What Are the Alternatives to Plastics?
Dec 14 2021
Since the invention of the first synthetic plastic over 100 years ago, these hardy and highly versatile materials have come to dominate our lives. You’ll find them in the packaging your food is sold in, the clothing you have on your back and even the device upon which you’re reading this article. Simply put, plastics are everywhere – and they’re extremely bad for our health, the environment and the other organisms which call it home.
Clearly, then, our rampant obsession with plastic is unsustainable. We all know we must reduce our consumption of this highly polluting substance as best we can, but how exactly can we follow the lead of climate scientists and environmentalists and cut plastics out of our lives? While doing so entirely might be a bridge too far for many people, here are a handful of alternatives that you can begin substituting for plastic in your daily life to improve your carbon footprint and reduce your plastic consumption.
While plastics are constructed from damaging fossil fuels like oil, coal and gas, glass is made from sand. Sure, the refining process which goes into creating glass is environmentally damaging in itself, but as long as it doesn’t smash, glass has a far longer shelf-life than plastic. It can also be 100% recycled into new glass items, unlike plastic, which always requires combination with new elements to make it reusable. Leave the plastic bottles behind and go for glass next time you have the opportunity.
It has now been illegal for supermarkets and grocery stores of a certain size to provide their customers with single-use plastic bags without charging them a fee for some years, and the introduction of the levy saw plastic bag consumption fall dramatically. As a natural material which is both durable and practical, hemp is an excellent alternative to plastic which can be folded up to fit in your pocket and is strong enough to carry heavy loads.
Have you ever considered the environmental impact of brushing your teeth? While we’re not suggesting you should eschew dental hygiene altogether, the plastic bristles and handle of your toothbrush are not recyclable and will only add to the mountains of plastic waste that is released into the environment every year. Given that certain plastics don’t break down naturally for a millennium or more, switching to bamboo toothbrushes is an easy fix that can curb your plastic profile in a small but meaningful way.
Okay, okay, okay – this one sounds far-fetched. However, scientists have been working on a number of plastic alternatives made from natural materials and liquid wood is one such promising avenue of research. It works by mixing lignin (which is a by-product created during the processing of wood into paper) with water, then subjecting it to extreme heat and pressure. The end product? A biopolymer plastic alternative that’s nontoxic and biodegradable, whilst still being strong. Liquid wood to the rescue!
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