Throughout your day, you probably come in contact with some type of plastic packaging material. Whether it be what your food is wrapped in or the plastic protecting the gift that arrived at your front door. In fact, packaging is currently the largest market for plastic, consisting of 42 percent of all plastic ever produced. Unfortunately, packaging is also the plastic product with the shortest lifespan. Most plastic packaging is used one time and then thrown away. Not only does all of this plastic end up as waste polluting our landfills and oceans, but it can also potentially impact our health.
Why so much plastic packaging, anyway? We haven’t always relied on plastic to package our goods. Throughout history, humans stored their food in baskets, pottery, and containers made from materials they found in nature, such as shells, gourds, hollow logs, and leaves. About 100 years ago, single-use products were invented, leading to the plastic packaging boom.
The main reason that plastic is the material of choice for food items is sanitation—to prevent contamination like Salmonella. Products are wrapped in multiple layers of plastic to keep them safe, clean, and fresh during their journey from farm or manufacturing plant to the store shelf and then to your home. Food packaging also extends the shelf life of products, which allows for broader distribution and less food waste. Ironically, the plastic creates another major waste problem that we now must address.
Health Impacts Of Plastic Packaging
Experts know that the chemical components in plastic packaging materials can leach into our food. One of the most widely-known examples is the chemical bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone-disrupting plasticizer often used to line canned foods. After studies were released showing evidence that BPA may adversely affect the brain and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children, many companies removed the chemical from its products. Another category of chemicals, phthalates, have been phased out of food packaging due to their toxicity and have been replaced with alternatives.
Now scientists are beginning to research other types of chemical packaging in more depth to see how they may affect our health. According to a recent report from the Center for International Environmental Law about plastic and health, “microplastics that accumulate in the body are a source of chemical contamination to tissues and fluids. A variety of chemical additives in plastic…have known human health effects.” There is a real concern that some of the chemicals in plastic packaging can cause endocrine disruption, which can lead to cancer, birth defects, immune system issues, and developmental problems in children. Examples of the types of plastic that can contaminate food include Styrene from polystyrene, plasticizers from PVC, antioxidants from polyethylene, and Acetaldehyde from PET.
What You Can Do
There are many ways for you to limit the amount of plastic packaging that you use on a daily basis.
Enjoy our products: Our whole premise here at Plaine Products is to eliminate plastic packaging for your hair and body products. Share the love by giving our products as a gift to your family and friends.
Buy fresh produce: When you purchase fresh fruit and vegetables at your local grocery store or farmer’s market, be sure to skip the plastic bags and choose options that are not pre-packaged in plastic.
Buy in bulk: Opt for bulk foods like grains, nuts, dried fruit, cereal, and legumes. Bring
along reusable bags to transport your goods home.
Forgo fast food: Besides not being the healthiest option, fast food is typically served using lots of wasteful plastic items like wrappers, containers, straws, cups, lids, and plasticware.
Go with green companies: When you make decisions about where to purchase goods, look for companies committed to reducing plastic packaging. Certified B Corporation is a great place to start.
Find alternatives to plastic containers: Check out our recent post for more information on the types of alternatives available.
Stay tuned for future posts, as we continue to explore the health impacts of plastics in our daily lives here on our blog. And be sure to read the first post in the series, Why We Need to Understand the History of Plastic Before We Can Tackle The Problem.