It’s no secret that we completely rely on plastic for virtually everything. Think about it, all of our food, cosmetics, hygiene products, etc. have plastic packaging. In the United States alone, packaging counts for the largest end use market segment accounting for just over 40% of total plastic usage. Additionally, plastics represent 20-25% of landfill weight and takes 450 years to biodegrade naturally. Even though our society has come to depend on plastic due to it’s convenience and low cost, there are alternative solutions to plastic packaging that are healthier for humans and the planet.
Why Plastic Packaging is Harmful to the Environment
Are you wondering “really, how harmful is plastic packaging for the environment?” Well, let me put it into perspective for you:
- The plastic industry has made more than 9.1 billion tons of plastic since 1950
- An estimate of 200,000 barrels of oil are used each day to make plastic packaging in the United States alone
- Plastic bags are the second-most common type of ocean refuse, after cigarette butts
Why Traditional Plastic Packaging is Bad for your Health
There are copious amounts of chemicals in plastic packaging, such as BPA and Phthalates, that are harmful for your health. You may think “I’m not eating the plastic packaging, does it really matter if my food is wrapped in it?” or “My makeup is only sitting in the plastic container, the plastic isn’t actually affecting me, is it?” The answer to both those questions is yes.
Studies done by The Journal of the Yale School of Environmental studies show that BPA and Phthalate exposure can be linked to human health disorders such as ADHD, obesity, allergies, infertility, just to name a few. It’s safe to say that if you do your research, almost any disease can be linked to these chemicals found in plastic.
So yes, technically you aren’t directly inhaling plastic when it’s the packaging to your food or makeup, however, you are exposing yourself to the chemicals that may have been absorbed from the packaging and into the product. Now are you reconsidering plastic packaging? Good! Here are some alternative solutions to standard plastic packaging.
Alternatives to Plastic Packaging
Recycled Cardboard and Paper
An easy alternative to plastic packaging is cardboard boxes or paper. These materials are already probably made out of recycled material and can be recycled over and over again! Unfortunately, there is a catch. If either cardboard or paper have food residue on them, they need to be thrown into the waste bin. Though this is unfortunate, on the bright side these materials are easier to breakdown naturally whereas 1 plastic bag can take up to 1,000 YEARS to breakdown and they still leave toxic chemicals once broken down.
Organic / Mushroom Based
Why not eat your organic food or apply your organic makeup from an organic package, it only makes sense! Organic packaging can be made from mycelium which is a mushroom root, Ecovative is one of the many companies switching to mushroom packaging. This packaging looks like foam but the beauty of it is – it isn’t foam! The fibers in the mushroom bind agriculture waste which creates a packaging like product. Not only is this solution non-toxic (remember the chemicals in plastic packaging we spoke about? Yeah, there’s none here!) but it’s biodegradable, compostable and renewable! This packaging is a win-win for both the earth and humans.
Not a fan of mushrooms? Don’t worry! This packaging doesn’t look, taste or feel like a mushroom, making it virtually impossible to know what the packaging is made of.
How about taking a bite into edible food packaging? Researchers have found a protein based in milk can be made into a durable and flexible film, calling it “casein-based film”. The beauty of this milk protein based packaging is that you can eat it, if you aren’t interesting in eating it – not a problem! This packaging is really easy to break down and isn’t harmful towards the environment.
Fun fact, if you are interested in eating this packaging, some companies that are manufacturing this packaging are adding additional proteins and nutrients to make it healthier. Imagine a world where you not only eat your salad but you eat the packaging as well?
Now that you are more educated on sustainable packaging, are you interested in testing it out yourself? If so, here’s a list of companies that offer just that:
Are you now wondering “What can I do to help? I’m only one person, I can’t start a movement.” WRONG! All it takes is one passionate and educated individual to start a movement. If you share what you just learned with your friends and family, they will most likely pass the message along. Together, we can start a recycling revolution and #DitchThePlastic!