Plastic – it’s everywhere, from the moment we wake up in the morning till we go to bed at night, we encounter this ubiquitous material. It’s often portrayed as the villain that has polluted our oceans, rivers, and landfills. But what if we told you that the common belief that plastic is a contaminant is actually a myth?
However, here’s the shocking truth: plastic is inert in nature and does not transfer toxins to the other materials in the surrounding. So, what’s the deal with plastic? In this article, we are going to dive deep into the concerns related to plastics and safety risks associated with it. So, get ready for an exciting and informative read!
Why is plastic packaging used for food?
Plastic has emerged as one of the most valuable resources for production, transportation as well as consumption, interlinking itself with one of humankind’s most fundamental requirements– food. Plastic packaging is an important contributor to protecting foods from contamination and subsequently, spoiling. Food can travel farther, remain on shelves for longer and can be kept from going rancid owing to plastic packaging. This is preventing large amounts of food from not going to waste.
It makes sense, environmentally, to preserve food for as long as possible, as the production of food requires considerably more resources than consumption. It ensures that the resources used to support the growth of crops and raw materials to create food products do not go to waste, unnecessarily.
What’s more is, plastic is also ideal for delivery. Plastic can help deliver food around the world, keeping liquids, gels, powders, fruit and other items safely protected from contamination.
Apart from protecting food, plastic is also functional with flexibility, transparency, and chemical resistance. Plastics make for ideal packaging material for a myriad of modern needs. It is becoming increasingly difficult (and in some cases, even impossible) to transport and use a wide variety of daily products without plastic packaging to meet these needs.
Is plastic toxic?
Plastic is a material that can be manipulated to adopt any shape and modeled into any form. Plastics are made from oil by combining various types of carbon-containing compounds called monomers to form polymers, making a variety of plastics with different chemical properties. That being said, plastic is chemically inert– which means that it will not react or interact with any other substances. Making the storage of a variety of substances, without dissolving or reacting with the container, easier.
The chemically inert nature of plastics is what makes it safe enough to store food, underlining its non-toxic properties. However, the growing concern begs the question “Is plastic a threat to your health?” Though the risk of plastic is low, there is evidence that plastic can be dangerous when used irresponsibly. Foods are safe inside the right plastic packaging including foods like fresh meat, dairy, vegetables, and so on.
The problem doesn’t lie in the use of plastic in itself, as additives of certain plastic that are ideal for packaging are too big to seep out of the packaging material and into the food. However, the use of substandard materials and misusing plastic packaging, could affect health negatively.
Entering the food chain
Another growing concern is the entering of plastic in the food chain. How does plastic enter the food chain? Due to the aforementioned inert nature of plastic, it does not react with most other substances. This enables the breaking down of plastic into smaller particles called microplastics, as opposed to it decaying. Microplastics enter water supplies and are consumed by other animals, thus entering into the food chain.
Tiny particles like microplastics are little enough to pass through filtration techniques and systems; however, the damage they cause is much more minimal, if not non-existent. Microplastics are indigestible and prove to have a far lesser risk to health as they are considered to have. They are passed out of the body through fecal matter.
Why should we be concerned about plastics?
The real concern that is recurring throughout the use of plastics is the misunderstanding, misuse, and mismanagement. People often misunderstand the properties of plastics which then leads to misuse and mismanagement of the waste that has begun to accumulate over the years. The world produces approximately 350 million metric tons of plastic every year! With most of it ending up in landfills and the oceans, it is polluting and contaminating the environment.
Though the concerns of the toxicity and its role in the contamination of food are fairly valid, the main concern lies in the reality of the absurd amounts of waste and irresponsible disposal of plastic. The risks of plastic entering the food chain may be very low, however, that must not divert from the fact that plastic does need to be managed and regulated appropriately.
Staying safe and minimizing risk
Bringing down the risks of plastic waste lies in truly understanding the functionality and characteristics of plastic and separating the myths from facts. The villainization of plastics along with many other theories that are not supported with scientific evidence, can hinder the journey to a healthier environment. Myths such as– plastic increasing the risk of contracting diseases like cancer, are not backed by evidence and cause an unnecessary panic.
Fundamentally, plastic is severely misconstrued. What can help transform the conversations and perspectives surrounding plastic and its usage, is education of plastic use and plastic waste management among children at a young age. Children must understand the right ways to use and dispose of plastic to help transform what our future will look like. Moreover, a general education among the public will aid in transcending current misconceptions to help change our present.
Additionally, alternative solutions to transform plastic waste into a more sustainable and environmentally safe substance is to make it biodegradable. Due to advancing technology, this is now a feat that we can now accomplish. By using biodegradable plastic additives, plastics can degrade and dissolve into the soil. Biodegradable polymer additives hasten the process of plastic degradation, thus minimizing any possible risk plastics cause to the environment– including humankind, wildlife and marine life. They are non-toxic, safe and ensure every plastic degrades effectively. They are also compatible with the majority of polymers.
By employing these solutions, plastics can be used in a way that can benefit not just humans and animals but can also significantly remodel the future global health for the better.
Long-standing Specialty Chemicals player with ISO 9001:2015 certification and a history of providing specialty solutions for over 25 years. The company is headed by senior chemical industry specialists with the combined expertise of more than 100 years. With an emphasis on eco-friendly, non-toxic products, the company’s primary strength is research, development, and customization. More information on NICHEM can be found at https://nichem.solutions.
As we wrap up this fascinating journey, we would like to express our sincere gratitude to all the readers who have followed along with us in this article series. We hope that you have found these articles informative and enlightening.
But, the journey doesn’t end here! Stay tuned for more exciting topics and discussions that we will be sharing in the future. We promise to continue providing you with fresh insights and perspectives on a wide range of subjects.
Thank you once again for being a part of this journey with us.