The use of plastic has increased to a degree that the environmental effect is devastating.  On average, 300 million tons of plastic are produced around the world each year. Of this, 50% is for disposable applications such as packaging.  It is easy to see the effects on the environment – beaches covered in plastic packaging, sea birds regurgitating plastic they have eaten and feeding it to their young, seals, turtles and fish becoming entangled in discarded plastic wrapping.

What about the health effects that cannot be seen?

Plastics are made using petroleum and non natural gas, they contain a myriad of chemicals that not only linger in the environment but are also absorbed in the body causing disruption.  Take a look at some of the chemicals in plastics contributing to ill health:

BPA (bisphenol A) – has been shown to have many effects in the body and can be found in the urine of a large percentage of the population.  It has hormone disruptive properties and is implicated in poor thyroid health as well as early sexual maturation, decreased male fertility and aggressive behaviour. It has been removed from use in baby bottles and other packaging – indicating its detrimental effects.

DEHP (di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate) –  used in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) products, may leach out of plastics and has been found to have a number of negative impacts on health including changes to the female and male reproductive systems, increased waist circumference and insulin resistance.  The plastic industry has made some movements towards replacing DEHP but unfortunately the replacements also seem to have negative effects.

DINP (Diisononyl phthalate) and DIDP (di-isodecyl-phthalate)–  are derivatives of DEHP and are commonly used instead of DEHP, this group of chemicals are amongst the phthalate group of compounds.  Studies have indicated that, like DEHP, they also have a contributing effect on poor blood sugar control, insulin resistance and high blood pressure.

Reduce your plastic footprint (and chemicals hazardous to health!)

Use reusable shopping bags – go for a trendy cotton bag that can be washed rather than a re-usable plastic bag.

Buy in bulk – a 5kg bag of oats or rice will only come in one bag, they often work out cheaper in the long term and can be stored in large glass containers.

Where possible use glass containers and refill them with food and drink.  Glass water bottles can be refilled with filtered water rather than purchasing another disposable bottle of water. Fill up your jars, paper bags or hessian bags with fruit, vegetables and herbs sold loose from the greengrocer or farm shop.  Nuts, seeds, dried fruit and grains can be found in independent health stores that allow you to refill your own containers.

Say no to disposable coffee and tea cups – if you are a tea Jenny or can’t face the day without your coffee on the go then invest in a reusable bamboo cup.  These come in many shapes, sizes and colours and are lightweight and easy to carry with you.

Refill your laundry liquid and washing up liquid bottles – companies such as Ecover have made it their mission to not only select better plastics but to reduce their use by offering massive boxes of common household cleaning fluids that can be decanted.  Many reputable heath stores offer this service.

Buy your shampoo and conditioner in 5 litre bottles – this can reduce bottle waste by a massive 9-12 bottles!

Swap your plastic toothbrush for a bamboo one.

Lunching on the move? Swap plastic forks, knives and spoons for wooden ones or even better carry your own cutlery with you! Taking your own lunch will also mean that you get the benefits of a healthier lunch and avoid the plastic packaging on a shop bought lunch.

These are just a few ideas –get creative and inventive – look after the planet and your health.