With Plastic products becoming all-pervasive in our lives, it is becoming harder and harder for people to think of life without plastic! But, what if this omnipresent material was gradually becoming the bane of our existence - harming not only us, but generations to come. In a world surrounded by pollution threats from every single source, it feels like a lost cause to try and change our own individual habits as one starts to wonder if their actions have any impact in the “bigger picture” at all. More often than not, we hope for our government and terms such as “the society” or “the big influential people” to change things. We think that just because I would choose to walk or take public transport instead of using my car, the pollution levels are not going to reduce. How will one person’s actions make any difference after all - we are too small to matter!
While it may seem the same way for plastic pollution, the choice is simple here - it begins with you - the more plastic you remove from your own life, the better impact it will have. And what’s even better is, the positive impact will be felt by you and your loved ones at home first!
Most people today are aware that plastic is bad! But what exactly do we mean when we term this oil-based long-chain polymer wonder of chemistry, “the bad guy”. For starters, plastic is something that will stay forever - it will only break down into smaller and smaller pieces till you cannot see it but the micro and nano sized particles are still there. What’s out of sight is definitely not out of mind for plastic. These tiny particles then are making their way through our water and earth systems and eventually landing up in the food in our plates and eventually in our bodies.
Even if I look away from the microplastics and nanoplastic fibres, the health concerns posed by plastic that you use daily are innumerable. BPA Free is a term we are well-aware of and often look for on bottles or lunch boxes or plastic utensils. But, did you know that BPA is not the only harmful chemical that leaches from plastics? Its like talking about nicotine-free cigarettes - nobody talks about the other 4000 odd (or 43 cancer causing) chemicals in 1 cigarette. Similarly, there are heaps of other chemical compounds in plastic that get leached into your food and water and make their way directly into your bodies.
While the first challenge of micro-plastic may seem harder to tackle, the second one is completely self-inflicted (just like the cigarette in my opinion, in fact). But there are solutions to both. And solutions that are not going to burn a hole in your pocket or make you change your daily habits drastically. By gradually removing plastic from your lives - especially any plastic in your kitchen and food and gradually all disposable plastic, you can make a considerable difference to not just your own health but to the environment itself. I personally recommend everyone to shift to an easily adoptable Rs 4 mindset - Refuse, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. While the task seems daunting initially, let me try to break it into bite-sized chunks for you with some easy steps to get you started on your plastic-free journey:
1. Ditch the Disposable: The next time you are being served anything to eat in plastic, ask for reusables. Ask for your coffee in ceramic cups, ask for regular steel plates or leaf donas for your street food (the germs you expect on a washed plate are lesser than the chemicals you will eat from the plastic or styrofoam plate). Ditch the plastic cutlery too - I carry a small bag of reusable cutlery in my bag just so I can say “No. Thank you!” to all the plastic cutlery.
2. Say no to Plastic Bags: This one is easy as for some of the states, even the government is doing a great job of executing this. Get one step ahead of your respective governments as well and carry your own bag - simply fold a cotton bag or a 100% natural and biodegradable bag like Biogreen and keep it in your purse or car or laptop bag and any time you need to shop, your have your carry bag handy
3. Don’t fill your garbage in plastic: Even the most health-conscious friends I have, end up using garbage bags not realising that eventually it is going to make its way back into their lives as either landfill pollution or micro-plastics. So ditch the garbage bags and if you must use bin liners, buy some from Biogreen so you have one that is going to go back to nature.
4. Refuse The Straw: This is one of the most pointless pieces of plastic that pains me every time I see it. The mental image I get is of the turtle found with a straw stuck in its nose suffocating it. The next time you order any drink, just refuse the straw. If you must use a straw, use the reusable kinds like metal straws, bamboo straws, glass straws (even the paper straws have a plastic lining on them).
5. Takeaway Food Containers: For those who order in often, this is a tough one but for the doggie-bag habit, it is easy - order only what you can eat and try to avoid extra food that will reach your house only in plastic containers.
These are tips just for starters to get you thinking along the 4 Rs. Moreover, when you replace the plastic products in your life, choose your alternatives wisely as well. Consider the end-of-life scenario for an alternative and if it will not go back to nature, it is not the right alternative.
For more details to know the impact of Plastic, how you can avoid Plastic from entering your lives and how to choose your plastic alternatives more wisely,
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