As most of us know, plastic packaging has detrimental impacts on the natural and marine environment and wildlife. Over time, plastics are broken down into small particles such as microplastics and phthalates and impact soil and water health. Although plastics breakdown into smaller pieces, they never actually naturally biodegrade and therefore result in ruining natural environments and decreasing animal populations.
Plastics are ingested by animals such as marine mammals and birds and can lead to suffocation, starvation and death, with an estimation of 100 million marine mammals dying each year from plastic waste. Humans ingest micro-plastics by drinking contaminated water and eating fish and, due to plastics being so prominent in packaging, it is seen that we take in large amounts of BPA (Bisphenol A), PVC and phthalates.
BPA is an industrial chemical that has been used since the 1950s to make certain plastics and resins and is found in packaging such as water bottles, vegetables/fruits packaged in plastic, canned foods, toiletries, feminine hygiene products, perfume, CDs and DVDs, this is but to name a few. When entering the human body, BPA can have serious repercussions on human health with hormone functions being particularly affected. An article by The Guardian discusses phthalates saying that “In the past few years, researchers have linked phthalates to asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity and type II diabetes, low IQ , neurodevelopmental issues, behavioural issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues.”
In the coming years it is vital that we alter our consumer habits to purchasing items with a more sustainable approached packaging and organic ingredients. A drastic development in this area of production will not only conserve the natural and marine environment and wildlife but will lead people to healthier and longer lives. Sustainable packaging such as plant based, biodegradable, glass, recycled plastic, paper and cardboard are all materials currently in use, but it is the promotion of packaging such as biodegradable peanut packaging (replacing Styrofoam), corrugated bubble wrap (made with recycled cardboard instead of plastic), air pillows made of recycled plastics, corn-starch/mushroom/seaweed packaging and organic fabrics that will truly lead the major transition from plastic packaging to sustainable packaging.
Production manufacturers must become knowledgeable of the wide range of sustainable materials that exist to choose from. Until these manufacturers decide to change their production methods, we must become more mindful of what and how we consume items in our day to day lives in order to decrease plastic pollution in the ocean and keep marine mammals healthy, which will in turn keep us healthy too!
Head to this link to find a guide to Marine Plastic Pollution and packaging solutions!