In the distant future, when historians and other experts characterize our era, our geochemical signature in sediments and life artifacts will have been plastic. They will name our era the Plasticus Ageus. Plastic is everywhere… We are now ingesting and inhaling micro-plastics (tiny plastic particles) in our food and water, and the air we breathe. Canadians recycle just 11 per cent of all the plastic we use. As we learned earlier this year, shipping it far away may no longer be an option.
Plastic was once a great invention. It was lighter than glass for transportation, it did not break and was cheaper to produce. But like any good thing, too much of it becomes a problem. Now plastic and micro-plastics are everywhere and the research on its health implications for humans cannot catch up.
We know for example that using water from single-use plastic bottles means ingesting an extra 90,000 micro-plastic particles compared with tap water. Flaking from single-use plastic is a part of this equation.
The United Nations Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Pollution (GESAMP) have estimated land-based sources account for 80 per cent of the world’s marine pollution, 60 to 95 per cent of this amount being plastic waste.
Tens of thousands of whales, birds, seals and sea turtles are killed every year from plastic litter as these creatures mistake these bags for food such as jellyfish. Once ingested, the plastic remains in the intestinal system, not being digested or eliminated.
It’s heart-breaking to see awesome majestic whales lying dead on beaches with our litter plastic in their digestive systems!
We may come up with innovative ways of recycling our plastic. For now, because recycling options are fewer and the chemical degradation of plastic is toxic in landfills and elsewhere, reducing our use rather than recycling is a worthy solution. The following is a list of some easy ways to reduce your plastic use:
- Don’t drink bottled water. Drink water from your faucet, and for a convenient way to carry your water get a stainless steel or glass bottle. I carry glass bottle but it’s heavy.
- Shop with reusable shopping bags. A tip: always leave one or two in your car.
- When buying fresh produce, say no to the plastic bags whenever you can.
- Avoid takeout food when you can and forego the plastic utensils.
- Say no to straws, plastic cups and plastic utensils – any single use plastic
- Replace your plastic containers as they wear out with glass or stainless steel.