It seems like plastic is almost everywhere. But it turns out to be hazardous to your health and your planet. Get the facts, and find out how you can take action to solve the plastic problem and cut back on your use of single-use plastics.
From bags to food containers to car parts, plastic is a significant part of our day-to-day lives. Global production of plastic has been nearly doubling every decade. But experts are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of plastic on the environment — and on human health.
How harmful is plastic? And what about plastic bans? Do they work? Or are there better ways to tackle plastic pollution?
And what can you do as an individual to protect yourself from harm and to help solve the plastic problem?
What Is Plastic?
There are seven main types of plastic, each used for different purposes. They’re labeled with numbered codes, helping you determine which kind of plastic you’re dealing with and if you can recycle it.
Though the first plastics were once natural products (used as far back as 3,500 years ago), almost all plastics today are man-made and derived from fossil fuels, including crude oil and natural gas.
Scientists have also created new forms of plastics made from renewable materials — known as biopolymers or bioplastics.
Bioplastics: Plastics Made from Plants and Other Natural Materials
Bioplastics are made from natural sources, including vegetable fats/oils, corn starch, straw, wood chips, and even food waste.
While bioplastics are typically considered more environmentally-friendly than traditional plastics, they aren’t a catch-all solution. Many still end up in landfills, and as more come on the market, there are issues with land use, proper disposal, and toxicity.
Researchers are currently working on bioplastics that are compostable, degradable in water (should they end up in the ocean), and non-toxic. Though promising solutions are in development (such as bioplastic straws made from avocado and bioplastic coffee cups made from potato starch, corn starch, and cellulose — the main component of plant cell walls), they aren’t yet widely available.