Plastic is everywhere, there is no escaping it. Our electronics, toys, furniture, clothing, medical equipment, almost everything in our lives has a plastic component. Until 1907, with the invention of Bakelite, which was used primarily as an electrical insulator, fully synthetic plastic was not a part of our lives. Now it is difficult NOT to find plastic in your home, office, or sadly, in nature.
Without plastic we would not have a modern world full of televisions, cell phones, computers, etc…, the biggest issue comes with how we deal with plastic after we are finished with it. Let’s face it, we live in a disposable world. Most plastic items are meant to be disposed of, yet with the large amount of synthetic plastics being created each year, and a smaller amount of facilities recycling or repurposing plastic, the majority of plastic we use ends up in our landfills and oceans. Over 11 million metric tons of plastic is entering our oceans each year, and it will not just disappear! Plastic grocery bags take 10-20 years to decompose, while plastic bottles (PET) can take up to 450 years to decompose! This doesn’t even take into account microplastics that are in our water streams (which we will get into later). Plastic not only pollutes the earth, and harms Ocean life, synthetic plastic also leaches harmful chemicals that are known to cause cancer and disrupt hormones. We CANNOT go on consuming and disposing of plastic the way we are.
There are several ways to keep plastics out of our waste stream- reduce, reuse recycle are already a part of our vernacular. Policy and corporate responsibility are even more imapctful, yet less talked about solutions. On the consumer end of plastic waste, focusing on single use items such as water bottles is very important. Studies show that people around the world buy a total of one million plastic bottles per minute. That's almost 1.5 billion plastic bottles per day! If just one-eighth of the world committed to only using reusable bottles, millions of bottles would be kept out of the landfills and oceans.
Today we are going to be focusing on some of the more insidious plastics that are a part of our daily lives. The ones that are not so obvious and, in our face, yet still have a significant impact on the plastic waste stream.