Dangers of Plastics
Why You Should Reduce The Amount of
Plastic You Use
What are the dangers of plastics? Plastic rules the world, look around at everything in your home. From your kitchen, home office to the bathroom, you cannot avoid materials and products which are made from plastic. It is no surprise that our landfill sites are heaving with plastic products.
Plastic is damaging in a number of ways from manufacture to disposal, the following list looks at some of the dangers of plastics:
- Production requires high levels of energy for chemical processing which deplete non renewable energy resources e.g. fossil fuels
- Plastic resins are created by using non renewable natural resources e.g. petroleum
- Production of chemicals releases VOCs and dangerous emissions which pollute the air
- Particles of plastic make their way into the oceans, polluting the water and are toxic to sea life. Plastics have been identified as the cause for hormonal disruption in fish
- Throughout the lifecycle VOCs will be released in your home and workplace, placing your health and wellbeing at risk
- At the end of the lifecycle, non recyclable plastics are thrown into landfill sites where they do not degrade – continually releasing VOCs which add to air pollution
- Overall extremely high embodied energy levels
Is Recycled Plastic Better?
Some types of plastic can be recycled – good news? Well, it probably won’t be recycled into the same product as before e.g. a water bottle won’t be recycled into another water bottle. It will be processed into a secondary less useable product – this process is known as downcycling. This is an important fact to consider, as the materials that plastic products are made from are virgin materials. This means they do not contain any recycled content and were manufactured from newly processed plastic. In effect recycling water bottles does not reduce the use of energy and resources in the bottled water industry.
Once plastic has been recycled into a secondary product, it cannot be recycled for a third and fourth time. This creates more waste than you think, as eventually the same amount of material that was produced finds its way into a landfill site, just a little delayed. So, instead of focusing your thoughts on recycling plastic, you should be focusing on how to reduce your plastic use overall - this really is healthy living.
You can take steps to reduce the dangers of plastics in your home quite easily. Packaging would be a good place to start as this applies to all areas of life, not just interior design. You can choose products which don’t have vast amounts of packaging, are in recycled packaging, are in packaging which can be recycled like card, paper etc or are in packaging which is biodegradable. You can even refuse plastic packaging like bags at the checkout or avoid using them for loose produce. Stop buying plastic containers for the kitchen and stick to glass.
Plastic shopping bags (up to 1000 years to degrade)
Alternatives: Use reusable and durable canvas, cotton, hemp or natural fibre bags
Plastic waste bags (up to 1000 years to degrade)
Alternatives: Biodegradable waste bags for bins and dustbins. Empty your rubbish directly into the dustbin.
Plastic water bottles (400 - 1000 years to degrade)
Alternatives: Get a filtered water tap installed into your kitchen at home and work so you never have to buy bottled mineral water again. Change back to drinking the tap water. Check with your local water supplier if it is safe to do so. You may be surprised to find out it is safer to drink than bottled water. Buy an aluminium or stainless steel reusable water bottle.
Disposable plastic (up to 1000 years to degrade)
Items like plastic toothpicks, plastic pens, plastic cutlery and plastic razor blades should be avoided. Alternative: Use more permanent products.
Buy Less Plastic
Another way which outweighs them all is to simply buy less. Don’t get carried away with consumerism, trends and our throwaway society – even when the adverts on TV and glossy interiors magazines persuade you otherwise. Do you really need everything you buy? If you choose to ‘buy to last’ you will probably avoid cheaper plastic products and look for quality, sustainable alternatives. This reduces the amount of things you buy, the amount of packaging you inadvertently buy, the need for excessive manufacture and helps prevent greedy consumerism taking over the world. All in all consumerism is damaging to your health, wellbeing and the natural environment.
Thinking further about interior design and interior architecture, when choosing materials and products you can avoid plastic components and opt for natural alternatives instead. Plastics are found everywhere in your interior; welcome mats, fibres in your sofa fabric, carpet backing, water based paints, particle board, lampshades, shower curtains, furniture, storage and furnishings. The responsibility of reducing or eliminating plastic from your home and lifestyle falls within your role as the eco decorating enthusiast as well as the professional interior designer. Less plastic will ensure that you are on your way to a more sustainable and healthy lifestyle.
For more information on the green alternatives available please read the articles within the eco materials, eco flooring, eco finishes and eco products webpages. If you would like further information on the dangers of plastics, expert advice or help with your own interior on how to reduce plastic in your home or workplace please contact me.