I recently watched a documentary about plastic and how it is affecting the earth, it is called “A Plastic Ocean”. I would highly recommend you to watch it if you haven’t already. I must say while watching it I was shocked. I was shocked at the stats, the imagery, the disregard we have, and the impact plastic has on the earth and on peoples lives. I was also shocked at myself for never thinking about it before, for being someone who has, thus far, disregarded the effects my actions, and for letting the convenience of life stop me from questioning the status quo.
Plastic is everywhere, it has made our lives very convenient, through disposable silverware and plates, packaging of everything, toys, clothing, technology… the list could go on and on. Sometimes things you would not even think of being made of plastic are.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying all plastic is bad. Plastic has been very valuable in many industries like the medical industry. The plastic that I am talking about is the unnecessary kind. The kind that we use or don’t even use and throw away without a second thought.
This plastic needs to be rethought, maybe even re-engineered. We need to first be cognizant of the fact that this kind of one-time-use or single-use plastic is very bad for the environment and frankly it is bad for our health. As I did more research I came across some startling facts about plastic. I believe the reason we are not more diligent about reducing plastic waste and using unnecessary plastic product is that we have not been educated on the impact it is making. This has been my personal experience. I had no clue but now that I know I cannot un-know. In fact, it has inspired me to do what I can to help reduce the plastic waste I produce and find plastic-free alternatives where I can.
Here are some facts that helped me understand the gravity of it all:
- More than 8 million tons of plastic are being dumped into our oceans every year, in 2025, the annual input is estimated to be about twice greater (2)
- It takes plastic 400 years to degrade in water (1), which means every piece of plastic ever produced still exists in one form or another
- In the UK and USA alone, 550 million straws are thrown out every year (1)
- Worldwide over 500 million plastic bottles are used every year (1)
- Over 1 trillion plastic bags are thrown out every year worldwide (1)
Plastic trash is also destroying our marine life and mammals. We may think that this has no effect on us but the effects are catastrophic. Plastic doesn’t breakdown, it breaks up into tiny pieces and becomes saturated with toxins. These tiny pieces are mistaken as plankton and are ingested by fish, whales, and other marine life. The world population “… (is) eating fish that have eaten other fish, which have eaten toxin-saturated plastics. In essence, humans are eating their own waste.” (2). So the problem is yours, it is mine, it is all of ours.
Plastic is also harmful to our health in other ways. Most of you must have seen new plastic products with “BPA Free” labels. But what is BPA and why have these labels been showing up?
BPA or Bisphenol A is a chemical that is added to plastic that is used in food containers, baby bottles, etc. You are seeing the BPA-Free label because there are many studies that have come out proving the harmful nature of BPA and the effects it has on humans and animals. It is proven to affect the reproductive systems of animals and humans.
“The first major study of health effects on humans associated with bisphenol A exposure was published in September 2008 by Iain Lang and colleagues in The Journal of the American Medical Association. The cross-sectional study of almost 1,500 people assessed exposure to bisphenol A by looking at levels of the chemical in urine. The authors found that higher bisphenol A levels were significantly associated with heart diseases, diabetes, and abnormally high levels of certain liver enzymes.”(2)
“A 2009 review summarized BPA adverse effects on thyroid hormone action.”(2)
Plastic is not just made of BPA and it is certainly not the only harmful chemical found in plastic. It is one of the bad guys but not the only one. It is just the one we now know extensively about. The toxic chemicals in plastic have the potential to be leeched in our food and water.
I am not going to lie, these stats are pretty depressing but I have to remind myself that we have the power to change our lives and the first step towards change is knowing. I may not be able to change the world but I can change my own habits by taking small steps, which is better than taking no steps. And remember those circles of influence from my previous post? Never underestimate the impact a good action has on others and on the earth.
If Not You then Who? If Not Now then When?
I find myself asking that more often. If I don’t change then how am I expecting anyone else to change? If I don’t start now, when will I start? When the harmful effects are even harder to deny? With that in mind, I have made some changes to help me live more mindfully.
Things I Have Started Doing
- I bring around a water bottle everywhere I go. This stops me from buying plastic bottles and also saves me some money
- I make my own coffee at home, which has saved me a ton of money, and it tastes amazing.
- For the few times I do buy coffee outside, I bring my own travel mug for coffee. Don’t worry Starbucks has no problem with this. When you make your order just hand them your mug with the top off and ask them to make the drink in it. I have never been denied 🙂
- Stop using straws. I just bought a steel straw for those times I really want a straw or need one for a smoothie or something.
- I keep cutlery at my desk at work so I don’t have to use plastic ones.
- I keep a reusable bag in my purse. This has been so helpful, I always use it when buying groceries
I did not do all these things at once. I started with one thing and then added other things. I initially started with the cutlery at my work desk since I already had them but was not really using them. Then I added the water bottle because I already had one at home.
Start small. This will help you form sustainable habits. No matter how small it might seem to you know that any step you take for the good of this earth and for the sake of God does have benefit. It benefits your soul, grows you spiritually, makes you more aware of your actions. No good deed is gone unrewarded by God. Remember your intention and never lose hope 🙂