The recent ABC’s War on Waste series has further illuminated the environmental issues caused by the packaging and consumption waste we create.
The consequences of our burgeoning landfill, marine and terrestrial ecosystems devastated by our insatiable need to consume, often oblivious to the consequences prior to our involvement, or following.
So, while you will have already had access to plenty of information about what happens to these plastics when you have discarded them, did you have any idea how they have affected you and your family while you have been using them?
It’s no secret that plastics manufacture is a toxic business. It was 10 years ago now when I was at a dinner party with the owner and CEO of a plastics business – doing incredibly well, and continuing to diversify his product range to meet market requests. We spoke at length about his business, and I commented that I had understood that many such plastics were thought to be toxic, playing havoc with the health of any who came into contact.
“Yes, that’s right,” he agreed, “There are days when I can’t even come into the office because our adjoining factory is manufacturing plastics that make me sick for days.”
“There are days when I can’t even come into the office because our adjoining factory is manufacturing plastics that make me sick for days.”
Wide eyed, I asked him how the factory workers coped on such days, and what these plastics could be doing to the people that are using them – unwittingly.
He shrugged. The workers seemed fine, and he was only responding to the market. “People are requesting and ordering and paying. If I don’t sell them, then someone else will.”
You see, the function they performed outweighed any perceived concern, in their opinion.
Of particular concern is the single use, and very flexible, thin film plastics.
rolls of plastic wrap for home use, used to coat/cover foods or line packaging in supermarkets
thin plastic bottles, plastic straws
plastic coatings on packaging, foods
plastic bin liners and impossibly thin plastic bags
The chemicals used in manufacturing these plastics are endocrine disruptors. They affect your hormone production/balance, can affect fertility and foetal development and cause havoc in pathways throughout the body that use said hormones. Nasty stuff.
Anything your body, or your food and drink comes into contact with is exposed. There are certain conditions that exacerbate the chemical effect:
Heat. Think plastic bottles outside or in the car on a hot day, wrapping hot food in plastic or heating food in plastic – even when not in direct contact, the sweating from the heated food creates moisture on the plastic surface, mingling with the food.
I can recall my daughter and I travelling on a very hot day some years ago, and she dutifully had the street directory on her lap for our adventure. We had been driving for some time, and she had been wriggly, but started to complain about how her legs hurt. I couldn’t understand how her legs could possibly hurt when she had been fine earlier, and was just merely sitting in the car. She removed the plastic covered street directory to reveal a grotesque red and purple chemical burn all over both thighs, from her shorts to her knees. I was horrified. While plastic covered street directories are not as widely used these days, there are plenty of products that contain plastic covers and coatings.
Acid. Think acidic juices, tomato products creating a rough texture on a plastic surface where the acid has encouraged release of the chemicals and resulted in a change to the plastic surface.
And, the reason we continue to have these products, is because people pay money for them.
Just quietly, If you don’t pay for them, they won’t make them.