There are certain plastic items we know to avoid – plastic bags, drinks stirrers, water bottles.
However, the infiltration of plastics into our daily lives goes much deeper, making it hard to avoid this polluting material which will remain in our ecosystems for centuries to come.
It’s high time that corporates and governments step up to stem the tide of plastic, taking action to eliminate all but the most essential single-use plastic items.
Even the beer you drink may very well contain traces of plastic as a result of tap water contamination.
Earlier this year, scientists in the US analysed 12 beer brands from breweries which sourced water from the Laurentian Great Lakes and detected microplastic fragments (pieces of plastic smaller than 5mm) in every single one. A similar study conducted in Germany last year detected microplastic fragments in all 24 beer brands analysed.
It is still unclear whether there are any risks to human health due to ingesting microplastics at these levels.
Aluminium drinks cans are actually lined with a plastic resin. Composed mainly of epoxy, this coating is required to prevent the drink itself from corroding the aluminium of the can. While drink cans are recyclable (the plastic lining is burned off during the recycling process), they are certainly not plastic free.
Disposable coffee cups, although largely made of paper, actually contain a thin lining of polyethylene plastic to make them waterproof so they can contain liquid without leaking.
Unfortunately, this makes them very difficult to recycle in anything other than a specialist plant (currently over 99 per cent of used paper cups in the UK are not recycled as a result).
Besides potentially containing chemicals harmful to the environment, the sunscreen you use may also contain plastic.
A ban on the use of microbeads in various cosmetics was put in place by the UK Government earlier this year but this is limited to so-called ‘rinse-off’ products such as face scrubs and shower gels.
Sunscreen, classified as a ‘leave-on’ product together with goods such as lipstick and mascara, is not covered by the ban and, as a result, several brands of sunscreen still contain microplastic ingredients such as polyethylene or polyacrylate.
Teabags can contain plastic fibres and may not be 100 per cent biodegradable as a result.
For several of the largest tea brands on the market, heat-resistant polypropylene fibres are incorporated into teabags during the manufacturing process to help seal them for subsequent transport.
Certain brands do produce teabags which are sealed without the use of plastic – using cotton thread, for example – and these are fully compostable.