Would it be possible to go a full day without using any plastic? For the majority of us across the world, the answer is no. There are little things you do every day that, even if you never realize it, involve some form of plastic. From brushing your teeth to using your phone, when does plastic not play a role in our daily lives?
Since the 1940s, plastic has been mass produced to create anything and everything to make life easier and more convenient for consumers. Its endless possibilities will allow the US plastic industry to expand into a worth of $654 billion by 2020.
Plastic is a material that is cheap and easy to produce. But with what cost does that come? Plastic is dangerous to many things, including human health. Many chemicals used to make plastic are categorized as carcinogenic (cancer causing) and potential endocrine disruptors (hormone disruptors). Toxins can be transferred from plastic to humans through water bottles, children’s toys, and even medical supplies. However these chemicals not only harm us, but also our environment.
Because of its persistence, plastic causes damage and makes its way into oceans before it can degrade. There, marine wildlife and other organisms consume plastic which can injure or kill them. According to the National Academy of Sciences, approximately “90 percent of seabirds carry around 10 percent of their body weight in plastics – a similar proportion to airline hand luggage allowance for humans. This figure is expected to increase to 99 percent by 2050.”
Even though our world is wrapped around plastic and the possibilities it gives us, there are things we can do as a society to replace its unnecessary uses. For instance, packaging is a major component of plastic waste. Styrofoam, plastic utensils, plates, cups and packaging can easily be replaced with paper, or even better, non-disposable alternatives. Plastic bags are also completely unnecessary when we have paper and reusable bags so easily available. These are just two examples of the many options we face every day.
We live in a world that depends on what we’re used to, but that doesn’t mean trying something new can’t be just as convenient. It may not be as simple to buy a non-disposable toothbrush or phone made without any plastic, but there are many other things we can simply replace. So next time you’re offered a plastic straw or bag, think of the impact you could make by changing your decisions every day.
Mia Babasyan is editor-in-chief of The Castro Valley High School Olympian newspaper.