Why Plastic Free July is good for your health

By Edwina Green, Corporate Nutritionist

Have you heard about the Plastic Free July campaign? The challenge is quite simple… attempt to refuse single-use plastic during July.  It is primarily an environmental campaign to reduce the amount of single-use disposable plastic in our lives, our landfill sites and the oceans. But there could also be significant benefits to your health too.

When we buy food, like it or not, we are also buying packaging. Packaging has an important role, carrying product information, preventing spoilage, and protecting food during the journey from the farm or factory to the retailer and then to your pantry, fridge, or freezer. It is ubiquitous.   Indeed on average it equates to half the cost of the item.[1]  However, there are concerns that packaging is also a route by which our food and drinks could be contaminated with unwanted and harmful chemicals.

Chemical bad boys

Bisphenol A (BPA) and pthalates are two of the most notorious components of plastics and commonly found in food and beverage containers, where they can potentially leach into food and drinks. Both are thought to be endocrine disruptors. In other words, they mimick hormones and interfere with the release of hormones around the body.

They also have a possible negative epigenetic impact on our genes [2].   What does this mean? By altering the environment our genes are bathed in, they can also alter the physical structure of our DNA.

While many of these conclusions are drawn from animal studies, the evidence was sufficient for a number of countries to ban BPA from infant products like sippy cups. France has gone one step further and banned BPA from all packaging, containers, and utensils that come into contact with food.

Many manufacturers have replaced BPA with Bisphenol S (BPS), but unsurprisingly, due to its similar chemical structure BPS is also showing signs of having the same negative impact on health. [3]  Reducing or eliminating our use of single-use plastic in July, you will also reduce your exposure to these chemicals and the potentially detrimental health effects not only to us but also our environment.

Steps to counter plastic exposure

The top 4 single use plastics are: plastic bags, water and drinks bottles, takeaway hot drink cups and straws. Plastic Free July have provided the following tips for avoiding these items:

  • Carry a stainless steel travel mug and/or water bottle at all times; look at outdoor companies for lightweight, robust and inexpensive options.
  • Coffee, Tea or Hot chocolate on the go? Forgotten your reusable cup? Ask for “no lid” or don’t take away, sit in and take the time to enjoy your purchase.
  • Drinking at a cafe or bar? Make sure you say “no straw” when you order.
  • Carry reusable utensils: again look at options provided by outdoor companies for compact and inexpensive solutions.

Remembering to carry them with you might be harder, so why not join me and sign up for a day, a week or the whole month and create a new habit?

At Superwellness, we provide employers and employees with inspiring yet practical nutrition and lifestyle advice. We can help you plan your employee wellbeing programme and tailor make plans to suit you and your company’s needs, including practical solutions that can be implemented in the workplace. Please contact us for further information about our nutrition seminars and workplace wellbeing programmes.

Edwina Green, Associate and Registered Nutritional Therapis

Edwina is a firm believer in natural health and the transformative benefits that good nutrition can bring. Before making the career move to naturopathic nutrition, she ran her own company working in the City of London. She is fully aware of the challenges of trying to follow a healthy diet and lifestyle, while juggling full time work and ensuring quality time with family and friends.  She is passionate about helping people take practical steps to manage their own health and teaching them to dissect the varied and often conflicting information that we receive via the media.

Edwina is currently studying for an MSc in Personal Nutrition and is specifically interested in the connection between our genes and our health.  In particular, the field of nutrigenomics where the food we eat can positively influence our genes, reducing the risk of disease.

[1] Seltenrich N. (2015). A Hard Nut to Crack: Reducing Chemical Migration in Food-Contact Materials. Environmental Health Perspectives. 123 (7) A174-9.

[2] Rezg, R., El-Fazaa, S., Gharbi, N., Mornagui, B.. (2014). Bisphenol A and human chronic diseases: Current evidences, possible mechanisms, and future perspectives. Environment International. 64, 83-90.

[3] Boucher JG, Ahmed S, Atlas E. Bisphenol S Induces Adipogenesis in Primary Human Preadipocytes From Female Donors. Endocrinology. 2016 Apr;157(4):1397-407.


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