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You're Eating Plastic. And More Than You Think

I love to share what I’m reading with the Fifth & Cherry community. The conversations that evolve are fantastic. Plus, sharing what I’m reading and thinking allows me to bring you along for the Fifth & Cherry journey and I love having that kind of intimacy with you.

Recently I’ve been reading about plastics (if you’d like to read the articles I’m discussing below, you can find them here & here). Everyone knows that plastics pose a serious problem for the environment. But what I think a lot of people don’t realize is just how much plastic is already in the ocean, and -- just as alarming -- how much plastic we all eat every year.

When you read the numbers associated with plastic production and plastic refuse, they’re so enormous that they start to run together after a while. It’s really overwhelming.

Currently, eight million metric tons of land-based plastic enters our oceans every year. It's estimated that 150 million tons of plastics are already present in the earth's oceans. The largest concentration is what’s known as The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an area between California and Hawaii where garbage collects in a vortex created by the ocean currents. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is twice the size of Texas, weighs nearly 2 trillion metric tons, and is thought to be mostly made up of plastic. 

Here’s another stat that shocked me: there are three hundred million tons of plastic produced every year, and only 10% of it gets recycled. But it’s not just the fact that these un-recycled plastics are littering our cities and oceans and leaching chemicals into our landfills and water. Microplastics may be the worst result of the world’s addiction to plastics.

Microplastics are just what they sound like...they’re plastic particles that break off from a larger piece of plastic, and there is a good chance they’re in your digestive system right now.

These tiny petrochemical bits can be found in the food you prepare and the products you consume. The full effects of plastics in the body are unknown, but researchers worry that the chemicals associated with microplastics may harm brain development in developing babies and disrupt hormone production in adults.

So just how much plastic are you ingesting every year?

According to a study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology (mentioned in this National Geographic article from last October) it's possible that humans may be consuming anywhere from 39,000 to 52,000 microplastic particles a year.

Yikes!

So if you’re like me, you’re probably wondering: “How can I  avoid eating so much plastic?!”

Microplastics are one of the major reasons I don’t care for plastic cutting boards. Some people assume that plastic cutting boards are safer because they think of plastic as a sterile surface, but actually, the opposite is true: you can’t completely sanitize a plastic cutting board once it has knife grooves.

On top of that, every time you cut and slice on a plastic board, microplastic fibers can be transferred to your food.. This is one source of plastic ingestion that can be completely avoided. This link will help you explore major differences between cutting and chopping surfaces and see how they play a central role in kitchen safety, both in food preparation and consumption.

If you’re already plugged into the microplastics issue, I’d love to know what you’re reading and watching. Please pass along your thoughts and links to tim@fifthandcherry.com.

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