Eliminating Plastic From Your Home
By Sadira Sittampalam
Plastic is everywhere these days. In the ocean, falling from the snow in the Alps, inside your home, and even inside your faeces. We can’t seem to get rid of it and it is because we as humans have managed to make plastic such an integral part of our lives. Microplastics, in particular, are the type of plastic that has managed to make its way inside our bodies which has been found to be through things like inhaling the plastic in our furniture, carpets, etc. as well as through the leaching of plastic in plastic containers into our food.
While you might be thinking - what’s wrong with having a little plastic in our bodies? Its effects are a lot more dangerous than you would think as it can lead to cancer, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic inflammation, auto-immune conditions, neurodegenerative diseases, and stroke. Thus, it is imperative that we try to limit the amount of plastic we use, especially in our homes, as we spend most of our lives there.
Plastic in your kitchen
The first step is making sure that all the things you eat and drink out of do not contain plastic. Always use ceramic/metal plates and glass water bottles and glasses (this goes for your pets too). It should go without saying at this point, but never reuse single-use water bottles, as the plastic does leech into the water very easily if the bottle is heated or scratched. Meanwhile, while it is said that the regular reusable plastic bottles are safe for use since they are ‘BPA free’ this is because it has been replaced with a similar chemical BPS or some other such ‘BP’ type chemical, which although not AS harmful, is still pretty harmful. This is why your best bet is to get rid of whatever plastics you possibly can, as while most products are advertised as being safe, they do contain harmful effects that we are just starting to discover.
In addition, you should be aiming to get rid of any plastic containers you have to keep leftover food. Instead, opt for some pyrex food storage containers which are handy, safe, and easy to put in the microwave to reheat your food. The only issue is the lid is still plastic, but its contact with the food is limited and you won’t be heating the lid at all, so plastic leeching is kept to a minimum. You can also invest in some stainless steel containers which are also very safe but you can’t just pop them in the microwave.
I don’t know how most people store their spices, but in my family, we used to keep all our spices in old plastic containers like old mayonnaise bottles. When we decided to limit our plastic usage, we started storing our spices in the small Nescafe instant coffee glass bottles and in another brand of mayonnaise that was sold in a glass bottle. You can decide on whatever suits you personally, but this made a lot of sense as we would be saving and reusing lots of glass items while also reducing the plastic in our home. Overall, you just need to take note of all the items in your kitchen and try and find storage alternatives that are made from natural materials like glass, metal, or wood.
You should also try and avoid using non-stick pots and pans as while the coating is perfect for all your favourite foods, non-stick coatings like Teflon are quite harmful. Health agencies had raised concerns about the compound PFOA, which was previously used to make Teflon. After 2013, most non-stick and Teflon cookware has been PFOA-free, however, there is still research to be done on the alternative compound used – which more often than not, will have similar effects as PFOA as it is designed for the same function.
Plastic in your wardrobe
While you would expect more microplastics to enter your body through ingestion, we actually breathe a lot more microplastics than we eat. A study in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology highlighted that microfibers were by far the most commonly found type of plastic in our bodies. Microfibers are shed from things like textiles such as nylon or polyester. These are often washed off clothes and enter the ecosystem through washing machine wastewater.
This is why it should be your priority to buy goods made of natural fibres as engineered fabrics like vinyl, nylon, spandex, fleece, rayon and polyester are all made of plastic. While it isn’t very practical to just suddenly rehaul your whole wardrobe and buy a new one from scratch, it is good to only buy natural fibres from now on. Moreover, clothes with natural fibres such as cotton, hemp, bamboo, linen, viscose, and silk are often of higher quality and last a lot longer than synthetic fabrics, so even if they are a little more on the expensive side, they are much more durable meaning you won’t be replacing them any time soon.
Plastic in your bedroom
Your bedroom is where you spend at least a third of your life, which means that you really should be trying to keep it as plastic-free as you can. Decide to replace all your synthetic beddings, carpets, pillows, and mattresses that contain harmful chemicals when you can as there are plenty of alternatives that you can purchase. Sheep wool stuffed pillows are naturally anti-microbial, dust mite resistant, and hypoallergenic. You can also get a nice wool blanket, an all linen quilt, or some silk sheets if your wallet can stand the weight.
For mattresses, you are going to have to get rid of your precious memory foam as while they may be comfy, they are full of synthetic products. However, you will be pleased to know that foam, in general, is not very good for sleeping as foam and plastic do not breathe well. Meanwhile, wool and cotton fibres breathe well and naturally wick away moisture. No matter the advanced technology in your foam mattress, it will never be able to do it as well as a natural counterpart.
Carpeting is also a huge issue when it comes to plastic and other toxic compounds. While the older carpets have been deemed terribly for your health, newer carpets are still just as bad. Much of conventional new carpeting is made from problematic material, especially the backings. Styrene-Butadiene backings are the most common and are made with a polycarbonate which has been linked to cancer. The most important factor when seeking out a new carpet is to check on the many treatments that carpet manufacturers use. It usually has the same liquid repelling technology as non-stick cookware, which is why you should always be wary. Thus, it is always better to go with a natural carpet, with wool being the most preferred.
Overall, the point of this article is to slowly usher you into a more plastic-free lifestyle, particularly when considering your health is at risk. However, at the same time, plastic is also a huge issue for the environment, which is why when you are replacing your household items with non-plastic items, you shouldn’t just throw your plastic items away. After all, for someone else less fortunate, having a plastic storage container is a lot better than not having one at all. Thus, take your time to donate any plastic items you have as throwing them away will only have them end up in a landfill somewhere.