Plastic is becoming a global threat. This is not because of the material itself but its inappropriate use. I am not writing this post to demonise plastic. It’s an incredible material, robust, hygienic, resistant and easy to handle. Researchers are struggling to find alternative materials with similar properties. Unfortunately, plastic isn’t biodegradable and will persist in the environment forever. Much worse is that its degradation consists in the formation of tiny pieces of plastic, known as microplastics, which are a far more dangerous threat to the environment. In fact, due to their tiny dimensions, it’s really hard to remove them from water. So marine animals eat them with deadly consequences to their survival. (1, 2)
Whether microplastics are dangerous to human is still hard to tell. First of all, there is little evidence that microplastic can endanger humans and it seems like that their toxicity is due to bacteria and other toxins trapped on their surface. Plus, the analytical methods to quantify microplastic have been slowly developing, so quantitative studies on the effect of microplastic on humans are lacking. (3)
The solution to reducing plastic isn’t recycling it either, in my opinion. Most types of plastic are hard to recycle and, in the UK for example, facilities to handle this type of material don’t exist either. You can check the label of plastic films which wrap food to realise that 50% of the plastic you buy isn’t currently recyclable. (4) Plus, there’s a sad truth about recycling. Recently the BBC published an article showing an alarming trend. The UK packaging recycling rates have increased from 31% in 1998 to 64% in 2017. That beats the EU target of 55%. But since 2002 the quantity of packaging waste exported has increased six-fold, whilst the quantity recycled in the UK has remained the same. (5)
I’ve got to become more aware of my spending choices and I’ve trying to use alternatives when available. I will share all the swaps I introduced and the item I bought which link to similar Amazon products.
The best product I bought is this solid activated charcoal deodorant. It lasts way longer than normal spray deodorant and you can use after shaving without feeling that annoying itchy sensation. For a smooth shaving sensation, I strongly recommend switching to a metal razor. Love them!
Another less enjoyable swap was organic toothpaste. Getting used to it wasn’t easy. It has a strong flavour of bicarbonate but it stuck to it because it’s for a good cause. I promise it gets better over time. Along with the toothpaste, I recommend buying bamboo toothbrushes. Usual plastic toothbrushes are very hard to recycle and it’s highly likely that they end at the bottom of the ocean.
Big swap in your washing routine here. I have already mentioned the benefit of switching to plastic-free items in my article waste-free travelling. I no longer buy common body wash and shampoo. I use dry shampoo and soap. I recently bought a lavender body wash and I totally adore it. To finish off, you can use a nice body loofah pad. I use the same type of pad for washing up dishes and for house cleaning.
Have you ever seen the picture of the seahorse trapped in a plastic earbud? Disgusting right? Much more disgusting are the period pad which is made out of plastic and can’t impossible to recycle. I usually see them on the street or on the beach and they make me feel sick. Swap to bamboo earbuds (pack of 400or 800 pieces) and a menstrual cup. I wish I had known before about these cups. You literally forget you have your period.
Massive way to reduce the use of plastic is bringing your own bag for food and any kind of shopping. I always bring one with me when I intend to do shopping. My friend Rachel started a new online shop and sells these awesome bags on Etsy. Due to delivery cost, she ships only in the USA, for other countries you can find an alternative here.
Feel free to use this guide as a starting point and look in local stores for more or similar items. For more eco-friendly swaps you can take a look at this guide made by my friend Laura.
Feel free to add any other suggestion.
(1) Effects of Microplastic on Fitness and PCB Bioaccumulation by the Lugworm Arenicola marina (L.), Environ. Sci. Technol., 2013, 47, 593.
(2) Microplastic Ingestion by Zooplankton, Environ. Sci. Technol., 2013, 47, 6646.
(3) The pervasiveness of microplastics, C&EN, February 4, 2019, vol. 97, issue 5, 30-33.