Note that we wrote “eat less plastic with your food”, not “cut plastic out of your food”. Because, sadly, the latter is no longer possible.
The undeniable fact is that everywhere scientists look for plastic pollution, they’re finding it. Plastic in Antarctica, in sea spray, the Amazon, even in soil in the Swiss Alps. Is it any wonder that microscopic particles are now polluting our food?
The average person eats at least 50,000 particles of microplastic a year, with the true figure potentially many times higher, since that study only looked at a few food groups. An investigation commissioned by the WWF suggested we may be eating the equivalent weight in plastic of a credit card, each and every week!
What’s all this plastic doing to our insides?
We simply don’t know yet. Yet we’re all part of a big experiment to find out.
Researchers suspect that certain plastics may be releasing harmful chemicals, such as bisphenol A (BPA), into our bodies. Scientists have already proved that microplastics can act like miniature magnets for chemical pollutants in the environment, so another worry is that these nasties could be released in our bodies as we digest our food.
Enough of the doom and gloom! Let’s look at what we can actually do to change things…
Five ways to minimise the amount of plastic in your food
If you’ve been reading the Greenredeem blog for any length of time, you’ll know we always try to find those practical actions that we can take to help a situation.
With that in mind, here are five actions that will help us cut down on the plastic particles in our diets:
1. Avoid single use plastics and plastic packaging
The biggie. If we collectively shun avoidable plastics, we can help take at least a little pressure off the environment.
- Put a reusable bag in your day carry-all, in case you decide to pop to the shops.
- Opt for loose fruit and veg whenever possible. Put them in paper or reusable bags for weighing.
- Take your own containers to zero waste or scoop-and-weigh shops.
- Choose products packaged in recyclable card, glass and metal.
- Just say no to single use sauce packets, coffee cups, stirrers – indeed, plastic disposables of all kinds!
It’s unlikely that we’ll be able to avoid all of the plastic, all of the time, yet you may want to make a special effort to steer clear of plastic packaging labelled with the numbers 3, 6 or 7 on the base. These contain the phthalates, styrene and bisphenols that are known to be especially harmful to human health.
2. Drink tap water instead of bottled
Bottled water drinkers have been found to ingest more than 90,000 extra microplastic particles a year, when compared to tap water drinkers. Skip the bottled water for a glass of tap or a refillable metal water bottle.
If you get thirsty when you’re out-and-about, refresh yourself with a recyclable glass bottle or aluminium can of whatever takes your fancy.
3. Store food in glass, silicone or foil
BPA-free plastics are thought of as ‘safer’ than other for food storage, yet studies have shown that we can’t be certain of the safety of any plastic when it comes to products for human consumption.
- Use ceramic and glass dishes to store leftovers in the fridge. Cover with an upturned plate, reusable beeswax wraps, stretchy silicone lids or good old tin foil, never cling film.
- Go for glass and silicone storage containers instead of plastic. Even bamboo is a better bet!
4. Never heat food in plastic
Heated plastic starts to break down, potentially leaching chemicals and microparticles into your dinner. Always transfer food to a glass or ceramic dish for zapping in the microwave, or warm the food through in a saucepan on the stove.
5. Run round with the vacuum cleaner on a regular basis
Did you know that the dust in our homes is another source of plastic in our food? Synthetic fabrics, acrylic rugs and plastic-based paints break down over time and bind to the usual household dust. As we move around, we inevitably kick up dust, which can rain down over food and drink. Keep the dust down with regular hoovering and sweeping out, and choose natural fabrics and furnishings whenever possible.