On the 1st of July, 2018, my state of Queensland will ban single-use plastic bags for environmental reasons. Despite being home to the Great Barrier Reef, we were far from the first, trailing Rwanda, Kenya and others. Protecting the environment may be a noble and necessary cause, but it is not the only reason why plastic needs to be phased out of our lives. Our health and longevity, particularly that of our children, makes abandoning plastic all the more important.
Plastics Mimic Oestrogen
Everyone has a level of oestrogen that is optimal for them – whether they are female or male, adults or children. The chemicals in plastics often mimic oestrogen, and can therefore cause health problems related to high levels of the hormone. A study of commercially available products, including those advertised as being BPA free, measured the oestrogenic activity of plastic chemicals that had been leached into saline solutions or extracted with alcohol. Almost every plastic product tested had leached chemicals with detectable oestrogenic activity, and some BPA-free ones were worse than BPA-containing plastics. They mimic oestrogen by their ability to attach to receptors meant for the hormone, and have been found in animal studies to cause a range of issues from early or delayed puberty to reproductive tissue overgrowth.
How Can We Contribute to a Plastic-Free World?
Regardless of how many diseases it has been contributing to, plastic is everywhere, so it will take time to transition away from. We can all start this transition today if we want to, bans or no bans, and here are some ways to start now:
Reusable bags are now a necessity in Queensland and Western Australia when grocery shopping. Branded supermarket bags, however, are not your only option. There are many brands of cotton or synthetic fabric bags (which will save thousands of plastic ones in their lifetime) on the market, and you can make your own too. Don’t forget, you can use them for other purchases such as clothes and shoes.
Reusable produce bags, often made from a net fabric, fill in another gap that Queensland’s plastic ban overlooks. These can be purchased from Norwex, or you can make them for a personal touch.
Reusable coffee cups, straws and non-plastic water bottles can also help save a lot of plastic waste, as well as limiting your direct exposure to chemicals. Some of these items are plastic themselves, so look for ceramic or glass coffee cups, stainless steel or bamboo straws, and glass or stainless steel water bottles. To avoid the additives and contaminants in tap water, there are filters which can be a wonderful investment for your health (the brand I use is the Alps filter – removes even fluoride and re-mineralises water).
Meal prepping helps to avoid the excessive amount of plastic used in takeaway and frozen foods. I never use the one-serve recipes aimed at single people; instead, a recipe that serves four saves me a lot of time. Please remember to cook vegetarian meals or freeze leftovers from the first day; do not give yourself food poisoning.
Other things you can do include buying second-hand electronics such as computers and CDs/DVDs (i.e. me, I forget that non-physical downloads even exist and never end up listening to them); choosing clothes, homewares and furniture made from natural items; and buying products that do not have plastic packaging. These steps can take the most time, as they are further from the public consciousness than single-use plastics.
At the end of the day, this world belongs to us, not the chemical companies. We can save our planet and our own individual lives starting from today if we want to! But when others point out the plastic and other chemicals that you still use, just remember that none of us are perfect; we are all getting a little better each time. If you are experiencing health issues related to long-term toxic exposures, click here or here to contact me for a consultation.