Humans may be consuming anywhere between 39,000 to 52,000 microplastic particles every year. And, that number rises to over 74,000 when taking potential microplastic inhalation into account, National Geographic reports. Plastic food packaging is a key source of plastic pollution, which is now “one of the world’s most pressing environmental issues”. As an antibacterial, durable, and biodegradable material, bamboo offers a promising solution to plastic pollution. By doing your bit to embrace bamboo and minimize plastic usage in your own life, you can help the environment, as well as improve your own health.
The problem with plastic
In addition to being bad for human health, plastic used in food packaging also comes with a huge environmental toll. Since it’s single-use and not recyclable, plastic food packaging is typically thrown away and ends up in landfills and waterways. In most cases, the plastic doesn’t degrade and leaches chemicals into waterways and soil. In fact, it’s estimated as much as one-third of all plastic eventually ends up in either soil or freshwater. As such, the UN has described plastic pollution as a “planetary crisis“.
Reducing food plastic
The best way to do your bit to reduce the amount of plastic in the environment is to grow your own fruits and vegetables at home. This isn’t as difficult as it may sound. For example, strawberries, tomatoes, and bell peppers are simple-to-grow, beginner-friendly options. Yet, even more, exotic fruits like durian, lychees, and dragon fruit can be easily grown as indoor fruit trees. This is also a great way to reduce your food miles – almost two-thirds of fresh fruit and one-third of fresh vegetables are imported to the United States. And, when you do need to purchase fresh produce from the store, find ways to reduce plastic usage where possible. For example, reusable cotton mesh bags can be used to carry your groceries instead of wasteful plastic bags. Since cotton is non-toxic and breathable, it’s ideal for keeping your fruit and veg fresh on the way home.
Bamboo: a sustainable plastic alternative
As a strong, renewable, and anti-bacterial material, bamboo is a sustainable alternative to plastic. Disposable utensils, for example, can be made with bamboo sheaths, while reusable ones can be created by powderizing the entire plant and molding it as needed. Even if you decide to throw these products away, they’ll easily break down in the environment, unlike plastic. Bamboo also shows promise for use in food packaging. For example, Japanese researchers at Keio University used bamboo’s enzymic fluid within a foam wrapping sheet designed for food packaging. The wrapping cleverly absorbs and breaks down ethylene – an important plant hormone – to quicken ripening, while also preserving freshness.
Plastic pollution is undoubtedly an environmental crisis affecting all walks of life. By embracing sustainable alternatives like bamboo, you can do your bit to reduce plastic usage and pollution, therefore helping protect both the environment and your health.
Photo by Toni Cuenca.