Let's Talk about Plastic : Understanding Micro-Plastics

by Maddie Vlismas

As you can imagine and might already know - we have quite a lot to say when it comes to plastic. Our zero-waste journey has been a long and tumultuous one, because as you know - plastic is all around us and can sometimes be pretty difficult to avoid.

We created Kappi to help you break up with plastic, and although you may have made some big steps in reducing your plastic footprint, you could be finding plastic in all sorts of things you never expected to (like your food- ahhh!)

"How?!" you might ask. Think about it like this : remember those plastic containers, buckets, toys (I could go on) that broke after a while, so you tossed them out? They likely ended up in landfill where, sitting out in the sun where they become brittle. 

You see, plastic doesn't biodegrade or break down like organic material; it breaks up, into tiny macro-plastics. These millions and millions of tiny macro plastics eventually become billions of micro-plastics, and then trillions of nano-plastics. 

Just because you can't see them, doesn't mean they don't exist.

Nope! Instead, much like glitter, they spread further than you could imagine in your wildest dreams. They are eaten by our marine life and bioaccumulate the food chain (i.e. anyone who eats fish). The synthetic fibres of our clothes actually contain micro-plastics too, and when we wash them they can get released into the water supply. Plastics in all their forms can seep deep into soil and effect water supplies and growing crops (i.e. anyone who drinks water or eats fruit and veg). They also float in the air we breathe- fun! So basically, plastics can be anywhere and everywhere all at once. 

In a study, it was found that that 87% of the humans in the study had micro-plastics in their lungs and over 50% of all humans have plastic in their poop. Micro-plastics are increasingly being found in all sorts of food including salt and honey and (here comes the big one) has also been found in beer, soft drinks and bottled water.

Now we've got your attention? It was the beer fact, wasn't it.

"But how do they get into our foods," you ask. It's all due to a process called leaching. Leaching occurs when plastic is mechanically damaged (crushed, scratched, torn) or exposed to heat and UV radiation. A recent study exposed a plastic bottle of water to normal levels of UV radiation over the course of 60 days. At the end of the study, the UV exposed bottle had developed a BPA concentration of more than 3000% of what it started as... 

We already know to avoid plastics with BPA, but the truth is that even without BPA, plastics are made up of all sorts of other hazardous chemicals that can leach into our bodies and our planet. Our bodies are built to handle these chemicals on a small scale, but when they're everywhere, things get tricker.  

So how can I reduce my exposure to plastic additives?

Well, the easiest way is to just avoid using plastic products. Especially when it comes to food or drink containers. Swap out reusable plastic Tupperware containers for the glass ones. Use a stainless steel or glass water bottle instead of reusing bottled water bottles and BPA-free water bottles. Avoid wrapping food in cling wrap. Instead invest in some silicone stretch lids or look for alternatives to ziplock bags like our reusable silicone ziplock bags.

If you absolutely insist on using reusable plastic products, please avoid excess heat at all costs. This means not leaving your water bottle to bake in your car all day, nuking your plastic takeaway container in the microwave or putting plastic products through the dishwasher. This heat will only accelerate the leaching process and ensure a greater concentration of plastic additives ends up in your foods and into your body.

Want to know more about what this means for your body?

Have a read of our Plastic and Your Health article here on this very blog! 


We hope this was informative and has given you yet another reason to ditch single-use plastics for safer sustainable alternatives. 

You can shop Kappi's range of alternatives to single-use plastics here.

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