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Reduce Your Impact - Plastics (Part 1)

In times of uncertainty, we often find ourselves asking what matters most and what is truly important.  At Ohana, we believe our environment, health, and community are among that list.  We felt this was an appropriate time to launch a blog series dedicated to topics that are affecting the world around us and share practical ideas to help reduce your impact.  Plus we'll share some practical ideas to help reduce your impact and make choices you can feel good about.

Today, we're turning our attention from COVID-19 to plastics.  I’ve been hearing and reading a lot about plastics lately, and not just in the news.  They’re everywhere.  Unlike coronavirus, which will (fingers crossed!) eventually disappear, plastics aren't going away.  They impact both our environment and health, so it's a hot topic worth discussing.  

In the News

Microplastics and bans on single use plastics are all over the news right now.  Microplastics, as the name implies, are tiny pieces of plastic polluting our environment.  But we’re also ingesting them because the particles contaminate our food, water and the air we breathe – scary, right?  There has been a lot of research on how microplastics impact our environment, oceans and our health, which has prompted bans on single use plastics in many places.  

  • Local: Cincinnati Past Plastic presented a proposal to city council on January 28th to ban plastic bags.  Supporters of the movement rallied outside Cincinnati City Hall on March 4th and a council vote on the ban, effective January 2021, is scheduled for April 1st.   In addition, Kroger has pledged to eliminate plastic bags by 2025.
  • Statewide bans on single-use plastic bags are in effect in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont.
  • Cities are banning plastic bags and/or imposing plastic bag fees (Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Boulder, New York, Washington, D.C., and others).
  • Worldwide: India banned six single-use plastic items in October 2019.  Canada and the European Union have plans to ban single-use plastic items by 2021.  China announced a plan to ban all single-use plastics across the country by 2025.  
  • Plastic straw bans are popping up across the country, from Seattle to Washington, D.C., and companies like Starbucks are joining the movement.
  • San Francisco International Airport and Vanderbilt University banned the sale of plastic water bottles in their facilities last year.

Environmental Impact

There is ongoing research on how plastics are affecting our environment.  The impact may be deeper than you realize, but here are some staggering highlights.

  • All plastic ever created still exists either in original form or as microplastic. [1]
  • Americans use 3 million plastic water bottles per hour!  Less than 30% of bottles are recycled. [2]
  • At least 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean every year. [3]
  • An estimated 51 trillion microplastic particles (500 times more than stars in our galaxy) are in the ocean today. [4]
  • 1 in 3 fish caught for human consumption contain plastic and 100% of baby sea turtles have plastic in their stomachs. [5]

Image Source: Romolo Tavani/Shutterstock

  • Sources of microplastics in our oceans include cosmetics (exfoliating microbeads) and microfibers from our clothing, not just single-use plastics.
  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch floating between Hawaii and California is estimated to be twice the size of Texas. [6]
  • Condor Ferries has compiled some shocking facts and statistics about ocean plastic.
  • 99% of plastic comes from fossil fuels. [7]

Health Concerns

The scary truth is that we are ingesting microplastic particles.  Plastic breaks down into tiny particles that never go away, so they make their way into our water supply, food sources, and even the air we breathe.   Studies have shown that plastic leaches chemicals, such as bisphenols, phthalates, and styrene.  These chemicals are known to cause numerous health issues even in low doses including endocrine and hormone disruption, reproductive issues, nervous system problems, various cancers, hearing loss, and weakened immune system.   American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes health risks and recommends avoiding chemicals found in plastics.  So what can you do to mitigate your exposure?   

  • Avoid plastic as much as possible, especially things that come in contact with your food and water.
  • Never put plastic in the microwave or dishwasher because heating plastic leaches chemicals.
  • Clean regularly – dusting and vacuuming helps reduce airborne particles.

 We’ll share our practical ideas to reduce your impact on plastic pollution in part two of this series, so stay tuned. #reduceyourimpact #nomoreplastics

Written by Susan Rudolph, Client Engagement Specialist at Ohana Wealth & Life Planning.   Ohana is based in Cincinnati, OH and specializes in life and financial planning along with ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) investing principles.   The firm is an independent financial advisor and a fee-only fiduciary.  Susan and the Ohana team also enjoy volunteering and giving back to their local communities.  You can reach Susan at susan@ohanaplanning.com.