Tackling the toxics in plastics packaging

Widespread use of plastic packaging for storing, transporting, and conveniently preparing or serving foodstuffs is significantly contributing to the global plastic pollution crisis. This has led to many efforts directed toward amending plastic packaging’s end of life, such as recycling, or alternative material approaches, like increasingly using paper for food packaging. However, in a study published in the journal PLOS Biology, we can see how these approaches often neglect the critical issue of microplastic and chemical migration from packaging into human bodies: When contacting foodstuffs, plastic particles and chemicals that are present in packaging transfer into food and thus unwittingly become part of our diets. Learn about the risks of this phenomenon, and understand options for addressing it with solutions now and into the future.

Sowing a Plastic Planet: How Microplastics in Agrochemicals Are Affecting Our Soils, Our Food, and Our Future exposes the growing use of microplastics in agrochemical products, the industry’s promotion of this practice, and its threats to human health and the environment. It concludes that, in the face of known risks and the significant probability that plastic-coated fertilizers and pesticides only add to existing harm from toxic chemicals and microplastic, their production and use should be banned.

Researchers reveal findings on studies of the so far little-known effects of microplastics on plants and soils. When soil near plants was mixed with microplastics, plants showed significant changes in their size, tissue composition, root characteristics, and the soil beneath them showed a change in microbial activities that could harm plants.

Scientists attempted to compost conventional single-use, petrochemical-based plastic tea bags and “bioplastic” (made of PLA, plant starch, or a mixture of those things) tea bags in real-environmental soil conditions for one year. They found that many of the “bioplastic” tea bags—even those marketed as “biodegradable”—did not break down in soil, nor did the petrochemical-based plastic teabags. Tea bags made with plastic and many “bioplastics” create microplastic particles that pollute the Earth and our bodies. The study, while it does not evaluate chemical risks, highlights the need to further study the hazards of plastic and “bioplastic” exposure and pollution in addition to showing how single-use plastic and “bioplastic” teabags are not biodegradable and create hazardous waste.

Ocean advocate Emily Penn has seen first hand how much plastic ends up in the oceans. In this TED Talk, she explains how the toxins from plastic makes their way into our food chain and how we might be able to stop it.

Plastic is harmful to your health and to the Earth. If you want to find ways to reduce your use of plastic, the ReThink Plastic Guide has some helpful information and tips for you! In the ReThink Plastic Guide, you will learn:

• What you can do to make healthier choices
• How to reduce plastic use in food prep, serving, and storage
• How to choose alternatives to single-use, disposable plastic