climate change.
Beauty products count, too
There are more single-use plastic products to consider in your daily life beyond straws, water bottles, and grocery bags. For instance, more than 80 billion plastic bottles are being disposed of around the world every year just from shampoo and conditioner alone. This is why environmentally conscious packaging is an important and growing trend. Companies dedicated to sustainable beauty practices, like Ethique (the French word for ‘ethical’), have prevented the manufacture and disposal of more than 350,000 plastic containers worldwide. They’re the world’s first completely zero-plastic, zero-waste beauty brand; their concentrated face, hair, and body products last two-to-five times longer than their traditional bottled counterparts, and dissolve completely—even the sleeves they arrive in are 100 percent dissolvable and compostable, meaning zero consumer waste.
Thank you for reading 🙂