A child’s exposure to plastic begins with the very first things you buy for a newborn, from plastic toys to feeding bottles. Of course, plastic items are usually durable, cheap and non-brittle, and therefore easy to use. But what happens after you dispose them? They add to pollution and harm the environment.
Why do we need to reduce consumption of single-use plastic?
Plastic is non-biodegradable. It makes soil less fertile, chokes water bodies thereby harming aquatic life and clogs drains. It enters the food chain when animals consume plastic waste. And much of the plastic we use today are single-use products, which when disposed only add to the level of plastic litter. Think of the number of plastic bottles we buy and dispose, for instance. Nearly one million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute, as per Euromonitor International’s global packaging trends report. And much of this plastic is not recycled. An estimated 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste has accumulated over the past six decades, according to a study published in 2018 in the journal Science Advances.
Why should you reduce plastic use around your child?
Young children, that is, babies and toddlers, have a habit of putting every object in their mouth. If it is a plastic item, your child is likely to be exposed to toxic chemicals like bisphenol-A (BPA), a synthetic hardening agent used in many plastic products. A study by NGO Toxics Link in 2014 found high levels of the chemical even in baby feeding bottles that claimed to be BPA-free, in certain Indian states. BPA, which is known to cause disruptions in normal hormone levels, behavioural problems and increase risk of cancer, can leach out from the bottles and also get into your child’s food. Since children are more vulnerable, they tend to absorb the chemicals more.
Some other chemicals in plastic items like your child’s toys are phthalates. In the book How to Live Plastic Free by members of UK’s Marine Conservation Society, the authors write, “These chemicals make plastic bendy, soft and squidgy…all the qualities in a toy.” Ongoing studies, as per the book, are analysing the link between the chemical and asthma, and how it can influence the timing of puberty and childhood obesity.
So, reducing the use of plastic will not only ensure your child’s safety and good health but will also contribute towards leaving behind a sustainable environment for your child to thrive in.
How to reduce use of plastic products
1. Store baby food in glass jars
Glass jars are plastic-free and can be recycled. So, it is advisable to store baby food in glass jars.
2. Use biodegradable nappies
Disposable diapers are known to take over 500 years to decompose. Once you dispose nappies after use, the plastic in them still remain in the environment for a long time, adding to plastic pollution. One can replace them with cloth diapers like Superbottoms or other eco-friendly reusable nappies available in the market like BDiapers, which is made of chemical-free bamboo fiber and cotton, or Bambo Nature, among others.
3. Avoid using plastic cutlery and straws
Yes, it is convenient for your child to use plastic cutlery but to reduce plastic waste, replace them with stainless steel cutlery, which is also cheap and easy to use.
4. Avoid using disposable cups and plates
In the book How to Live Plastic Free, the experts suggest, “Why not start your toddler off with proper cups and plates also? You’ll need to be more vigilant, but you can get heavy-bottomed ones that are pretty hard for your weaning six-month-old to throw across the room.”
5. Carry homemade food and a reusable water bottle
Instead of buying your child canned foods or chips packets, carry some snack from home like fruits or a cooked meal to feed your child. along with a reusable bottle of water when you go out.
6. Buy plastic-free toys
Next time you buy your child a toy, choose a plastic-free one like wooden toy kits or eco-friendly softie balls for babies, a range of which are available in the market.