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Green Tip: Know Your Plastics
by Wendy Gabriel
Editor's Note from Cara Ryan: Wendy's article is well researched and presented in a user friendly way.
GREEN TIP: Plastic is generally toxic to produce, toxic to use, and toxic to dispose of. Learn how you can make safer choices.
Plastic products are everywhere. More and more we are discovering there are health risks that make these convenient products not so desirable. Plastics are releasing harmful chemicals into our air, foods, and drinks.
While studies are showing the health risks of plastics, they are also overtaking our landfills.
Every bit of plastic that has ever been created still exists (except for the little bit that has been incinerated, which releases toxic chemicals). In the ocean, plastic waste is accumulating in giant gyres of debris where, among other thing, fish are ingesting toxic plastic bits at a rate which will soon make them unsafe to eat. Source: Healthy Child Healthy World
According to Healthy Child Healthy World, the best thing to do is to reduce your use of plastic. Look for natural alternatives like textiles, solid wood, bamboo, glass, stainless steel, etc. Also, look for items with less (or no) plastic packaging. If you do buy plastic, opt for products you can recycle or re-purpose (e.g. a yogurt tub can be re-used to store crayons). And, get to know your plastics – starting with this guide:
The most common plastics have a resin code in a chasing arrow symbol (often found on the bottom of the product).
PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate): AVOID
Common Uses: Soda Bottles, Water Bottles, Cooking Oil Bottles
Concerns: Can leach antimony and phthalates.
HDPE (High Density Polyethylene): SAFER
Common Uses: Milk Jugs, Plastic Bags, Yogurt Cups
PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride, aka Vinyl): AVOID
Common Uses: Condiment Bottles, Cling Wrap, Teething Rings, Toys, Shower Curtains
Concerns: Can leach lead and phthalates among other things. Can also off-gas toxic chemicals.
LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene): SAFER
Common Uses: Produce Bags, Food Storage Containers
PP (Polypropylene): SAFER
Common Uses: Bottle Caps, Storage Containers, Dishware, Yogurt Containers
(TIP: You can recycle some of your #5 plastics including your used Brita pitcher filters through Preserve’s Gimme 5 recycling program.)
PS (Polystyrene, aka Styrofoam): AVOID
Common Uses: Meat Trays, Foam Food Containers & Cups
Concerns: Can leach carcinogenic styrene and estrogenic alkylphenols
Other this is a catch-all category which includes:
PC (Polycarbonate): AVOID- can leach Bisphenol-A (BPA). It also includes ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), SAN (Styrene Acrylonitrile), Acrylic, and Polyamide. These plastics can be a safer option because they are typically very durable and resistant to high heat resulting in less leaching. Their drawbacks are that they are not typically recyclable and some need additional safety research. New plant-based, biodegradable plastics like PLA (Polylactic Acid) also fall into the #7 category.
Source: Healthy Child Healthy World
My Green Side’s web pick of the week:
My Plastic Free Life
Beth Terry is the founder of My Plastic Free Life and, upon learning how plastics were adversely impacting wildlife, she decided to try to completely reduce the amount of new plastic that came into her home. This site has tips on how to reduce plastic consumption. Her Top 2 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste: Bring your own shopping bag and give up bottled water.
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About the Author
Wendy Gabriel created the website My Green Side in September of 2007 as a way to remind herself, while hoping to educate others, on how to live thoughtfully and responsibly for our children, ourselves and our planet. The journey she is on has opened her eyes to many simple things we can do to make a big difference in the world around us and in our own homes.
She is a wife to an amazing man and a mother of two awesome little girls. Everything she does is seen through this lens. Her passion for sustainability is a gift from her parents who were green long before it was cool to be green.
If we don’t try harder to live better, we will all languish in a pool of empty plastic bottles.
You can hear Wendy each Wednesday when she brings Simple Tips for Green Living to The Christopher Gabriel Program. You can stream the segment at approximately 1220pm (central) at WDAY.com.