Reducing Plastics in the Home

Plastic

So, I read a series of articles about 2 weeks ago the seriously skeeved me out. The start of my trip down a microplastics rabbit hole was this article, this article, and this article. All of them are based on a study by University of Newcastle in Australia and commissioned by World Wildlife Fund (WWF).The synopsis is this: On average, every person on this planet is consuming about 5 grams of microplastic every week. Or, about 2,000 tiny pieces. To put this in perspective, that’s about a teaspoon, or roughly the same weight as a credit card. In a week. In a year, that adds up to over a cup of microplastic, or 52 credit cards. Ew. Not okay, ladies and gents. Not okay.

Just to make the horror even more fun, one article states that there were (obviously) “large regional variations”, and that those in the US and India consumed an average of TWICE as much as individuals in Europe and Indonesia. So, 2 teaspoons/credit cards per week (or 4,000 tiny pieces) or more than 2 cups/104 credit cards per year. Double Ew. Can y’all even imagine a stack of 104 credit cards?! IN YOUR GUTS?!

Then I stumbled on a similar study that found that “annual microplastics consumption ranges from 39000 to 52000 particles”, or between 750 – 1,000 particles per week. At first, this sounds like an improvement. Then you get to this part:

“These estimates increase to 74000 and 121000 when inhalation is considered. Additionally, individuals who meet their recommended water intake through only bottled sources may be ingesting an additional 90000 microplastics annually, compared to 4000 microplastics for those who consume only tap water. […](T)hese values are likely underestimates.”

So, inhalation (i.e. – breathing) increases the number of particles to between 1,423 – 2,327 particles each week. If you drink only bottled water, you add an additional 1,731 particles per week. So, a total of 3,154 – 4,058 particles. Every week. Which pretty much validates the first study and slew of articles I read. Color me horrified.

It gets better. Oh yes.

Because I went down the rabbit hole, I stumbled on another article about microplastics pollution, and the resulting health and environmental effects. The rosy news there was that microplastics have completely polluted our soil and water… and even our air. That article reference yet another study about microplastics and earthworms, which found that microplastics caused “increased gut inflammation, slower growth and higher mortality.”  Wait… autoimmune response and gut damage? Sounds eerily similar to problems happening on a large scale in the human population.

So, what’s a Housewife to do?

Purge all the things, that’s what.

Since it seems that a huge chunk of the ingested particles were from bottled water, I felt a little bit better. We drink solely from a Berkey water filter, and use only stainless steel water bottles when we need to take water with us. Hopefully that puts me and my family in a little bit better position.

It seems that the next highest source was seafood. Sea life eats the microplastic particles, sometimes even crossing the fish’s blood-brain barrier, and then we eat the seafood. Gross, right? Other than eating farm raised seafood or limiting seafood altogether, I really don’t see a way around that one.

Next was from sea salt. Sea salt contained large amounts of microplastics, for the same reason as seafood – polluted sea water. We’ve been using Himalayan pink salt exclusively for years, and we love it. I have no intention of ever switching. We buy a 5 pound bag about every other year (and store it in a glass mason jar), and use these grinders to grind it. I love them, too.

So, those cover the main bases, right? What else?

My research indicated that product packaging was the next largest concern, followed closely by food storage.

So what can I control, and what can I not control? I can search things out that are packaged in cardboard or paper – and then recycle or compost that packaging. If there is something that has unavoidable plastic packaging, the best thing you can do is to get it out of the plastic. Put it in glass or stainless. There are also silicone containers, which is probably pretty great for short term storage.

I can also use reusable cotton produce bags instead of those awful plastic produce bags.

Food storage is hard for me. I’ve used only Pyrex for years, and overall I like them. They do have plastic lids, and they absolutely degrade over time. I would definitely advocate for anyone using plastic lids to replace them as soon as they are showing signs of degradation, or getting brittle. There are some glass storage containers that come with silicone lids now, so those could also be an option. Many use and enjoy stainless steel food storage containers. I have no experience with them, but I’m super intrigued.

I don’t know guys. What are your thoughts? Has this been a concern for you? Is it now? How are you or how do you plan to address it?

I’ll keep you all filled in on the journey to ditching the plastic (hopefully) completely.

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Reducing Plastics in the Home

  1. Nicole – good and thoughtful article. We live on the ocean. Lobsters are caught right in front of our house, but we don’t eat them, for the reasons that you mentioned.
    We also have a salt manufacturing plant in town, but we don’t buy that salt either, for the reason that you mentioned.
    I remember living in France and doing my grocery shopping and using string bags to carry my groceries. Plastic has become a four letter word now, and rightly so. We all need to be aware, as you are, of what changes all of us can make in our lives. Thanks for writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting Sally – it’s good to see you again! It’s a sad thing to have to watch lobsters being caught right in front of your home, and know they aren’t safe to eat. There are two components to this plastic problem – the environmental issue and the health issue. Inherently intertwined, they are sad, frightening, and unfortunately posed to get worse. I try to always be both pragmatic and optimistic when facing an issue. The reality is that it’s a big problem, but one that I truly believe CAN be solved… but we all have to do our part.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

      Like

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