On Eating Plastic...
What did you have for lunch today? Did you bring it from home? Did you get takeaway, or maybe go to a restaurant? Plastics are an incredible material for packaging but have hidden yet severe consequences for our health. Plastics are man-made material, chemically-made, and we don’t yet know what repercussions it may have for the youth of today. One major problem is that of microplastics (small particles of plastics) entering our food system through fish. In 2016, “a study of anchovies caught in Tokyo Bay found that 80% had microplastic particles in their guts”, and these statistics are observed of commonly-eaten fish species worldwide.
Hong Kong has it bad, and it doesn’t make a big difference if you’re a fish-eater or not. According to Lisa Christensen, co-founder of HK Clean Up initiative, “the equivalent weight of two A380 Airbus planes is discarded in domestic waste” every day. One of the biggest problems is that recycling in Hong Kong is not mandatory; a mere 5% gets recycled. This is hazardous to our health as well as that of the planet; as “an extremely consumption-based society”, we generate (on average) “1.36kg (3lbs) of domestic waste per person, per day. Tokyo… only generates 0.77kg.” What happens is that “plastic wrapping leaks harmful chemicals into our food and bodies” According to Christensen, “It’s not just plastic bottles and pieces of Styrofoam that are threatening our marine wildlife, tiny microplastics contained in our toiletries, cosmetics and washing detergents are having hugely detrimental effects and making their way into our food chain.” So, some short tips for you to reduce your plastic consumption:
- Don’t use cling film wherever possible (use aluminium foil or a container instead)
- Reduce your use of plastic water bottles, and do not reuse them too many times
- Purchase beauty products that do not contain microplastics, some good brands are Colgate-Palmolive, Clarins, Lush, M&S, L’Oréal (owns Body Shop, Garnier, Kiehl’s, Lancome), and of course anything from PFHK. “If you’re unsure, check the label and avoid products containing polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and nylon.”
I hope Hong Kong follows other countries like the US, Canada, and more recently, the UK, and bans microbeads in personal care items, as these get into our bodily systems and threaten our health. Every one of us has a role to play in reducing the amount of plastic we use, dispose of, and consume, and continuing when there is seemingly little consequence; those are the most crucial times. At a bar with friends? Ask for no straw. Getting take away from a store? Bring your own container (BPA-free, of course!)