What is plastic, where does it come from and how can I make a difference?

Plastics are derived from materials found in nature, such as natural oil, coal and even plants (for example, rubber from the rubber tree). Interest in making plastics started in the 1800’s to replace scarce materials such as ivory. The first synthetic plastics were made from cellulose, found in plants and trees. Cellulose was heated with certain chemicals and resulted in a new material that was both durable and malleable.

Humans really like their plastic. It is an incredibly versatile material. It’s durable, strong and can be molded into just about anything and its cheap to produce. But it is also proving to be harmful to our environment and to ourselves. Recent studies show the danger of chemicals leaching from plastic bottles and food wrap, leading to an increased risk of cancer and other diseases.

Here are a few ways you can make a difference:

  • Reduce or even eliminate the use of SUP (single use plastic) such as straws, shopping bags, cling wrap, plastic water bottles etc.
  • Reuse items such as shopping and fresh produce bags
  • Recycle properly
  • Replace everyday items with compostable, eco-friendly products, where possible
  • Avoid products containing microbeads
  • Buy clothing with natural fibers. Synthetic microfibers from washing machines are making their way into our rivers and oceans and contributing to the global microplastic problem
  • Spread the word

An exciting “new” alternative to traditional plastic is bioplastic, which is derived from plant-based soybean- and avocado oil. Many bioplastics are fully biodegradable and are generally compostable, making them a more environmentally friendly alternative to hydrocarbon-based plastics.