#plasticfree July: Why skipping the straw isn’t quite enough

 Photo by  Ali Yahya  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ali Yahya on Unsplash

When we think of plastics, we often visualize single-use cutlery or unimpressive supermarket-packaging. We often forget that plastic is more than disposable forks, and it really is omnipresent!
Check out our list of 4 hidden plastic-traps!

1. Clothes

We often forget that what we wear is also a big contributor to the overall plastic pollution. According to data gathered by Common Objective, 65% of fibers in our clothing are synthetic! Nylon, acrylic, poliester, spandex, viscose… Sounds familiar? We bet, yes!

As an oil-based plastic, polyester does not biodegrade like natural fibres. Rather it stays in landfill for several decades at least – and potentially for hundreds of years. When washed, fibres from polyester textiles and clothing are shed and enter waterways and oceans as microplastic fibres, according to recent studies.” [1]

Major source of microplastics – if not the largest – comes from wastewater contaminated with plastic fibres, “microfibres” released when washing clothes made from synthetic materials (polyester, acrylic, polypropolyene etc.).

What’s the alternative?We suggest buying clothes made of natural fabrics, like cotton, linen, bamboo or hemp. If you need more inspiration, check out WOMB Online Store and have a look at cotton shirts from Cosmos Studio, dyed with 95% less water than regular fabrics.

2. Baby Diapers

Conventional and convenient: disposable baby diapers have eased everyday routines of many households, but they aren’t necessarily a perfect solution. Not only are the disposable diapers expensive in the long run (more expensive than buying a few, good quality reusable diapers), they’re also harmful for the environment (because plastic doesn’t biodegrade).

“Approximately 90-95% of American babies use 27.4 billion single-use, plastic diapers every year. This generates 7.6 billion pounds of garbage each year—enough waste to fill Yankee Stadium 15 times over, or stretch to the moon and back 9 times. Every year.” [2]

Disposable diapers are the 3rd largest consumer item in landfills, and represent 30% of non-biodegradable waste. The only other items that outnumber the amount of disposables in landfills are newspapers and beverage and food containers. [3]

Disposable diapers would need sun and air to decompose - and even then the process would take several hundreds of years. However, when dumped into landfills, the waste isn’t exposed to sun and air, and therefore no one knows how many hundreds or thousands of years it would take for the diapers to fully disappear (if that’s even possible).

A whole other question is whether we want to expose our babies and toddlers to that much plastic from a very early age. You might want to check out alternatives, like reusable diapers, made of bamboo fiber.

reusable diaper.jpg

3. Synthetic Leather

WOMB is a huge advocate for veganism, vegan lifestyle, and with that: vegan accessories. However, we do not want to encourage excess consumption of faux leather, because - essentially - it is yet another form of plastic. And sadly, it’s not one of the collaborative, relatively easy to recycle forms of plastic. Synthetic leather is PVC - Polyvinyl chloride, which is currently very difficult to recycle. According to data gathered by National Geographic, in 2015 PVC made 5% of global plastic waste.

As alternative to synthetic leather, Piñatex is worth checking out, and cork is a great, more eco-friendly substitute too! Keep a good eye on WOMB Online Store, because exciting cork accessories will be coming soon!

4. (Some!) reusable gadgets, like food containers or water bottles

You got to the point where you really want to change something, and you decide to stock up on a couple reusable gadgets, so you can ditch disposables and generate less waste. Awesome! We couldn’t be happier for you and for our planet. But please do some reading before going off to buy that bottle or a food container. According to data from National Geographic, in 2015 19% of global plastic waste was PP polypropylene plastics, which are used for, among others, manufacturing food containers. PP plastics are moderately difficult to recycle.

Last, but not least, let us not forget that basically all plastics have Estrogenic Activity (EA) chemicals, meaning they mimic the hormone estrogen in the body. [4] Hence eating, drinking and having plastics close to very sensitive areas of our bodies, could potentially have a harmful turnout. 

We suggest looking into bamboo or steel water bottles and steel or glass food containers. We got our bottles from Urban Spring and 24 Bottles respectively. 

 

We really do have a plastic problem, and therefore initiatives like #plasticfree July are extremely important! We hope this article pointed your attention towards the devil hiding in the details, on clothes’ tags, masked as the “reusable” or “vegan” mark. So go out there, keep rocking and of course do skip the straw! But now you know that your job isn’t over just because you thanked no to a single straw. The battle is bigger!

 

Notes: 

[1] 3. Mistra Future Fashion, 2017, Microplastics shedding from polyester fabrics; Hartline NL et al, 2016; Microfiber Masses Recovered from Conventional Machine Washing of New or Aged Garments, Environ. Sci. Technol., 50 (21), pp 11532–11538 Brown MA et al, 2011; Accumulation of Microplastic on Shorelines Woldwide: Sources and Sinks, Environ. Sci. Technol., 45 (21), pp 9175–9179

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