As eco-conscious people, we try our best to reduce and get rid of plastic use. However, it seems that humankind has become to dependent on plastic that common items have hidden contents of plastic. Here’s the list.
1. Chewing gum
Yes, this sweet and fun treat that somehow cleans our mouth has plastic in it. Why is it not included in the ingredients list? Because who on Earth would voluntarily chew plastic? In all seriousness, manufacturers don’t disclose plastic in their gum products because it’s considered a trade secret.
To conceal plastic use, they usually use terms like “gum base” so consumers won’t know what’s inside it. Those gum bases mostly contain polyethylene, which is a common material for plastic bottles and bags. Another ingredient is polyisobutylene. It’s a rubber that you usually find in inner tubes of tyres.
The use of plastic and synthetic ingredients only came around after the 1960s. Manufacturers turned to these because of economical reasons, and maybe you can make bigger bubbles with it, who knows. Additionally, most to all gums use plastic packaging, and you know that gums are small, so more plastic trash.
If you can’t give up chewing gum, that’s totally understandable. You can find gums that doesn’t contain plastic like Chicza, Spry, and XyliChew. But do know that these gums still come in plastic packaging.
2. Cigarette butts
A lot of smokers toss their cigarettes on the ground instead of putting them in the trash bin or ashtrays. They might be thinking that it’s okay because cigarette has paper and dried plants, but they forget about the butt.
The butt or the filter contains plastic and nasty smoke residue. When only one cigarette butt end up in waterways, it will contaminate a gallon water. Therefore, if you smoke, don’t throw cigarette butts on the ground or in the water and put them in the trash can or a certain container. If you don’t smoke, encourage smokers to be responsible of their cigarettes.
3. Tea bag
Tea bags?! Yes, you read it right. It seems so impossible to find plastic in tea bags, but you most certainly can. Most commercial tea bags have a small amount of polyethylene plastic to keep their shape in boiling water.
If you buy tea box with individually wrapped tea bags, then those could have plastic lining as well. So yeah, basically you’re steeping plastic when you make tea. And what’s worse is that you can’t compost it. It won’t break down in the compost pile.
Alternatively, you can get plastic free teas. They’re available, but they still come in plastic packaging. For example, there are Numi, Organic Traditional Medicinals, and Tetley Black and Green Tea. What you can do to reduce plastic is buy loose leaf tea, purchasing in bulk, and get yourself a reusable tea infuser. This way, you can minimize plastic waste as well as paper waste.
As much as it’s sparkly and fun, glitter is one of the worst things for the environment. According to National Geographic, glitter is made from plastic sheets. When it ends up in water, the marine life like plankton, fish, shellfish, seabirds, and others will consume it. If they keep ingesting it, they’re going to have health problems and die.
The thing is, some people can’t live without glitter in terms of makeup, beauty things, or artsy stuff. Moreover, there are services that will send you glitter bombs to your enemies or friends you want to prank.
So when you open an envelope, there will be glitter explosion. Even when you manage to clean it, it’ll stay in landfill for the longest time. Glitter is mini, who would want to pay attention to it? It’s also so tiny that you can’t recycle it.
Remember about microplastic beads in cosmetics industry that sparked some talks? Those beads found their ways to waterways and oceans, which is problematic for our mother Earth. Even though you don’t find many cosmetics or beauty stuff with microplastic beads, the harm doesn’t end there. Glitter is just as harmful and it has the same negative impact.
Manufacturers are now working on making eco-friendly glitter that can biodegrade like Eco Glitter and Bio Glitter. But it’s not available to many just yet, so the best thing you can do is completely stay out of plastic glitter. If you must use it, then consider going with edible glitters instead.
5. Disposable wet wipes
Makeup remover wipes, baby wipes, antibacterial wipes, they’re all convenient and so easy to use. While the packaging comes in plastic, and the packages are recyclable, the wipes themselves contain non biodegradable plastic and are rarely recycled or even not at all. They usually get thrown away or flushed.
Wipes are made from plastic fibers, so if you’re going to flush it, you’ll contribute to sewer clogging and fatbergs. Those are chucks of wipes and diapers full of fat substance, it’s disgusting. If these wipes end up in ocean, the marine life would think them as food. Basically it’s not good for the environment.
Therefore, use wet wipes when you absolutely need it. If you want to clean your hands, wash it with soap or use antibacterial gels. If you need to clean surfaces, then use rags instead of antibacterial wipes. You can also use reusable baby wipes for your babies. If you need to clean your makeup, use washcloth rather than makeup removing wipes.
6. Fleece clothing
Oftentimes, fleece is made from recycled plastic. It’s a good thing, of course, but every time you wash it, it releases microscopic plastic fibres or microfibers to the environment. And of course, the marine life will ingest them once they enter waterways or ocean. In fact, they can be in our drinking water as well.
It’s still not clear whether microfibers will affect our health negatively. While you can stop buying fleece altogether and opt for natural fibres clothing, you can actually still have a collection of fleece. Just remember to purchase a filter or a mesh garment bag for your washing machine. It will either remove or capture tiny particles of plastic.
Which one that surprises you most? I would go with chewing gum because I did not expect plastic to be in it at all. Do you know other things that contain plastic? Let us know in the comments below. Don’t forget to check out this article for related reading!