The Plastic Detox: Why It's Bad & How You Can Replace It
Let’s talk plastics. Or rather, getting rid of them. The gross, icky, indestructible, insidious plastics that no matter what we do, just can’t seem to avoid. Kind of like the first boyfriend you broke up with, but way worse. Chances are you’re sipping on your iced chai latte right now with either a plastic straw or out of a plastic cup. I mean, sure, the convenience is cool and all, but at what cost? I think we all know that we’ve got to do better. And better starts with conscious choices and deliberate action.
Every bit of plastic ever produced still remains on the Earth today.
And, in the last ten years, we’ve made more plastic than we did in the entire century before that. That’s super overwhelming. And half of these plastic products are considered disposable. But wait, how can a disposable product be made out of an indestructible material? Seriously, WHERE. DOES. IT. GO? But you see, plastic doesn’t go away. Ever. Instead of biodegrading, it breaks up into tiny little pieces, and a whopping amount of it ends up in our oceans, only to be eaten by the fish that we will eventually digest. Talk about a cycle of doom, am I right? I don’t know about you, but I don’t really relish in the idea of eating trash and toxins.
38 million pieces of plastic cover the remote and uninhabited Henderson Island.
The planet operates at it’s best when the ecosystem is synergistically moving as it should. Unfortunately, humans have kind of f**ked that up. Before plastic even ends up in our oceans, it’s birthed through a highly intensive oil process: 63 billion gallons of oil are used each year, just to supply the United States with plastic water bottles. More than 90% of which are used only once.
Yep, that’s right - we throw away 38 billion water bottles each year - just a fraction of the combined 8 million tons of all plastic that we dump into the oceans annually.
Well done, humans.
Most of the plastic in the ocean is leaked from land based sources - so even if you don’t live near water, chances are your plastic has found its way there. Garbage thrown away in the U.S. can make it all the way to Antartica, pulling the plastic in different directions, so that one country’s garbage washes up in another’s backyard.
There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic already in the surface layer of the ocean.
Don’t worry, there’s more. One water bottle or plastic straw has the potential to break up into thousands of tiny, brittle pieces. Enter, microplastics. Over time, the sun’s UV light, ocean wave action, and salt, break these larger pieces down into what they call, microplastics. At their largest, they’re about the size of your pinky nail, and look a lot like food to marine life.
Microbeads are a big source of these tiny plastics. You know about microbeads, right? They’re the little bite-sized beads used in common exfoliating face scrubs, toothpastes, and cosmetics. They’re also the devil. Microplastics have been shown to absorb toxic chemicals linked to cancer and other diseases, which continue to release when consumed by fish and mammals. They're also most likely coming out of your clothes in the wash. Wait, say what? Yep, bet you didn't know that there are tiny plastic fibers in your yoga pants. Or any of your other clothes that contain virgin synthetic fibers like fleece, acrylic, and polyester. Each synthetic garment emits 1,900 microscopic plastic fibers when machine washed. An estimated 1 million tons of these are discharged into wastewater each year, where more than half evade treatment and end up in the environment where they'll eventually be eaten by marine life.
25% of the marine fish species globally contain ingested plastic.
These plastics are mini magnets for all of the toxins that are free-floating in the ocean. So, when the fish eat the plastics, those chemicals migrate from the plastic into the bloodstream, and eventually into the muscles of the fish. And then, we eat it. Bon Appétit! When you eat shellfish, you’re often eating the entire animal, so you’re more than likely to eat plastic. Ugh, will dollar oyster happy hour ever be the same again?! And it’s not just the fish - 90% of all seabirds have swallowed plastic at some time in their lives, and sea turtles often mistake plastic bags for jelly fish. It’s safe to say, our plastic consumption is literally killing these animals.
But it's not only harming the animals, it's threatening human health also. Unfortunately, chemicals from plastics have become a constant part of our daily diet. We call this the Plastic Invasion.
Beyond the packaging and bags, the shampoo bottles and candy wrappers, is a realm of invisible plastic: tiny fibers, fragments, and chemical byproducts that infiltrate every aspect of daily life. It's in the air around you, the rivers and oceans, the food you eat, and the water you drink. It's literally everywhere. In a recent study conducted by Orb Media, researchers found that 83% of tap water samples taken worldwide tested positive for microscopic plastic fibers. And alarmingly, governments have still not examined what plastic presence in drinking water, food, and the air might mean for human health.
Majority of the plastic in the ocean sinks to the bottom, so the floors of our seas are literally lined with plastic trash. Picture that for a second. These giant, plastic filled, landfills at the bottom of the ocean. 70% of the oxygen we breathe is produced by ocean marine plants. So, umm, why are we polluting it?
In some areas of the deep blue, there’s actually more plastic than plankton.
No one knows exactly how much plastic has accumulated in the sea over the last 50 years - but one thing’s for sure, the pace has picked up. The 1950s introduced us to throwaway living - “liberate the housewife from doing dishes - buy plastic plates!” But, there’s a problem with that logic. There is no such thing as disposable. There is no away. By 2025, 10 times more plastic each year is estimated to be dumped into our ocean.
We’re not down for that. Avoiding plastic can be hard, but we’re up for the challenge. Ladies, let’s break up with plastic. Here are a few ways to help you get started:
1. STOP USING PLASTIC BAGS
Seriously, don’t be a dick. There’s really no excuse to still be bagging your groceries with the clear devil. We use 1 trillion plastic bags each year - that’s nearly 2 million a minute. Each with a typical use time of 12 minutes. Ridonculous, if you ask me. There are a bunch of reusable alternatives, and you can even get really cute and fancy if you want.
2. DON’T BAG YOUR FRUIT & VEG
Those plastic veggie bags at the grocery store? They’re completely unnecessary. You can wash your produce when you get home. It’ll taste the same, I swear. And if you still like it packed for organizational purposes in the checkout line, check these babies out instead.
3. IF YOU MUST, BUY IN BULK
Plastic packaging for food makes up the majority of municipal waste in America , with 80 million tons of waste every year deriving from plastic food packaging. It’s near impossible to avoid, but there are alternatives. Look for foods packaged in biodegradable and compostable materials instead, and if you must buy food in plastic like yogurt and cheese, buy larger servings.
4. KNOW WHERE PLASTIC LIVES
Plastic can be where you least expect it. Coffee pods? Yep. Dryer sheets. Yep. Anything that you’ll only use once, will most likely contain plastic. Know where it is, so you can cut it out for good.
5. RECYCLE RECYLE RECYLE
Though we’d all like to live a zero-waste kind of life. Chances are, we’re just not quite there yet. When you do throw out your trash, always sort it. Don’t put your plastic rubbish in a dumpster where it’s going to end up in a landfill. Americans discard about 34 million tons of plastic each year, and only 7% of that is recycled. That ratio is way off - let’s change it.
6. SWITCH TO THE BAR
Bar soap is an excellent alternative to liquid soap or body wash because it isn’t packaged in a plastic container. Plus, there are some great vegan options available.
7. THINK REUSABLE
Grab yourself a reusable water bottle because the marine life is sick of eating your plastic ones. Oh, and add in a reusable coffee cup while you’re at it. They have those pesky plastic lids that we often forget about. Don’t forget to take it to your favorite coffee spot so they can fill it up! Look at you go, you eco warrior you.
Glass is going to be your new BFF - sans the constant boy drama and borrowing of your clothes. Glass is a superhero alternative to many plastic products. Glass Tupperware? We think, yes. Mason Jars can literally be used to store EVERYTHING. And this way, you won’t have to worry about chemicals leaching into your food. Yay!
9. STOP CHEWING ON YOUR STRAW
It’s juvenile. LOL. What am I saying? I do that shit all the time. On the real though, plastic straws are a menace. And they’re totally useless. You don’t need a straw to drink anything, and yet, Americans use 5 million of them daily. Not going to lie though, sometimes I just genuinely like drinking out of a straw. If you feel the same, opt for either a glass or stainless steel option. You can reuse it forever, and it’s small enough to fit in your purse when you go out to eat.
10. YOU HAVE YOUR HANDS ON PLASTIC ALL DAY
Your phone case. It’s made out of plastic, and it doesn’t even need to be. Opt for an alternative eco-friendly phone case instead. Let’s be honest, if there’s an eco-alternative to anything, you should be on that.
11. DITCH THE DISPOSABLES
We all love a good night in with some take-out and a nice bottle of pinot, but it’s time to ditch the disposables. 100 billion pieces of plastic utensils are used and thrown out each year. Tell the restaurant you’re ordering from that you don’t want none of that. I’m pretty sure we’ve all got knives and forks at home, no?
These are all great ways to start our plastic detox, but what we really need is a paradigm reset. A shift in the perception of plastic as an inevitable everyday item. We need to question what we really need. I’m not asking you to get all hipster on me and start making your own toothpaste, or trade in your red lipstick for beet-stained lips. But I am asking you to make an active effort to avoid plastic wherever you can.
As humans, we’ve adopted the ethos that we’re fleeting passengers on this planet. We won’t be here to deal with the repercussions of our actions, so f**k it. It’s time to put an end to that mentality. It’s time to give a damn. Pressure your local government. Let them know you want them to develop legislation and policy that best achieves the aim of reducing plastic in our ocean. Tell them what you think. Scream it from the rooftops. Inform your gal pals. And your boy pals. Think reusable - not disposable. And always always always refuse single-use plastics.
We have no right to destroy this planet. No right to murder innocent and important animals. No right to use the ocean as a channel for our plastic addiction. And no right to make our children suffer the effects of our fatal decisions.
Join us in making the switch. Together we can change this shit, babe.
Visit Plastic Oceans to learn more.