Plastic has us surrounded. It hugs our cereal, holds our bread, wraps our fruit and overwhelms our supermarket aisles. Plastic is found in our cars, our kids’ toys, and our furniture. But did you know plastic is hidden in our wardrobes and even sneaks its way into the food that we eat too?!
If you’re wondering what plastic really is, it is defined as a material made from a range of different compounds that are bendable and moldable. Plastic can be made from non-synthetic compounds that can break down at the end of its life, like plants, but the plastic most common today is made from synthetic compounds, namely: oil. This type of plastic never breaks down, it only breaks up.
Even though plastic only became popular in the 1960s, society is now incredibly dependent on this material. We put it in everything!
Brace yourselves while we describe 6 things that surprisingly contain plastic (the nasty synthetic kind) and how you can do your best to avoid them.
You may think you’re chewing something innocent and flavoursome to freshen your breath, but what you’re really chewing is plastic. It’s yuck, but it’s true!
The plastic used in chewing gum is similar to the type of plastic found in car tyres. Speaking of cars, you know those black circles you see dotted along tar sealed roads? That’s usually chewing gum. Remember, plastic doesn’t break down, so the gum you chew for only 15 minutes will last for many more years.
Plastic loves to hide in teabags. In order to keep tea bags from breaking open and letting tea leaves spoil your cuppa, they are lined with a very thin layer of plastic. Sometimes this layer can be plant based plastic that can break down in your home compost. However, most tea companies are not transparent about the inclusion of plastic in their tea bags; it’s best to avoid them.
Have you ever noticed how shiny some receipts are? Unfortunately, that shininess is plastic. You’d think receipts are merely paper, but like most common items in society, plastic has snuck its way into them too.
How to avoid using receipts: If you can, request no receipt and ask if they can email one to you instead.
If you’re a seafood eater, we have bad news for you. Tiny pieces of plastic 5mm or less in size (defined as microplastics) are found in our oceans, and these pieces are small enough to be ingested by fish. When we eat fish, we ingest microplastics too. Although there is not enough research to determine how and if ingesting plastic is bad for human health, it should definitely be avoided until we know more!
How to avoid eating fish with microplastics: Reduce your fish intake and try plant based fish alternatives.
When you head to the gym in your favourite activewear, you’re walking around in layers of plastic. Synthetic garments made from polyester and nylon (often your stretchy workout tights and general sportswear) are plastic based. When washed, these contribute to the issue of microplastics in our oceans too. See? Plastic truly is everywhere.
How to avoid plastic clothing: Read the labels on your clothing before you make a purchase. Purchase natural fabrics such as cotton or linen.
It’s obvious that envelopes with transparent windows contain plastic, but envelopes with sticky seals contain plastic too. The glue that binds the envelope closed, is commonly a synthetic glue.
How to avoid using envelopes: If sending something digitally isn’t an option for you, use an envelope without a window or a sticky seal. When it comes to receiving mail, ask your friends and vendors (e.g. bank, insurance, power company) to send their correspondence via email.