Why and How You Should Avoid Plastic (for Your Health)
July rings in many of our favorite summer activities: festivals, beach excursions, road trips, sports, and picnics. Unfortunately, en route to all of these scenarios, we are prone to stopping by a grocery store to buy snacks and water conveniently wrapped in plastic for ease and disposability. The problem for all of us is that plastic is toxic AF! But don’t worry, we’ll let you know what you can do to lessen and/or avoid your exposure to it.
WTF IS WITH BPA?!
Many plastics that package food and drink products contain a synthetic compound called Bisphenol A (more commonly known by its abbreviation BPA), which has been “found to damage the developing mammary gland in a way which could increase the risk of breast cancer.” In addition to being linked to breast cancer, studies have revealed BPA has contributed to prostate cancer, diabetes, fetal brain development, heart disease, and reproductive disorders.
Thankfully many companies have been removing BPA from their products - including water bottles and the lining of food cans. However, despite the US Food and Drug Administration claiming that BPA is safe at low levels, the European Union believes that it is so harmful to our health that they have outright banned it.
WTF IS WITH PHTHALATES?!
Phthalates are a group of chemicals used in many plastics - as well as many other products we use for our bodies and environments - used in order to soften them and increase their flexibility. They’re found in everything from medical devices and food packaging to nail polish and hairspray.
Although the FDA only monitors levels of phthalates in cosmetic products, they have been linked to breast cancer and other medical issues. Again, the EU has taken steps to ban certain phthalates that have been linked to reproductive issues.
PLASTIC IS IN THE FOOD WE EAT? WTF?!
While we promote avoiding the consumption of animal products (because it has been linked to decreasing the risk of cancer), if you do eat fish, you’ll still probably want to join us in spreading the word about how bad plastics are for us.
Too much of the world’s plastic waste ends up in the oceans and breaks down into microplastics, which are known to absorb chemicals in the water, including pesticides, pollutants called DDT and PCBs, and hexachlorobenzene. These toxins have been linked to problems ranging from hormone and reproductive disorders to cancer. The microplastics carrying these toxins are in turn eaten by fish and other sea animals that oftentimes eventually end up back on our plates.
After finding the same toxic chemicals in the ocean to be in her own body, one woman named Emily Penn is to set sail in order to further research the effects of oceanic plastic pollution. “We need to act now instead of waiting for regulations to come down, forcing changes,” she said. “I’d also love to see more global thinking from people caring that our plastic-dependent lifestyles affect the health of others beyond our own doors.”
SO HOW CAN YOU REDUCE YOUR PLASTIC USE?
Consider reusable containers and bottles!
Whether it’s carrying around a reusable water bottle (like the Klean Kanteen ones that we sell in our give shop), bringing your own utensils from home (or our cool NTR bamboo set), and/or opting for your glass or metal food container for leftovers, there are many easy and simple ways to keeping plastic away from your mouth.
BPA might still be found in a lot of canned foods, but there are many companies that are responding to consumers’ concerns by removing it from their products altogether, clearly indicating it on their packaging.
As there is BPA on the back of printed receipts, consider refusing yours at the store (or asking for an electronic version if you have the option). If you do end up taking receipts, remember not to recycle them, as the BPA could contribute to contaminating recycled products like toilet paper and napkins.
Take it to go - without plastic!
Most coffee shops are onboard with the idea of reducing waste by encouraging people to bring their own coffee cup. Some - like Starbucks - will even incentivize you to bring your own by offering a small discount for it!
Not only will your body thank you for not exposing it to toxic materials, but your wallet and the environment will be grateful, too! By ditching one-time use snacks, consider opting for bringing your own from home. Fruits and veggies that don’t come wrapped in plastic at the store tend to be cheaper.
Check out our plastic free solutions!
The purchases of these products are 100% donation back into our program.
BUT, You don't need to buy new things.
Buying too many plastic free essentials is counterproductive to less waste and it can be expensive! You don't have to have or spend a lot of money to be your own health advocate and avoid plastic. You'll find that most of what you need to reduce your waste and plastic exposure you can already find in your kitchen!
Use glass jars from pasta sauce or other products you get at the store for food storage or togo beverage cups.
Bring a napkin and utensils from home. (you can wrap the utensils in the napkin so they stay secure in your bag).
Bring a jar or food container out to store left overs.
Make coffee at home to avoid the plastic and save money! (you'll find most of the time that once you get the right blend you'll like your coffee better)
Use a large jar as a water bottle. Jars are so handy!
It might seem overwhelming to know how much we are surrounded by these harmful plastic toxins, so our word of advice is to start small and do what you can when you can. Aiming for cutting plastic out of your life is admirable and ambitious but also a bit (sadly) unrealistic living in the society that we do.
Lastly, Education is key.
Tell all of your friends! The more people who know about how toxic plastic is and how to avoid it, the better.
kathleen is a queer, vegan, witchy feminist who loves talking about the environment, raising awareness of the importance of self-care, and practicing positive and non-hierarchical forms of activism. Her work - both in the library and on the streets - centers marginalized folx, primarily focusing on food justice and prison abolitionism. As a proud literary nerd who studied English and French at UCLA, she enjoys reading everything from Oscar Wilde to Octavia Butler and Jack Halberstam to adrienne maree brown.