It is more important than ever to consider the environmental and health impact of single-use plastic bottles. The production and, above all, the use of these bottles have disastrous consequences not only for the environment (pollution of the oceans, marine fauna and groundwater) but also for our health.
We’re talking here about the dangers posed by microplastics, both to health and the environment.
1 The impact on health
Even before having an impact on the environment, plastic bottles have a direct impact on our health. They release toxic micro-particles that we ingest, especially when we reuse and refill these bottles. Although this practice may seem environmentally friendly at first sight, it is dangerous for our health. The danger comes from endocrine disruptors, which by definition have a harmful effect on our bodies.
As well as releasing microplastics, the reuse of single-use plastic bottles increases the risk of the development of bacteria that are harmful to our health.
Now that we’ve talked about the risks to our health, it’s important to remember the dangers that using these bottles poses to our environment.
- Environmental impact
These bottles are made from non-renewable raw materials and fossil fuels such as oil and gas. Once they have been used and thrown away, they take centuries to decompose in nature.
And what’s more, instead of breaking down completely, they fragment into tiny pieces of plastic called microplastics. These microplastics can contaminate soil, rivers and oceans, and harm the marine life that ingests them. They then enter our bodies when we eat certain foods such as shellfish or fish. This pollution affects 90% of marine species, i.e. 3,800 species.
By contaminating the soil, rivers and oceans, these microplastics enter the water cycle. These are known as nanoplastics, and they pollute not only the rain but also the air.
Between 2016 and 2020, several studies were carried out in major cities such as Paris, London and Hamburg. The aim was to assess the volume of microplastics in the air, per square metre. The figures are staggering. In Paris alone, there were (at the time) 110 microplastics per square metre.
The problem with these nanoplastics is that they are able to penetrate our skin. This makes it easier for them to reach the bloodstream and therefore some of our organs.
- Sustainable alternatives
It is therefore imperative to find sustainable alternatives to single-use plastic bottles, firstly to protect our health, but also to protect our environment in the long term. Glass bottles are an excellent alternative because they are reusable and can last for years. They are also easy to clean and contain no harmful substances such as bisphenol A (BPA), which can be found in plastic bottles.
What’s more, glass is an unchanging material that can be recycled ad infinitum. This makes it one of the most durable materials for making reusable containers. So it’s an excellent alternative that can help reduce the environmental and health impact of plastic waste.