It is no secret that plastic is consuming the world and affecting the environment, the sea creatures and our own selves. Plastic has been used by humans since the 1950s and we have produced an estimated 8.3 billion metric tonnes of this wonder material since then. Even with more awareness around climate change, the creation of plastic is not slowing down anytime soon due to it being so cheap to use, durable and convenient but something has to be done to help save our ocean friends, our earth and ourselves.
We are going to try to give you the information you need to understand why plastic can be considered so bad, why plastic can also be good and how you can go about reducing your plastic consumption.
How Plastic Is Affecting The Environment
With the rise of awareness on climate change, people are really starting to take a stance and do what they can to prevent further environmental damage. More companies are looking into recyclable packaging or alternative methods and more people are taking recycling more seriously. But we all know how it can be a bit of a minefield when it comes to knowing what items can and can’t be recycled.
79% of all the plastic produced in the last 70 years has been thrown away into landfills as well as being polluted into the general environment. Only 9% of that plastic waste is actually recycled or incinerated.
Plastic is a very resilient material which can take hundreds of years to breakdown, meaning it is not disappearing anytime soon. In fact, most plastic will likely outlive all of us. More than eight million tonnes of this material ends up in our oceans each year. In fact, so much plastic is in the ocean that it has even formed its own island in the North Pacific Ocean.
Unfortunately, this amount of plastic is hazardous to the aquatic life which in turn can become hazardous to our own health. As well as this being an incredibly hard material to breakdown creating pollution all across the planet.
How Plastic Ends Up In The Ocean And The Damage It Causes
Most of us, if not all, have seen plastic pollution in the streets, parks and beaches. With festivals and large events, the amount of pollution left behind can be quite shocking. Unfortunately, it is easy to leave rubbish behind, but rubbish always manages to find itself in the ocean, be it by wind or it being pulled in by the tide.
But this isn’t the only way that plastic can find itself in the ocean. A large portion of clothing is manufactured with synthetic materials meaning that there is actually microplastics in our fabrics! The microplastics from our clothes manage to get pushed into the sea each time we put a wash on. It is estimated that the sea now contains about 51 trillion microplastic particles. That is 500 times more than the stars in our galaxy! Even Fishermans nets get disposed of in the sea which is also made from plastic.
The problem with all of this is that it massively affects the sea creatures and birds. Seals get trapped in the loose nets. Seal Turtles eat plastic bags because they look so similar to the jellyfish they eat. Whales, dolphins and birds consume the plastic not being able to break them down. And the fish we eat end up eating the microplastics from our clothes! Once consumed, the plastics can block the digestive tracts, diminish the urge to eat, and alter feeding behaviour, all of which reduce growth and reproductive output. Their stomachs stuffed with plastic, some species starve and die.
As well as all of this, plastic acts like a magnet to poison and pollutants, meaning plastic can become very toxic for the sea creatures and mammals. At the moment, it is known that marine litter harms more than 600 species in the ocean! Plastic could lead to the extinction of some species!
How Plastic Pollution Affects Humans
Unfortunately, there isn’t enough research available about how plastic can affect our own biology. Because scientists can’t allow humans to eat plastic for their studies it is hard to say how large the impact is on our own bodies. What we do know though is that plastic isn’t one thing. It can contain different additives such as BPA which is a harmful substance that leaches onto the plastic we use.
Some of these chemicals are considered endocrine disruptors—chemicals that interfere with normal hormone function, even contributing to weight gain. Flame retardants may interfere with brain development in fetuses and children. Not just that but other compounds that cling to plastics can cause cancer or birth defects.
Plastic isn’t all bad though! Plastic itself isn’t inherently vicious and they are made to make all of our lives easier. In hospitals, plastic is used to prolong life, in supermarkets, they protect our food and keep them fresh. And your toothbrush will be made of some sort of plastic. Even the bamboo toothbrushes have plastic in the bristles.
We just need to be more mindful about the plastic we use, how we dispose of it and our consumption of it so that we do not disturb the makings of the earth. Here are our 5 ways to avoid plastic and live a happy life. Our sea life will be thanking you!
1. Avoid Plastic Clothes
Most inexpensive clothes have synthetic fabrics which include microplastic. When we wash our clothes the water eventually ends up in the ocean, leading fish to eat the microplastic. These fish then end up on our plates which in turn means we begin to eat these microplastic turning our clothes into food. It’s best to avoid this by buying fair trade options such as our 100% felt and silk scarves.
2. No More 5p Bags!
Did you know that you need to use a plastic bag at least 4 times to actually be better for the environment? More options are becoming available in supermarkets for biodegradable bags but most of these materials are only industrially compostable. Which means that without being correctly disposed of, these materials will take just as long to breakdown making it no different from plastic. The best option is to avoid plastic bags altogether. Tote bags are roomy and a great alternative to keep all your shopping together. Our canvas tote is stylish and environmentally friendly.
3. Takes Notes Without Taking Advantage
Notebooks are essential for learning but many of the options on the high street have plastic covers. Though they may be cheap they cost the environment. You can avoid this by opting for other options such as paperback notebooks or our leather-covered notebooks which are handmade using only by-product leather. Not only this but the paper is made from recycled cotton rags leftover from the massive garment industry.
4. Memories Do Not Need To Cost
Instead of buying cheap plastic frames, opt for a recycled version or a glass option. Not only will they look fab in your house, but they will also be benefiting the environment! Our recycled newspaper range comes in an array of colours and is completely handmade from recycled materials.
5. Give the Gift Of Sustainability
Many of the wrapping paper you purchase from shops nowadays will be made with all sorts of non-recyclable materials. Wrapping paper is often dyed, laminated and/or contains non-paper additives such as gold and silver coloured shapes, glitter and plastics which cannot be recycled. The best way to avoid this is by going for a recycled or natural paper alternative. Our wrapping paper is made from the plant Lokta, which is a shrub that grows in the foothills of the Himalayas at altitudes in excess of 6500ft and is abundant in supply. Due to being handmade with all-natural materials, this paper is 100% recyclable!
Plastic is our friend in many ways but if we do not be careful it can quickly become our enemy. It is best to take a step back and make more mindful choices to prevent further damage to the environment and ourselves. We hope these options help make life without plastic a little easier.
As a Fair Trade company, we know the importance of doing everything we can to help people and the environment. Packaging is a hot topic here at Paper High and we have big plans to continue to reduce our plastic waste. Stay tuned to see what we are doing to reduce plastic usage!
All of our items are Fair Trade, sustainable and help our artisans and producers continue their fantastic work. Please feel free to check out our Producer page on our site to find out a little more about the wonderful people behind all our products.
Want to know more about us? Have a look at our Ethics and Story. If you have a burning question then you are more then welcome to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org where our team will respond as soon as possible. Or leave a comment below and let us know what you think!