Plastic is bad. The British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists declared that women ought to adopt a “precautionary approach” and steer clear of food in plastic containers or cans where feasible because there was “considerable uncertainty about the risks of chemical exposure.”
More than half of plastics are classified as hazardous according to the United Nations. The principal danger of plastics is down to the endocrine disruptors that occur in some, which can disturb fertility and foetal development and has been linked to sexual dysfunction, heart disease and breast and prostate cancer. There are others who say that children and all women of child-bearing age should also avoid plastic. Bisphemol A, a chemical that has been used to make plastic since the 1960s, has been banned from baby care products.
Beyond the health implications of plastics, there is also the fact that while you only hold it in your hand for seconds, it can then pollute an ecosystem for four-and-a-half centuries, killing animals. Less than a quarter of the 2.5 million tons of plastic packaging used in the United Kingdom each year – 88 pounds per household – is recycled. Worldwide, the use of plastics is growing inexorably. Another negative factor is the fossil fuels and other chemicals employed in the manufacture of plastics.
A plasticarian attempts to live without plastic. Although the word sounds like it refers to people who eat plastic, it’s catching on, popping up in news searches with some regularity and getting 22,600 hits on Google and an entry in the Urban Dictionary. The Guardian and Indie both ran stories about plasticarians in recent times.
Plastic Free July was staged in various countries to encourage people to consume no single-use plastic for one month. Participants were asked to keep a dilemma bag containing the plastics they were unable to avoid.
To become completely plastic-free, you’d have to leave western society altogether, and while a large chunk of the world’s population lives that way, it wouldn’t be much fun. To minimise your plastic guilt, you should avoid what we incorrectly term disposables such as bottled mineral water and throwaway plastic cups and plates, ask for drinks without a straw and limit yourself to plastics you can recycle easily. A travel mug means you don’t need plastic cups. Small, local shops are more likely to sell fruit and vegetables sans layers of plastic. Containers can be returned to their supplier for re-use. Cooking from scratch uses less packaging. Toothbrushes and soap are harder, but toothbrushes can be wooden and you can make your own soap. Getting music from iTunes means no CDs and the associated packaging.
Timothy Chilman used to work in IT. Once, in Sydney, he was turned down for a job because he was “too flamboyant” (“Someone who wears green tartan suspenders to a job interview probably isn’t going to fit in here”). Timothy then became an English teacher. University students in Bangkok complained that he was “too enthusiastic” and company students in Prague complained that he was “too theatrical.”