Eliminating Plastics in the Bathroom
Why zero plastic?
Petroleum based plastics can take up to 1000 years to decompose, which means that the plastics that have ever been produced by humans all exist somewhere on the Earth (source). This is incredibly problematic since the plastics can fill up the landfills and the ocean, where they release toxic chemicals that harm plants and animals - including humans - for hundreds of years. And of course, extracting petroleum releases CO2 into the atmosphere.
"Compostable" plastics fare better but do require proper composting environments to completely decompose, which not all recycling centers currently have. There are also different types of "compostable" plastics where all nuances live (source). Seattle (where I live) is good in that "biodegradable" plastics can be put in the curbside compost bin, but "degradable" or "oxo-degradable" plastics cannot be in the compost bin and instead should be in the garbage (source).
Recycling plastic often makes people feel better but is simply not working in the US. One reason is that plastics are contaminated way too often which voids the recycling process. Another reason is that the recycled plastics simply have nowhere to go; other countries used to take the US's tons of recycled plastics but stopped accepting them due to high contamination. Therefore, the plastics that you wash and place in your curbside bin is likely to end up in the landfills or incinerated (which is harmful for the air) (source). One study found that only 9% of plastics ever produced have been recycled (source).
So.... plastics are bad, and recycling is not working, and the best solution seems to be to eliminate plastic!
I decided that I would stop purchasing products that contain plastics. This is pretty hard to do really; most things have some components of plastic in them whether through the actual product or packaging. I decided I would focus on one category at a time - this post is on the "bathroom" category.
1. Hand soap
For many years, I've bought these giant plastic refill bottles (on the right) to fill soap into my soap dispenser (in the middle). I thought this approach was overall using less plastic than if I bought a plastic, one-use soap dispenser every time (on the left). Plus, it looks nicer! But there's a way to completely eliminate plastic..
Floss seems so small and harmless... but when it is in the environment, especially in the ocean, they can be a real problem. Most common, nylon-based floss can take up to 80 years to decompose and they often end up in the ocean. There, they can suffocate marine animals and/or end up in their stomach, causing health problems for many years (source).
|Poor seal, dead from suffocation
due to plastic wrapped around its neck..
For full set of (a bit disturbing) photos,
When I looked for alternatives to Nylon-based floss, I was happy to find this Biodegradable Charcoal Bamboo Floss! As the name suggests, it's made out of Bamboo charcoal fiber, so it breaks down in approximately 60-90 days in the compost. So now I just toss the used floss in my compost bin. I've enjoyed flossing with it and I do not miss the Nylon-based floss at all. The Nylon-based floss is also waxed with perfluorinated chemicals, or PFC, and they can cause numerous health issues as well. So I am very happy for my health and the environment with this switch.
|Often, these plastic products will kill wildlife Source
This set is what I bought!
So it says "waste free" but it's not.
The bristles are Nylon-based.
For actual "waste free" toothbrushes,
look for bristles that are not Nylon based
and can actually be decomposed like this one.