Do not pollute the land where you are - Numbers 35:33

It’s EVERYWHERE. Plastics are awesome but we would be better off without them. In Life Without Plastic, Chantal Plamondon and Jay Sinha and of Wakefield, Quebec explain why and how we must learn to reduce, even avoid them as much as possible in our everyday lives. Plastic pollutants are the twenty-first century’s ‘Silent Spring.’ In Rachel Carson’s 1960’s book we learned how harmful DDT is; plastic is even worse, as well as being a terrible pollutant because it never decomposes under natural conditions. Never. All plastics are derived from fossil fuels and contain numerous chemical additives that leach out. Toxins such polycarbonates, epoxy resins and BPAs (bisphenol, a synthetic plastic chemical which is an endocrine/hormone disrupter). The steady flow of plastic products by manufacturers must be stopped at the source, requiring producers to deal with the refuse, not communities.

With the influence of Plamondon, Sinha and others, Canada became the first country in the world to impose a ban on BPA’s in baby bottles and baby food containers, but tin cans and beverage cups continue to be lined. BPA’s that leach out in dumps to wash into our ground water. Birds and other wildlife pick on garbage consuming these chemicals, causing mutations and deformities in their offspring. Similarly, humans and aquatic life are impacted, never mind the staggering environmental ramifications of plastic pollution in our lakes and oceans.

Our readers may have heard about the five ocean gyres around our globe that have tons of plastics caught in nylon fishing nets, swirling in a smog, carrying with them all the chemical components contained therein. In our Anthropocene era, the planet is gradually being covered by a plastiglomerate film. Microbeads used in cosmetics, toothpaste and other products, are filling bellies and make wild creatures feel full while starving to death. Now is the time for action!

Suggestions for action

Follow the Pareto Principle (or 80/20 rule), which states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Eliminating the following six absolute worst, most common forms of plastic will help: 

  1. Plastic bags
  2. Water bottles
  3. Plastic lined disposable cups and lids
  4. Food containers
  5. Food utensils
  6. Straws 

More recent guidance includes also avoiding: 

  1. plastic cutlery 
  2. ring carriers and
  3. stir sticks.

There are Golden Design Rules for companies to follow with regard to plastic packaging, aiming for less use and easier recycling. Inventing more bioplastics such as corn-based ones will help, since they will decompose. What a joy to learn that wooden cutlery was being provided at Cataraque Creek’s maple syrup pancake brunch in the spring of 2022. And a Quebec manufacturer of tags to close bread bag tags is now making them from re-cycled cardboard. We will find them in grocery stores soon. Yea!

For travel beverages, recycle a glass juice bottle or buy a good stainless-steel water bottle to be refilled. And for hot tea or coffee, a good stainless-steel thermal mug. I’ve found that Starbucks offer the best ones for holding the heat, with a lid that doesn’t leak. Be aware that heat draws toxins out of plastic more quickly. Never use them in the microwave. 

 If we change our mindset from one of convenience and disposability to buying things of higher quality and durability, we can live richer, healthier lives. 

But take heart, dear reader. On March 6, 2022, the United Nations Environmental Assembly passed a resolution by 175 countries to find viable alternatives to plastic, a step toward forming a global treaty. As Jon Kabat-Zinn says in his book of meditations:

Perhaps it is time for us to own the name we have given ourselves as a species, Homo sapiens sapiens – the species that knows and knows that it knows – to own our sentience and literally and metaphorically come to our senses while there is still time.

What is at stake … is none other than our very hearts, our very humanity, our species, and our world. What is available to us is the full spectrum of who and what we are. What is required is nothing special. Simply that we start PAYING ATTENTION and WAKE UP TO THINGS AS THEY ARE. All else will follow.

More information

Plamondon, C., and J. Sinha. 2017. Life Without Plastic: The Practical Step-by-Step Guide to Avoiding Plastic to Keep Your Family and the Planet Healthy. 191 pages.

Cobb, A. 2021. Plastic: an autobiography. Night Books, 352p.

Kabat-Zinn, J. 2007. Arriving at your own door: 108 lessons in mindfulness. Hachette Books. 160p.

Plastic soup: one of the greatest environmental disasters: 

What you can do to fight plastic pollution:

10 ways to reduce plastic pollution: