What’s the Problem with Plastic?

Plastic has become public enemy #1 for new parents in recent years. Tupperware parties are a thing of the past, and BPA-free is the holy grail of baby items. But do you really know why so many are eschewing plastic? Without getting too technical, here are my reasons for saying no to plastic.

What’s in ’em. Polyvinyl Chloride, or PVC, is a chemically unstable substance found in plastics with the recyclable symbol and #3 on them.  Phthalates, substances often added to plastics to make them more flexible, have been linked to a host of problems, including endocrine (hormone) disruption and obesity, and are especially dangerous to male reproductive growth. PVC and phthalates are cheap and versatile, so manufacturers use them in everything from furniture to shoes to credit cards. You know when you step into a car and get hit with that new car smell? Phthalates are responsible. It’s off-gassing of the materials within the car.

Bisphenol-A, or BPA, is a chemical used to make plastic. It’s durable, lightweight and heat-resistant. Because of this, you’ll find it in CDs, DVDs, cars, reusable food and drink containers, and as protective liners in metal food cans, such as tomatoes, beans, and fruit. BPA mimics estrogen in the body, which means it wreaks havoc on female reproductive systems, and has been linked to miscarriages, endometriosis, infertility, and breast cancer. The Center for Disease Control found BPA in 95% of adult urine, and 93% of children’s urine!

Environmental Repercussions
. Even if you buy PVC, phthalate, and BPA free, plastic is plastic. It doesn’t just disappear. It’s resistant to bacteria, so throwing it in a landfill will do nothing but…fill our land. Though recycling has been enjoying more favor recently, sorting, washing, and recycling plastic actually puts great stress on our resources. The Public Interest Research Group based in India, actually stated that recycling plastic was dirty, uneconomical and dangerous! Plastic can clog our sewage systems, and leak into rivers, streams, and the sea, contaminating our water supply and marine animals as well.

But plastic is everywhere
, you say! It’s true that it’s hard to avoid. Here are a few tips to help you move toward freedom from plastic.

1. Take stock. Where are you using the most plastic? Is it food containers? Baby toys? Packaging? If find you buy yogurt weekly, consider making your own in glass mason jars. All it takes is a spoonful of premade yogurt, some milk, and time! You don’t even need a yogurt maker – just leave the yogurt in your oven with the pilot light on overnight.

2. Baby steps. Can you buy in bulk and bring your own paper bags, instead of grabbing plastic tubs of rice, grains, or dried fruit? Could you bring your own canvas bags to the grocery store? (Make sure you leave them in your car or you may forget them.) Maybe you need to buy some stainless steel water bottles instead of hitting up the vending machine for your Poland Springs. Don’t be overwhelmed with a plastic overhaul. Take it one choice at a time.

3. Be creative. Think you can’t do anything about the shampoo bottles? Consider shampoo bars. Rose of Sharon Acres sells some great ones, but you may be able to find them at your local health food store too. What about cleaning supplies? Do you really need a dedicated counter top spray, mirror spray, bathroom spray, etc? Probably not. A box of baking soda , a glass container of vinegar, and some essential oils will likely do the trick for even the toughest jobs. The Naturally Clean Home: 150 Super-Easy Herbal Formulas for Green Cleaning is my favorite resource!

4. Buy used. Local thrift stores, eBay, and Craigslist likely have great alternatives for a fraction of the price.

Again, go easy on yourself. Does your baby have a bag full of plastic toys? Maybe you keep them for rainy days, or a long car trip. Do you store all your food in plastic containers? Try using the containers as jars for mixing baking soda and vinegar, or other cleaning concoctions while you slowly build up your glass container collection. While the dangers of plastic are numerous, becoming obsessed with ridding your life of plastic is equally as toxic!

What are your tips for life without plastic?

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