Living in a plastic world

Agnes Krocha

We live in a plastic world. Plastics have become an indispensable part of our every day lives.We see it everywhere – it has become a common place in our homes, offices, schools and almost every walk of our lives. From the moment we wake up in the morning till we sleep at night, we are using plastics in one form or the other. Our pens, television sets, trays, plugs, compact discs, etc., etc., (the list is just endless) are all made of plastics. Everyday we reach for plastic toothbrushes. We dip spoons into plastic cups, offer babies sips of milk from plastic bottles. We take bath using plastic buckets. We use plastic dishes in the kitchen. We travel in cars and buses which have a number of plastic parts. There is no sphere of human activity in which plastics have not made their entry ranging from agriculture, chemical industry, packaging and space exploration.

Since the first man-made plastic was unveiled by Alexander Parkes in 1862, plastic has contributed significantly to the economic viability of human beings worldwide. Plastics have led to advances in medicine and healthcare, innovations in packaging and products and in myriad other ways of human advancement. The ever increasing use of plastics in our daily life raises an important question in the mind of any sensible person. Are plastics harmless to our lives?

Like so many man-made things, that turns out toxic or harmful to living creatures, plastic is no exception. Though very effective and affordable, plastic has become an environmental management concern due to disposal issues and its toxic nature. If used with common sense, plastic and food can be safe combination, experts say. But certain types of plastics are made with chemicals that may cause health problems if they leach into food. As the plastic industry grows there has been a correlating increase in toxic pollution, both to the environment and to humans. Toxic chemicals linked to birth defects are being found at alarming levels in women of childbearing age. Plastic has become an environmental problem of global scale as it is non-biodegradable, toxic and non recyclable in the true sense of the word. Plastics when thrown away carelessly by many of us, creates a sore sight, leads to air, water, soil pollution. When burnt it release harmful and toxic gases. If swallowed by cattle, it can lead to their death. Dioxin is produced during recycling of plastics which results in toxic effects to the public health such as immune system disorder, cancer, reproductive problem, etc.

We cannot do entirely without plastic. But there are ways we can significantly reduce the amount we use it. Because of the delay of negative effects of toxicity of plastics it is easy to shrug off warnings of health risks or procrastinate in making changes. Let’s not make that mistake. Here are some ways we can reduce the use of plastics.

    Avoid plastic by buying glass or metal whenever possible.

    Look for items with little or no packaging

    Bring your own containers and bags to stores and refill or reuse them

    Purchase items in refillable containers

    Eliminate packaging by buying in bulk whenever possible

    Avoid disposable products: pens, razors, lighters, plastic utensils and batteries

    Use reusable cloth napkins, tableware and plates when hosting a party

    Refill toner cartridges whenever possible

    Also BECOME A SNIFFER when buying anything plastic that will be used for food. If it has strong plastic smell, it is likely that its molecules already are floating around and will be absorbed into food.