You do your best to eat right and make good decisions but always seems like no matter how hard we try, something is sabotaging our best efforts. Enter: plastics. Long gone are the days of thinking diet alone can keep you healthy because what we eat isn’t as simple as the food on our plates. Our bodies are like lil sponges going around absorbing and swallowing everything we’ve been pumping into the environment since the Industrial Revolution. And y’all-, it’s fucking nasty.
Single-use plastics have been getting plenty of attention lately for all the harm they do to the environment. We produce 300 million tons of plastic each year on this fragile planet of ours, half of which is for single-use items. Even worse, 91% of that plastic is NEVER recycled and instead makes its way into our soil and water. Plastic nurdles are spilling into every.god.damn.thing and they’re neither regulated nor required to be cleaned up AT ALL. Even when plastics break down to the point at which they’re no longer an obvious pile of trash, the tiny fragments still contaminate the environment. Animals and humans ingest these particles, and we aren’t sure what that means for their health and ours. These little particles are referred to as micro and nanoplastics.
Technically speaking, microplastics are pieces of plastic debris that measure five millimeters in length or less— about the size of a sesame seed at its largest. As we all know, when plastic breaks down in the environment, it does not biodegrade. You can’t compost it. Instead, it breaks down into endless teeny-tiny pieces, known as microplastics. Nanoplastics are even smaller, with diameters less than 0.050 mm but you get the idea. Think smaller than glitter. Now imagine trying to clean this shit up on a global scale.
The ubiquity of plastics in our environment is becoming a dangerous and unavoidable problem. A study from the University of Arizona examined 47 samples from deceased people’s organs- like lungs, livers, spleens, and kidneys, taken from a tissue bank that typically studies neurodegenerative diseases. Sure, they expected to find plastics in some of this tissue BUT instead they found an abundance of plastic in every single tissue sample. YES, every single one. We’re quickly finding ourselves in a reverse Mannequin situation guys.
The team stressed that while chemical products, namely petroleum, embedding themselves in all our bodily tissues obviously isn’t great, we still have no idea what this means. Sure, the fact that most of us are consuming 5 grams of plastic, roughly 1 credit card, every week is fucking awful but somehow it gets worse. Drinking bottled water can double the amount of microplastics you consume each year and in many places like the US, even the air can contain plastic. You know the urban legend about how we swallow 8 spiders a year in our sleep? It’s bullshit but you are practically swallowing a full toy’s worth of plastic by your next birthday. Greaaattt.
So what should we be doing while science tries to figure out how bad this all is? Reduce our plastic consumption and exposure wherever possible, recommit to recycling and our local recycling programs to keep these plastics out of the environment, and pressure companies to stop selling products in aggressive plastic and non-compostable packaging. But even all that might not be enough. Lots of that ‘compostable’ molded fiber products also contain per-polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. Tons of compostable goods rely on this type of carbon-fluorine bond to make them resistant to heat, water, and oil. They have no known half-life, meaning the chemicals themselves do not biodegrade in any way. They’re being called “forever chemicals” and like plastics, they’re fucking everywhere.
Packaging made with PFAS often often looks like paper or cardboard which seems like the greener choice but nope. Still evil. Environmental watchdogs are concerned that these fiber containers championed by fast-casual restaurants such as Sweetgreen and Chipotle aren’t biodegradable as these corporations tout them to be. Shocking stuff, we know. Consumer Reports tested more than 100 food packaging products and found PFAS in everything from paper bags for French fries, wrappers for hamburgers, to molded fiber salad bowls and single-use paper plates from every single retailer they looked at. Gross.
Think about the container your food is in. It’s able to hold any food, hot, cold, wet, and not spill or warp. Of course that shit is gonna be dangerous for the environment. It doesn’t flinch under molten nacho cheese. So what’s the solution here? First, we’ve gotta push governments to start outlawing these materials before we pollute the ground, air, and water more than we already have. Next, we need to cook more at home and use way less plastic and coated materials. Keep shit simple. Plastics, despite being everywhere, are a relatively new human invention. We can live with way less of them. Wanting plastic-free air shouldn’t be such a big ask, right?
Thanks so much for joining us here in The Broiler Room. We’re a community supported brand and rely on the support of people like you who have incredible taste. Every Sunday we have our recipe club newsletter that goes out to our paid supporters where they get a brand-new recipe just for them. This week we’re talking about the drink of the summer and making our own cherry grenadine so we can sip in style without all those artifice dyes and flavors. Best part? It’s only $5 a month.
Keep cool and we’ll see y’all next weekend.
Michelle and Matt