ReThink Plastic Translation Project Begins

By Sandra Curtis

On a recent October evening in Morristown, New Jersey, a small group of trainers met to learn about the ReThink Plastic Translation Project. The purpose was to introduce leaders of the immigrants’ rights group, Wind of the Spirit (WOTS) to the overall global plastic pollution crisis and to the opportunity they had to share messaging and training with their community in their native language of Spanish. Further, they would be able to participate in the development of a Rethink Plastic resource manual for trainers in other immigrant communities. 

In an ongoing effort to expand the messaging on how to reduce personal exposure to the toxic chemicals in plastic, Plastic Pollution Coalition is partnering with Wind of the Spirits to translate the intervention study into Spanish and to develop a “train-the-trainers” model for dissemination. An Emergent Opportunities Fund grant from the Cancer Free Economy Network (CFEN) is making this work possible.

The original ReThink Plastic pilot study was funded by the California Breast Cancer Research Project in partnership with Child Health and Development Studies. There is strong scientific evidence that the chemicals used in the manufacture of many plastics are known to mimic estrogen activity and that these “environmental estrogens” are linked to breast cancer. 

The goal of the pilot study was to reduce exposure to these chemicals using simple, practical behavior change and to spread the study messages to reduce plastic use.

A basic assumption of the study was that 80 percent of people’s exposure to the estrogenic chemicals in plastic come from food purchase, preparation, and storage. The study focused on the following behaviors.

  • Shopping

  • Eating/drinking

  • Heating food

  • Spreading Messages

Results of the ReThink Plastic study showed that in a short education program, participants can significantly change their behavior. Statistically significant change in the desired direction was noted on nearly every behavior queried on the pre- and post-test surveys.  Further, the ReThink Plastic study was successful at getting people to talk to members of their families, friends, and communities to spread the study messages.  The messages were:

  • Use glass or stainless steel water bottles. 

  • Never microwave food in plastic containers.

  • Store food in glass or ceramic containers. 

  • Skip canned foods and beverages.

  • Reduce take-out food.

  • Don’t handle receipts with bare hands. (If you do, wash with soap and water as soon as possible and DO NOT use hand sanitizer).

ReThink Plastic demonstrated that changing behavior can reduce the health hazards associated with the toxic chemicals in plastic.  The task that the ReThink Plastic Translation Project has taken on is to spread the study’s messages in more communities around the country.  

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