The Dangers of Plastics: 25 Ways to Eliminate Plastic in Your Home

Plastics are ubiquitous, yet the dangers of plastics are well-documented. Use these tips to reduce the plastic in your home and life.

| May/June 2014

Plastics: They’re everywhere and in most everything—from electronics and automobiles to food containers. In fact, the average American generates between 88 and 122 pounds of plastic waste at home each year. Plastics contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals that interfere with the balance of hormones in the body, and researchers have found that most plastics—even those labeled BPA-free—can leach these chemicals into food.

A study by the Endocrine Society found that even low exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals can cause significant adverse health effects, including cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer and infertility. Plastics are also made from petroleum (a non-renewable resource) and can be difficult to recycle. Use the strategies that follow to help keep your family—and the planet—healthier by learning about the dangers of plastics and cutting back on your use of them.

Around the House

Buy goods made of natural fibers: Engineered fabrics such as polyester, nylon and vinyl are all made of plastic. Clothing, accessories and bedding are frequently made of engineered plastics. Avoid polyester blends for clothing and bedroom linens, opting instead for items made of organic cotton and wool. 

Choose a smarter shower curtain: Many shower curtains are made of vinyl, a synthetic material that releases compounds into the air in a process known as offgassing. Offgassing is particularly problematic in small, poorly ventilated bathrooms, where chemicals can be concentrated. Opt for natural curtains that aren’t chemically treated, such as the organic hemp shower curtain available from Rawganique or a flax-based linen shower curtain from Gaiam.

Choose natural flooring: Carpet and vinyl flooring contain the carcinogen polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and release volatile organic compounds—including formaldehyde from glues, fabric treatments, stains and varnishes—into the air, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Use low-emission alternatives including bamboo, cork, linoleum, ceramic tiles or hardwood.

Build a better bathroom: Bathroom products generate large amounts of plastic waste. One option is to make your own personal-care products and store them in glass or tin containers. Try whipping up your own toothpaste, lotions and soaps, for example. (Find non-toxic beauty recipes at Mother Earth Living's DIY Beauty.) Alternatively, buy products with little or no packaging. Minimally packaged bar soap can sub for liquid hand soap, body wash, and even shampoo and shaving cream. Mountain Sky Soaps sells bar soap in paper packaging, including bars of shaving soap and shampoo soap.

4/7/2016 9:11:33 AM

What about all the PVC pipes in our houses? And what are we supposed to freeze meat in if not plastic, paper is waxed and doesn't keep out freezer burn. I couldn't find a "number" on the plastic bags for the vacuum sealer, so what about it?

2/5/2015 2:56:39 PM

I recently got a pack of Beeswax Wrap. It's completely replaced my use of Saran Wrap. It's great for covering a bowl instead of having to repack everything, and sometimes you just need a cover. I think it belongs as an option in the article. Check it out:

5/21/2014 8:34:22 AM

The worst article ever, MEN should be embarrassed.

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