Despite its negative effects on the environment and human health, plastics are nevertheless widely used. About half of all plastic produced worldwide is intended for single-use items.
Such things are intended to be used just once before being nearly immediately thrown away. There are common things that are plastic we use every day without full thought.
The majority of firms, particularly those in the restaurant sector, use excessive amounts of these disposable plastics.
Disposable plastics should be avoided since their excessive usage is harmful to human health, communities, and the environment.
Why you should avoid Common Disposable Plastics
The pinnacle of today’s disposable culture may be single-use plastics. Plastics are one of the ways humans are destroying the earth.
Only 9% of the nine billion tonnes of plastic produced worldwide, according to the U.N. Environment, has been recycled.
Our oceans, waterways, landfills, and the ecosystem all receive the majority of the plastic we produce. Plastics are non-biodegradable.
Instead, they gradually degrade into smaller plastic fragments known as microplastics. According to research, plastic has negative consequences on both persons and the environment.
Plastic bags and Styrofoam containers can take up to thousands of years to disintegrate. Our soil and water are contaminated in the interim.
Plastic is made of harmful compounds, which are then transmitted to animal flesh and ultimately end up in human food.
Products made of Styrofoam are harmful when consumed and can harm the nervous and reproductive systems as well as the lungs.
The presence of plastic garbage is a nightmare for many animal species. Plastic items like bags and straws choke wildlife and block animals’ stomachs.
Turtles and dolphins, for example, often mistake plastic bags for food. The data for this disastrous single-use plastics problem paints a shocking picture.
According to Global Citizen, plastic production has more than tripled since the ’90s. It also shows half the world’s plastic was made after 2003.
About 150 million tons of plastic—many of it non-degradable—are floating in our oceans, reports the World Economic Forum.
You may be aware of the gigantic garbage patch floating between California and Hawaii. It contains an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of plastics, says Global Citizen.
If this doesn’t sound bad enough already, the problem is getting worse. Animals’ stomachs are obstructed and choked by plastic objects like bags and straws.
For instance, dolphins and turtles frequently mistake trash bags for food. The statistics for this terrible issue with single-use plastics present a startling picture.
Global Citizen reports that since the 1990s, plastic production has more than tripled. Additionally, it demonstrates that after 2003, half of the plastic produced worldwide was produced.
According to the World Economic Forum, there are around 150 million tons of plastic floating in our oceans, much of it non-degradable.
You may be aware of the enormous garbage patch that is currently migrating between Hawaii and California. According to Global Citizen, there are 1.8 trillion plastic bits in it.
If things aren’t already terrible enough, things are getting worse. According to the Canadian government, eight million tons of plastic trash enter our waterways every year.
To dump a garbage truck’s worth of plastic into the ocean every minute would be equivalent to that. By 2050, if this keeps up, plastics may weigh more than fish in our waters.
Within a decade, it’s predicted that the amount of plastic waste in the oceans would triple unless immediate action is taken.
Plastic pollution is one of the waste disposal problems in countries like the Philippines.
How to Identify if a Material is a Plastic
Cutting a sample of plastic and lighting it in a fume closet is one of the simplest ways to conduct a flame test.
The type of plastic can be determined by the color, smell, and burning properties of the flame:
Polyolefins and nylon would both have a blue flame with a yellow tip. How would you separate these two if their flames are identical, you might be asking.
Remember that nylon (PA) would sink while polyolefins (PO) would float? PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is indicated by a yellow flame with a green tip on contact;
PET or polycarbonate may be indicated by a yellow flame and dark smoke; and polystyrene or ABS may be indicated by a yellow flame and sooty, dark smoke (the plastic housing of your computer monitor).
The polyolefins easily ignite. When testing this kind of plastic, exercise extreme caution because molten plastic can drip and create an unsightly burn if it comes into touch with you.
PVC (found in many garden hoses and some plumbing piping in homes, though it is losing favor in modern society), ABS, and PET all ignite only moderately and soften rather than emit dripping “firebombs” of plastic.
PET also bubbles as it melts.
You can cautiously waft part of the smoke in the direction of your nose after carefully observing the smoke and igniting potential after applying a flame to the plastic piece to test it.
Warning: Avoid smelling the smoke if you have previously identified the plastic using other techniques, especially if you believe the plastic is PVC.
If you really must—and we strongly advise against it when possible—a tiny breath of the smoke can provide you with additional hints regarding the plastic identification code that your suspect can be assigned.
PET has a burnt sugar odor (the odor reminds the author of eating candy floss or sugar candy in his childhood). Avoid PVC smoke and gas because it emits an unpleasant chlorine-like smell.
While polypropylene smells somewhat similar to candle wax but with a paraffin component, LDPE and HDPE smell like candle wax. ABS has a mild rubbery fragrance to it, yet polystyrene and ABS both smell like styrene.
Common things that are plastic (Plastics we use every day)
Do you regularly indulge in a piece of mint gum after lunch? You might be chewing plastic if that’s the case.
A form of synthetic rubber that is also used to create tires and glue serves as the base for the majority of popular gum brands.
Gum’s flexible strength is a result of this plastic basis. Unfortunately, it persists after you have finished chewing.
Freshen up with plastic-free gum as a sustainable alternative. The majority of natural food stores sell gum made without plastic.
Simply Gum is one of my favorite brands. There are also breath mints available in tins made of metal or paper.
2. Chip & Snack Bags
Packaging for chips and snacks frequently resembles paper or foil. But to shield your crispy nibbles from moisture, the majority of them are covered with a thin coating of plastic.
These tiny materials become stuck in recycling equipment and end up in landfills.
Sustainable Swap: Purchasing the largest bag you can find is one strategy to lessen your carbon footprint.
You utilize less packaging in this manner. When possible, stay away from single-serving packets.
Additionally, you may create your waste-free snacks at home, like these mouthwatering kale chips.
3. Food Containers
To increase their durability and water resistance, many paper plates, cups, and cartons have a layer of plastic applied to them.
Most facilities are unable to recycle them since they are composed of multiple thin layers of various materials.
Sustainable Exchange: When possible, choose glass-packaged meals and beverages because it is endlessly recyclable.
Reusable substitutes are available, including storage containers and tumblers made of stainless steel.
When something disposable is genuinely necessary, search for compostable paper items.
4. Disposable Wipes
Every day, millions of wipes are used all around the world.
Although makeup wipes, sanitizing wipes, and baby wipes may appear to be made of cotton, they are virtually usually produced from a blend of plastic-based fibers like polyester.
These wipes are destined for landfill because they cannot be recycled or composted.
Sustainable Swap: Opt for reusable items rather than single-use wipes. To apply or remove makeup, use Cotton Facial Rounds, or use unpaper towels in place of wipes.
When George Audemars, a chemist, patented synthetic silk in the 1800s, the first synthetic fiber entered the globe.
Since then, synthetic materials have established themselves as mainstays of the textile sector.
Natural fabrics are more expensive to produce than synthetic materials like polyester, rayon, acrylic, and nylon.
However, every time you wash them, they discharge minuscule plastic microfibers into our rivers.
Sustainable Swap: When purchasing new clothing, seek out items made of 100 percent natural fabrics like wool, linen, or organic cotton.
By including a Cora Ball in your washer, you may further lessen microfiber pollution from your laundry.
Before they can enter the environment, these small threads are captured by this unusual ball.
6. Canned Beverages
On a hot summer day, popping the tab on a cold beverage is gratifying and cooling. But did you know that a lot of aluminum cans have plastic linings?
To prevent the metal from corroding and preserve the drink’s freshness, a thin coating has been added.
Sustainable Exchange: Fortunately, aluminum cans can still be recycled. Put them in the trash after emptying them.
Avoid crushing them first because this can cause equipment to jam. You can also buy beverages in glass bottles to prevent plastic.
7. Plastic Utensils
Eco-utensils made of plant-based materials are now readily available in many eateries. These are often produced using organic polymers derived from plants, such as corn.
Even if they are made of plants, they are still essentially a sort of plastic that degrades only in industrial settings, not in your garbage can or even in a landfill.
Sustainable Swap: Choose reusable utensils to help decrease waste. For meals on the road, a set of Bamboo Travel Utensils or a spork and cork are compact and lightweight.
Another surprise location to find plastic is in adhesive bandages. Even soft bandages that resemble fabrics are comprised of plastics like PVC.
Thus, they remain in landfills for a very long time after your sprained knee has recovered.
Use plastic-free bandages like these Organic Biodegradable Bandages from Patch as a sustainable alternative.
By doing so, you can take care of the environment while attending to life’s minor wounds.
9. Nail Polish
The majority of nail polishes are created using chemicals and polymers. Sparkly polishes provide a double dosage of plastic because glitter is also made of plastic.
Natural nail paints like this line from Sienna Byron Bay are a good sustainable alternative.
10. Menstrual Products
Plastic is used in the construction of traditional tampons and pads, including lining and packaging.
Up to 90% of menstrual pads are made of plastic. These menstruation items made of plastic might harm your skin and add to pollution.
Use reusable goods instead, such as a menstrual cup or reusable pads, to make a sustainable swap.
They are kinder to the environment and your skin. Additionally, you won’t need to remember to purchase more frequently.
Receipts tend to accumulate in pockets, drawers, and on worktops.
Despite having a basic paper appearance, they frequently have a plastic coating, such as BPA or BPS, printed on them.
Sustainable Exchange: Request a digital copy of your receipt instead of having one printed.
I used to be confused about the kitchen sponge. Cotton, was it? Was it a sea creature of a deep blue hue? In reality, they are frequently made of polymers like nylon or polyester.
Additionally, you waste dozens of sponges per year if you replace them every week or two.
Use a biodegradable dish brush with natural bristles made of wood as a sustainable alternative.
You can also use rags made from old clothes or non-paper towels for cleaning around the house.
13. Dental Floss
People used to floss frequently using materials like silk that had been waxed or horse hair.
Nowadays, the majority of dental floss is created from nylon fibers that have been waxed using petroleum.
This plastic floss can entangle wildlife if it escapes into the wild and cannot be recycled or composted.
Sustainable Swap: Use vegan plant-based fibers or compostable dental floss to maintain both your smile and the environment.
14. Tea Bags
Because my forefathers are from England, my family has carried on their love of tea.
While tea bags can be a simple method to drink your chamomile, most tea bags are constructed of plastic to keep them sealed and in shape.
Sustainable Swap: Purchase loose tea and a reusable strainer, or buy compostable-certified bags.
15. Muffin Pans
Every week while I was in high school, I prepared a big batch of bran muffins and ate them for breakfast.
I still enjoy muffins, but I recently discovered that Teflon is typically used to coat muffin pans to prevent baked products from sticking.
Sustainable Swap: You can oil your baking tins before filling them with batter or bake with unbleached paper cups.
Everything from finishing creative projects to mending books may be done with tape. However, the majority of tapes are only thin polymers with artificial adhesives.
A sustainable substitution is to use Kraft Paper Tape that is activated by water. Try this plant-based adhesive tape if there are commercial composting facilities nearby.
17. Non-Stick Pans
Synthetic polymers are used to coat the majority of non-stick cooking pans. This coating may eventually degrade, seep into food, or wash into waterways.
18. Squeeze Packs
Squeeze packs of nut butter or applesauce make the perfect on-the-go snack. However, these plastic bags are only utilized briefly before being buried for generations.
Sustainable Swap: Spend your money on a reusable food pouch for convenient mess-free use that produces no plastic waste.
You may recycle single-use packages you already have by using TerraCycle.
19. Wrapping Paper
Gift-giving plays a huge role in our culture, from birthdays to baby showers. Unfortunately, Mylar, a sort of plastic, is used to make a lot of wrapping paper.
If your wrapping paper keeps its shape after being scrunched into a ball, it is acceptable for the recycling bin. Use simple brown paper or repurpose gift bags and boxes for a sustainable swap.
Since I was in preschool, my family has reused some of our Christmas present bags! For an extra-special touch, you can tie your gift in a reusable cloth like this beautiful Furoshiki Wrap.
Plastics have been since its creation a huge source of pollution on our lands and oceans alike affecting life forms, especially in our water bodies.
So, it’s good we identify these plastic products and gradually replace them with sustainable equivalent.
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A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.