Never Do This with Plastic!
Love it or leave it? Plastic has come under fire recently.
Cheap, omnipresent, used ubiquitously for decades… what’s all the fuss about? Some folks think the hazards of plastic to our health and environment may be exaggerated. They’re not sure they want to spend more for plastic-free products. They may not even believe that our oceans are clogged with plastic and marine life is dying from the stuff.
Whether you love plastic or want to leave it, that’s your choice. But regardless of your point of view, read on to find out the top 7 things you should never do with plastic. Sandra Ann Harris, social entrepreneur and founder of ECOlunchbox, believes dependence on plastic should be avoided and here is her list of the major plastic no-no’s and some eco alternatives.
Never refill your plastic water bottle. For those of you who like to reuse your water bottles, well done when it comes to having your eco heart in the right place and choosing to reuse! But unfortunately, this isn’t the healthiest idea when it comes to refilling your plastic water bottle. The water bottles sold in cases for grab-and-go hydration are usually made cheaply from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and not designed to be cleaned and reused. Even the water bottle companies themselves agree with us on this point because "everyday wear and tear from repeated washings and reuse can lead to physical breakdown of the plastic, such as visible thinning or cracks. Bacteria can harbor in the cracks, posing a health risk," according to a study published in Practical Gastroenterology. There’s also the issue of the toxins commonly found in plastics leaching into your water, which is an issue we’ll discuss below. Read on!
Never put plastic in the microwave (or leave it in your hot car!). Heat and plastic are a bad combo. We have all heard the rumors about not heating up plastic in the microwave because it can increase your risk of cancer. Turns out there is truth to this statement. Bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates are two of the harmful chemical components commonly found in plastic that when heated up (either in a microwave or when left in a hot car) can leach into the food or drink item. BPA is a hormone-disrupting chemical that can impact the brain and reproductive organs in developing fetuses as well as contribute to obesity, cancer, diabetes and other illnesses in people of all ages. If the container you are microwaving is labeled “microwave safe,” don’t be fooled. The container may resist melting or breaking during reheating, but it does not mean that the plastic is free of harmful chemicals.
Never use plastic in your kid’s lunches. Parents may find that it is easy and convenient to pack kids’ lunches in plastic baggies, container or totes, but the harmful impacts, especially on young, developing bodies, can have harmful side effects. Instead, parents can find reusable plastic-free containers that are healthy for kids to use and help families save money by ditching disposables. ECOlunchbox Seal Cups are the perfect upgrade to plastic containers. Available in a wide range of sizes, the leak-proof stainless-steel Seal Cups are perfectly portioned contains that feature leak-proof silicone lids for mess-free transportation!
Never put bioplastics in your home compost or curbside recycling bins. As more consumers aim to go green, companies are turning to biodegradable plastics made from plants to replace traditional plastic. Regular petroleum-based plastics can’t be mixed with bioplastics for recycling. While they may look similar, the PLA packaging material won’t have recycling codes indicating their type and they will contaminate the recycling stream. Bioplastics won’t biodegrade in your home compost bin either. You’re usually supposed to put them in your curbside green bin (check first with your waste company). PLA plastic or polylactic acid is a vegetable-based plastic material is designed to be composted commercially with heat, moisture and sometimes grinding processes.
Never start a fire or burn plastic to dispose of it. Most states prohibit burning household trash, especially plastic, and for good reason. When plastic is burned, it releases dangerous chemicals such as hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, dioxins, furans, and heavy metals as well as particulates. These harmful emissions can cause respiratory ailments, put stress on the immune system and cause cancer. Try to recycle your old plastic items or find useful ways to upcycle them. Old plastic containers make get organizational tools for art supplies or sewing items and can also be used to plant your own herb garden!
Never throw plastic coated in food into the recycling bin. Most consumers tend to just toss their empty jars, bottles, and cans into the recycling bin without rinsing them, leaving them with visible residue. Without making sure the items are residue-free, you run the risk of diverting the entire recycling load that your items are into landfills instead of the recycling center. This is because food residue is a form of contamination and it cannot be reliably processed. Consumers can make sure their items are residue-free by simply swishing some water (and soap if needed for the stickier items) in it before tossing it in the recycling bin. It’s a lot more likely that plastic will get recycled if it’s rinsed off.
Never throw plastic bags in the recycling bin. Most consumers are unaware of this major no-no! Plastic shopping bags and trash bags are not welcome in your recycling bin because they jam up in the machinery at the recycling facility. They tend to get wrapped up in the sorting machine and prevents other items from being passed through. Folks can recycle plastic bags at most grocery and big-box stores. They can also be upcycled into trash bags for smaller trash cans or doggie waste bags.