With rising awareness around the impact that plastic and plastic bags have on the environment, what are the negative effects of even manufacturing plastic bags?
Unfortunately, the manufacture of plastic bags has quite negative impacts of the environment, including, uses toxic materials such as crude oil and the actual manufacturing process. This process releases greenhouse gasses and uses large amounts of electricity and water.
What Kind Of Pollution Is Caused From Manufacturing Plastic?
There are two ways that the manufacture of plastic causes pollution:
- During manufacturing
- In disposal
During manufacturing, toxic chemicals and greenhouse gases are released into the air, of which the plastics industry contributes 14% to the national United States total of toxic releases into the air.
Of the top ten manufacturers ranked by total toxic releases, seven made plastic foam products. Other emissions include methanol, ethylene oxide, volatile organic compounds, sulfur oxides and nitrous oxides.
Of course, other issues with manufacturing includes any runoff into water supply, use of large amounts of electricity and water.
During disposal, plastic can take decades or centuries to break down completely. During this time they are turning into microplastics in landfill, the environment or waterways, causing havoc for soil and wildlife.
They also leave behind toxic residue in soil and water which can end up in food sources or drinking/groundwater.
Are There Negative Health Impacts For Workers Manufacturing Plastic Bags?
Although more studies are needed to truly understand the extent of plastic toxicity to humans, those working in manufacturing facilities may be exposed to these chemicals at detrimental levels.
This means that workers may be exposed to direct toxicity by working with the chemicals used to make plastic, have exposure to carcinogens in the air from the process and may end up with endocrine disruption or carcinogenic issues as a result.
Plastic packaging can also expose people to chemicals as some research has shown plastics contaminating food.
Can Chemicals Leak From Plastics?
When it comes down to it, traditional plastic isn’t a great choice, particular when it’s housing your food or drinks, However, most containers or cups/bottles are typically not harmful for humans in their initial use. They are harmful for the environment though when disposed of and can be harmful if reheated too many times.
It’s important to understand that plastic used for food containers and the like does have to pass certain standards in the country they are manufactured or sold in. Research has been showing that some plastics (some of which have been banned in certain countries) can leach toxic chemicals that lead to long-term health issues.
The typical traditional plastic food container you use are very low risk but it’s important to understand that these molecules from plastic packaging may possibly migrate into the food as the plastic breaks down. This is why it’s important to not use traditional plastic more than once.
For example, reheating and reusing your takeaway containers many times does increase your risk of contamination. Of course, plastic is toxic to the environment when disposed of, leading to landfill contribution which can also impact soil and wildlife as it breaks down and leaches chemicals.
What Happens When BPAs And PVCs Leak From Plastics?
With a risk in all plastic food or drink containers, or even packaging, the ‘worst’ or higher risks are found with BPA and PVC.
– Polycarbonate – often used for these purposes and as a resin used to line cans. This can release bisphenol A (BPA) which can lead to serious health problems. Many countries have banned or limited the use of anything containing BPA.
– PVC (polyvinyl chloride) – is extremely popular but contains dangerous chemical additives such as lead, cadmium and phthalates. These can be very toxic to children’s health. PVC is often made to make reusable bottles, cling wrap and seals for screw-cap jars.
Some research suggests that at certain exposure levels, some of the chemicals in bisphenol A (BPA), may cause cancer in people.
Can We Do Anything To Help Or Reduce Impact?
Of course, the best thing you can do to reduce the impact of plastic in your home is to find alternatives. This means finding reusable food, drink and packaging options. You can also avoid purchasing anything wrapped in plastic such as fruit or vegetables that can be bought loose.
Use reusable options where possible or investigate compostable options for your family. Also consider a worm farm or home compost to get the most out of your compostables.
No, we can’t completely avoid plastics, but we can avoid potential exposure by supporting (in purchasing and using) and adopting alternatives such as compostable or reusable. Consider purchasing fruit and vegetable loose, fresh bread from a bakery and not pre-packaged.
There are also many food and drink containers that are metal, glass or other eco-friendly materials such as bamboo. You can carry your food in fabric reusable bags to also limit further exposure.
You can also avoid products that contain BPAs or PVC by looking at the product description closely and doing your research. Of course, disposal of plastic and manufacturing are also an issue and you can help by disposing of plastics correctly, using more alternatives, composting and supporting plastic alternatives.