Would you like some more plastic with that?

I am reminded whilst spreading my jar of plastics from the month of July out over my coffee table just how much this petroleum-based product infiltrates every corner of our lives. It’s a massive challenge to do anything from downtime to kitchen time or even to care of our own health without plastics… which I’m starting to realise, is at odds with one another.

Health and hospitals carry a big plastic footprint, which I’ve managed to avoid most of my life. Except for last month when I had my first trip to an operating room to get my wisdom teeth out. The whole process from dentist to orthodontist to surgeon was a big eye opener in the number of packets opened, syringes used and plastic cups I was asked to drink from. (We clearly need to get Rachel Shields, a Mental Health Clinical Advisor at Bentley Health Service in WA, over here to implement changes to save 70,000 plastic cups from ending up in landfill annually.)

I know there’s a justified reason for using plastics in health, but it doesn’t make the wastage any more bearable. Especially when I look at the other end of the spectrum of chocolates and tea.

Of course there are a bundle of ways to enjoy these two delights sans plastic. But I dropped the ball completely on this just within the first few days of PFJ; accepting a seeming innocent offer of Lindt balls only to realise while savouring the melting chocolate in my mouth that in my hands was the crinkle of wrappers.

My Earl Grey tea bag was a similar story. I’m usually a loose leaf gal but forget that an offer of tea often follows a bag and most teabags, particularly the square standard bags, are lined with a thin film of polypropylene to seal the sides together. 

Polypropylene is a thermoplastic and is represented by the recycling identification symbol 5. The material generates an annual market of 45 million metric tonnes with demand expected to rise to 62 million metric tons by 2020[1]. One guess who the major end user is?

The packaging industry!

Polypropylene (PP) is praised like an ancient god in the packaging industry for its versatility, strength and affordability. It has a melting point of 130 degrees Celsius which appears to make it quite durable for everyday use.

Reading about the effects of heating polypropylene and melamine resin (common plastics used for yogurt containers, picnic sets and even in baby formula[2]), studies and doctors are continually sited as saying the risk of toxins leaching is “pretty low” and that PP “doesn’t seem to leach many of the chemicals other plastics do”[3].

Ok, so ‘the risk is low’… but when we’re in contact with plastics from the moment we open our eyes to the second we close them at night, 365 days a year, for our entire lives, is the risk still low? Sipping on takeaway coffee lids, eating takeaway noodle soups, plastic particles have even been found in beer and flour… is the risk still low? Surely the concentration of these toxins build up in our system.

Many of you will think I’m some crazed, skeptic, greeny looking to put a hole through anything that comes from a non-renewable industry but look at the rise of infertility, prostrate and breast cancer, the dropping age of puberty in young girls and increased hyperactivity in kids since the 50’s… coincidentally when plastics came into common place for households.

Tell me how no connection can be made?

I started out on this plastic-free journey in an attempt to reduce my impact on the marine environment, but the more I’m immersed the more I realise it might actually be doing me quite a bit of good. Not surprising really, the more I do this stuff the more I realise that personal sacrifices for the environment reward me in bigger and better ways than I could have thought.

So although my coffee table is pretty full I’m going to continue on this plastic-free living venture. I will endeavor to be more conscience because that’s all I can do, each and everyday. Whatever you do to reduce your impact is better than nothing, so give it a crack... don’t wait until next July!


Here’s a list of all the plastics I used in July (see picture above):

-       1 x syringe packet

-       1 x syringe

-       1 x early grey + tea bag

-       1 x celery bag

-       2 x lindt balls

-       1 x balsamic vinegar plastic lid wrapping

-       1 x balsamic lid

-       1 x eyedrops

-       1 x milk/juice lid

-       3 x unidentifiable generic plastic

-       3 x clothing tags

-       2 x floss

-       1 x tongs packet

-       1 x biscuit packet


[1] https://www.creativemechanisms.com/blog/all-about-polypropylene-pp-plastic

[2] http://www.abc.net.au/health/talkinghealth/factbuster/stories/2013/04/23/3737325.htm

[3] http://www.alternet.org/personal-health/toxic-traps-when-these-7-types-plastic-are-dangerous

Anna Jane Linke