Plastic Pollution and the Surprising Places Plastics Hang Out

face covered with plastic bag

Plastic pollution is rampant.  As you are reading this, look around.  Identify the things that are made of plastic.  Now, some of them may make sense- there aren’t great alternatives for them.  But other items have alternatives that can eventually biodegrade in the right conditions, and not end up poisoning soils and water systems with toxins and polluting the food chain and planet.  It makes sense that we start prioritizing alternatives.

plastic bags and trash bins

prolific plastic pollution

There are some real bad things about plastic pollution.  As I mentioned:

  1. Toxins.  These toxins can cause health major issues (we’re talking cognitive and reproductive disorders) and some are considered carcinogens.  (yet are not banned, somehow…)
  2. Never break down: plastic particles will photodegrade and break into tiny pieces.  But they never truly break down.  They just get smaller and harder to recapture for cleanup.
  3. We’ve been using plastic for 70 years. And our appetite for it is insatiable. For a product that doesn’t naturally biodegrade, its obvious that it’s going to keep building up on our one planet. There is no ‘away.’
  4. Plastics are showing up in some wild places.  Think: snow in the middle of Antarctica; stomachs of animals; muscles of humans, rain.

Read on to see some of the surprising places where plastic hangs out.

plastics in clothing

When we think of fabrics, we tend to think of cotton or linen.  But a lot of clothing is made from synthetic materials.  These synthetic materials are actually part of the plastic family.  Nylon, rayon, spandex, polyester, acrylic and acetate are common synthetic fibers that are replacing organic, plant-based fibers. 

When we wash our clothes, we release tiny microfibers into the water, which then gets sent to the waste treatment facility.  These fibers are so small, they can’t be filtered out.  They end up in the ocean, disguised as food for marine wildlife.

Check out to learn a little more about synthetics. 

To avoid this, look for natural linens- organic cotton, linens and even fabrics made from food waste, such as pineapple and coconut!  It sounds crazy, but it’s coming and I am SO EXCITED for this food to fabric revolution!

Also, on a side note- I usually like to tout secondhand clothing (shopping at thrift stores- yay!) as the most sustainable option.  But if you want to step up your sustainability game, when you buy or select secondhand clothing or fabrics, keep the material in mind.  If it is synthetic, maybe skip it.

plastic as a base in gum

Yeah.  How (un)cool is that?  A ‘food item’ that you chew on for periods of time actually has an ingredient in it that is plastic-based.  I’m at a loss for how this stuff even gets made.  Science Focus may say it best: “Chewing gum is basically plastic doped with flavours and colourings.”

Gum is made from plastic, folks.  Polyvinyl acetate, to be exact.  Would you put anything ‘vinyl’ in your mouth and chew on it for an hour? 

Below is a picture of a Search Engine Result. Asks about gum and answers about plastic.

plastics in animals

Plastic pollution is ending up in our food chain. Marine animals are eating microplastics, plastic bags, and synthetic clothing fibers regularly (and apparently gum).  It can actually cause them to starve when they build up in their stomachs and digestive systems.  They don’t digest it, obviously, and they can’t pass it usually because it doesn’t break down. 

Microplastics might not even be ingested because they look like a meal.  They just happen to get stuck in gills or make their way into the stomachs of fish.  It can be passed on as other animals prey on them.  It becomes part of the food chain. 

We’re high up on the food chain- we eat everything!  So what does that tell you?

“Salmon with a side of plastic, please.”

plastics in produce

“I’m vegetarian. I don’t eat meat so I’m not eating plastic.”  Ah, I wish this were true.  Even our organic, package-free plant-based diets aren’t immune to plastic pollution. On average, we eat a credit card ‘s weight in plastic a week.  A WEEK.  You may be swallowing plastic with your apple.  So, even if you don’t eat seafood, meat or grow your own fruits and vegetables, you are probably consuming plastic.  That is how rampant it is.

You’ve gotta check out this article on plastics. “Decades of plastic use have contaminated our air, water, and soil,” Hocevar added. “Eating just a bite of an apple could now mean eating hundreds of thousands of bits of plastic at the same time.”

plastic particles in your muscles 

This makes me so uncomfortable. 

That’s right.  It’s already in you.  Scientists say that they would not be surprised if plastic began adding weight to people as it enters our muscles.  As we know, it doesn’t biodegrade and there is nothing our bodies can do, once it enters our muscles, to get rid of it.  It will just continue to accumulate to the point where we can actually say that those couple of extra pounds we gained are due to plastic particles.

microplastics in the air

You heard that right.  Scientists were studying plastic and found a lot of it in the ocean.  But, even though the numbers were outrageous, they sensed they weren’t capturing it all.  Where was it all going?  We were certainly producing more than this, and we weren’t recycling it all.  So where is the plastic?

It’s in the atmosphere.

And not even just surrounding coastal towns.  The theory was that the turbulence of ocean water might throw some of the smaller particles up into the air, where they might linger around coastal towns.  But, its been discovered that microplastics are travelling across the globe through atmospheric transport.

microplastics in rain

It’s raining plastic, people.  It sounds incredible.  Like, incredulous incredible- not fantastic incredible.  But it’s legit.  It’s raining plastic.  Not as catchy as “it’s raining men”, unfortunately, but this is why we are finding it in vegetables and fruits.  Because as it travels through atmospheric transport, it is raining down across the globe, and plants are uptaking it from the soil via their roots.

we can no longer escape plastic pollution

No matter how healthy and sustainable you try to be; how natural and organic; we are threatened with breathing, eating, and drinking synthetic and toxic particles.  Plastic is everywhere.  It’s prolific and immortal.  We have to find plastic alternatives, and NOW. 


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