Life in the Green Lane

Environmental journalist Candice Batista shares video clips and eco-savvy advice from her TV show, A Greener Toronto.

Say goodbye to your plastic… Plastic bottles and bags are CHOKING our planet literally. Every year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That’s over one million per minute. Here’s what you need to know. Always carry your own reusable bag; Plastic bags are a big no-no. They litter our parks, suffocate flowers and animals, and take up to 1,000 years to degrade. Plastics do NOT biodegrade. Rather, they photodegrade. Sunlight breaks down plastic into smaller and smaller pieces, contaminating our soil and water. Almost all plastic bags are made from petroleum and natural gas, both non-renewable resources. Paper bags aren’t any better as they’re usually made from virgin trees. Some plastics are also much worse than others. Most plastic containers have numbers on the bottom that appear inside a recycling symbol. These numbers tell you the type of plastic; you’ll want to pay close attention those. Plastics that have the numbers 1,2,4 and 5 are considered to be safer than those that have the numbers 3,6,and 7. Try to avoid these where you can. Number 1 plastics contain polyethylene terephthalate, PETE plastic is the most common for single-use bottled beverages, it’s inexpensive, lightweight and easy to recycle and poses a low risk of leaching. Recycling rates remain relatively low (around 20%). Number 2 plastics contain high density polyethylene, a versatile plastic with many uses, it carries a low risk of leaching and is easily recycled. Food containers and plastic wrap contain Number 3 Polyvinyl chloride or PVC, this is very toxic and is rarely recycled. Avoid it where you can. Number 4 plastics, low density polyethylene or LDPE is also not often recycled but that is changing, this type of plastic is flexible and has many applications. Number 5 plastics or polypropylene can be recycled and have a high melting point, so its used to hold hot liquid. Number 6 Plastics or polystyrene can be made into rigid or foam products like Styrofoam. Evidence suggests polystyrene can leach potential toxins into foods. Its also difficult to recycle. Finally, polycarbonate or unlucky number 7, you’ll find this is baby bottles and cups, water bottles and CD cases. What makes this number so bad? It contains bisphenol A or BPA, a hormone disruptor that is most dangerous to fetuses, infants and children around puberty. Not all number 7’s are toxic but its hard to tell, so just stay away. The bottom line is avoid plastic wherever you can. Find alternatives like glass and always look at the numbers, the planting is counting on it and so are we. Eco Candy.