Thursday, 10 February 2011

Plastic Planet: Life in the plastic age

This is a review of a new documentary Plastic Planet, by Jonathan Kim of The Huffington Post. The film   deals with the problems of the mounting piles of plastic that are everywhere in the natural envoronment. Director Werner Boote proclaims that just as the world experienced the Ice Age, the Stone Age and the Bronze Age, mankind is currently living in what could only be called the Plastic Age. First created in 1855 by Alexander Parkes, plastic is involved in every facet of modern existence to the point that life without it is unimaginable. Don't believe me? If you do a quick check, I'm willing to bet that you are currently touching at least three pieces of plastic right now. Looking around me, I could reach out and touch at least 50 plastic items (pens, tape dispenser, phone, printer, blank DVDs, etc.) and probably a lot more.

But plastic is not as benign as it appears. Plastic Planet attempts to tell the full story of plastic -- how it's made, where it goes, and how dangerous chemicals found in plastics make their way into the environment, the food chain, and eventually into the human body. Watch my ReThink Review of Plastic Planet and my discussion with Ana Kasparian of the Young Turks about how plastic chemicals enter your body, the effects they can have on the endocrine system, and some ways to keep plastic out of you.

In this video, I have one statistic wrong -- it turns out that it's 92.6 percent of Americans (not all humans) who have detectable amounts of plastic chemicals in their blood and urine, though BPA has been found in the air around the world. Unfortunately, that chemical is bisphenol A (BPA), a known endocrine disruptor that can mimic human hormones and has been linked to cancer, obesity, early puberty, diabetes and heart disease. You may remember a few years back when Nalgene was criticized for using BPA in their hard plastic water bottles favored by outdoorsy types (they've since stopped using it). The US and state governments have been restricting the use of BPA in products designed for babies and very young children, but BPA is still widely used in food packaging, including the linings of cans. To find out more about how countries are restricting BPA, go here.

Of course, the best way to keep plastic out of your body and the environment is to use less of it, especially when it comes to food. I recycled some old plastic containers and bought glass replacements for the two plastic items I use the most -- my juice pitcher and a large measuring cup I use to blend my smoothies. I already don't drink bottled water (nor should you for many reasons), and most of the food I buy doesn't come wrapped in plastic. I often store leftovers in plastic containers (including reused yogurt containers, which probably isn't a good idea), but will be looking into getting glass containers, possibly as a birthday gift (hint).

To find out more about plastic pollution and ways to prevent it from damaging the environment and living things, check out Plastic Pollution Coalition.

To find ways to keep plastic out of your food, visit Life Without Plastic.


  1. Sounds like a great video John; thank you - I'll take a look later. It's funny, I was doing the whole 'how much of our lives revolve around electricity' question the other day and that too is shocking. I came to the conclusion we are basically dependent on both the grid AND plastic - that's not a pretty thought.
    Where did you get your glass containers from? Were you able to get them without plastic lids?

  2. I have a friend on a budget that carries her water in a glass jar wrapped in a tea towel in her backpack when she goes out for the day.