The fantastic plastics business, created from the 50s of last century, still continues to make millionaires all over the world, despite being the biggest destroyer of the ecosystem of Planet Earth and of human life itself. It is estimated that more than 150 million tons of plastic are currently polluting the oceans. According to a study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in partnership with McKinsey Consulting, published in 2014, the proportion of tons of plastic rubbish for fish was 1 to 5. If the present is bleak the future threat becomes a real nightmare: predictions point out that if the trend continues, by 2025 the ratio will be 1 to 3 and by 2050 there will be even more plastics in the seas than fish.
Now the problem is not only in the sea because we are all aware of this pollution also on land, but still, we do not know how to live without the traditional plastic that chases us in our daily routine life, as if it were an integral part of our body. The truth is that it already is. Experts from several countries consider that 90% of the world’s population, including newborns, have Bisphenol A (known as BPA) in their body.
But what is BPA? It was discovered by the Russian A.P. Dianin in 1891, is a chemical which results from the preparation of the condensation of acetone with two equivalents of phenol. It is used in the manufacture of plastic to make feeding bottles, and water bottles, canning cans, cups, plates and cutlery, adhesion films used in the kitchen, food storage containers, household utensils, sports equipment, dental devices, spectacle lenses, toys, among many other products.
Since the 1970s there have been suspicions of the harmful effects of this substance on humans and we know today that it can cause various cancers (breast, ovaries, uterus, lungs, prostate, liver, brain, nervous system, among others), infertility, miscarriages, precocious puberty in girls, penile deformity in boys, hyperactivity, attention deficit, autism, Parkinson’s, negative heart stresses or diabetes, among many others.
Experts consider BPA a very unstable molecule that can easily pass from plastics or canned cans [the inner part of many cans have this component], for example, to foods, only with changes in temperature or damage in the packaging. Although plastics with BPA have been sold for more than 50 years all over the world, countries like Canada, Costa Rica or some US states have long since banned it.
However, the truth is that there are more than 80,000 varieties of plastics registered with patents that protect their chemical composition, partial or total, under industrial secrecy. The chemical additives used to create rigidity, elasticity, resistance or color are often difficult to detect in the laboratory, warn some experts. One example is the plastic feeding bottle with BPA, which since 2007 has been warned about harm, but in 2011 the European Union decided to ban its production and marketing. “This is good news for European countries, who can be sure that as of mid-2011 plastic feeding bottles no longer contain bisphenol A”, compliment himself, at that time, the European Commissioner for Consumer Affairs and of Health, John Dalli. But this decision is a small drop in the ocean since the consumer continues to be encouraged daily by plastics that contain BPA or equivalent.
How to get away from BPA?
The best solution is to avoid foods and beverages packed in plastics, use glass or steel / stainless steel containers to store food, do not use plastics in the microwave and, above all, check the bottom of the plastic container which is the recycling number marked within a triangle. The numbers 1 (PET), 2 (PEAT or HDPE), 4 (LDPE or LDPE), 5 (PP) means that there is some safety because they do not contain BPA or Phthalates. If the numbers 3 (PVC or V), or 6 (PS) and 7 (PC and others) are marked, it is best not to use them for food or even in the kitchen, it probably contains BPA (which are usually the harder and more resistant plastics).
Uncertainty remains, however, very much alive even though many countries have already banned BPA since the industry has adapted to the new impositions and instead of BPA it now uses new additives such as bisphenol S or bisphenol F, which are legal but whose overall effects are still unknown. The researchers’ suspicions remain in the air because their effects may be the same or worse than BPA. And many other additives are still used, but totally unknown due to the industrial secret that is legally accepted, despite the potential risk that exists for consumers.
Europe bans disposable plastics from 2021
Environmental pollution and its impact on the environment led the European Parliament to adopt, on 24 October 2018, a resolution requiring the Council of the European Union, where national governments are represented, to reach an agreement on legislation final product to prohibit the sale of single-use plastic products from 2021. Plates, cutlery, cotton swabs, straws, beverage stirrers, balloon sticks, oxo-degradable plastics, and expanded polystyrene food and beverage containers, but their days are counted.
Regarding other single-use plastic products, “Member States must take the necessary measures to achieve an ambitious and sustainable reduction of at least 25% by 2025“, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) say in the approved text. Examples include boxes for hamburgers, sandwiches, and salads, as well as containers for fruits, vegetables, desserts or ice creams.
Member States will still have to ensure the selective collection and subsequent recycling of at least 90% of disposable plastic bottles by 2025, further determine the new rules adopted by the European Parliament. Tobacco products, such as plastic-containing filters, which MEPs want to see reduced by 50% by 2025 and by 80% by 2030, are also targeted at Strasbourg.
Every year, 4.8 to 12.7 tons of plastics enter the oceans, of which 49% are disposable plastics (plastic bottles and lids, beads, swabs, packages, toiletries, plastic bags, cutlery, cups …) and 27% are plastic from fishing equipment. This proposal is part of the European strategy for plastics.
Besides affecting the environment and human health (studies show that our body contains up to nine different microplastics (polypropylene (PP) particles and polyethylene terephthalate (PET), among others)), but plastic marine litter is also harmful to activities such as tourism, fisheries, and maritime transport.