Plastic is a very complex thing. It is also very fitting that the adjective used to describe people with an air of “fakeness” as plastic. This is because in its essence, plastic is very fake and manmade.
Plastic is a by-product of oil. Yes, this is the same oil that is used to purify the gasoline that powers our cars, airplanes, and power plants. The same toxic, noxious substance that is so familiar to all of us is from the same family as the substance we use to pack our food and drink!
Unlike oil, however, which takes millions of years to form but little to no time to vaporize and disseminate, plastic takes both millions of years to form and millions of years to decompose. This is because plastic is what is called in chemistry as a polymer. A polymer is a long chain of molecules strung together, and held together by incredibly strong bonds which are very hard to break. This is why plastic is such a durable and versatile material.
While plastic has its many uses, food packaging is one area where it is used a little too liberally. In fact, there have been studies linking heating food in plastic packaging and a carcinogenic effect.
So, when our food is packed in a plastic baggie, it comes into contact with the same materials used to make gasoline and diesel! Plastic is also full of nasty chemicals like BPA (Bisphenol-A) and Phthalates(refer to the glossary section) which have harmful long-term effects.
These harmful effects are just those that immediately affect our body. The damage that plastic does to the environment is manifold. While most natural materials like food waste, paper, and similar items decompose fast(that is, they are easily digested by microbes and bacteria and broken down into smaller particles), plastic is virtually indigestible – pun intended! It is estimated that families in the United States alone dispose of upwards of 200 millions of tons of plastic waste every day! A good amount of that is contributed to by plastic baggies!
By using Reusable Sandwich Bags (brands like LunchSkins and EcoDitty are great examples) that are made from food-safe fabric and cotton, not only is our food touching safer, natural materials, since fabric and cotton are grown naturally rather than manufactured chemically, but reusable sandwich bags are washable, so you can use them again and again. They will be like new every single time! And they also won’t add non-biodegradable and decomposable materials to our already clogged-up landfills.