If you want to avoid using so much plastic, it is pretty easy to see what has been wrapped or packaged in it. Some plastics are not so easy to identify (i.e. for recycling) but they still look and feel like plastic.

Except there is a growing number of ‘stealth plastics’ in our lives – things that look innocent enough, but are hiding a nasty, plasticy, little secret.

Here are 3 of the most common stealth plastics:

Tea Bags

This one blew my mind when I found out;  my seemingly innocent paper tea bags were in fact 20% plastic.

The plastic is used to prevent the tea bag splitting open in the cup, which is a good reason, but with nearly all 165 millon daily brews made being made with a tea bag – that amounts to a lot of plastic.  Many people have been innocently composting these bags for years thinking that they are biodegradable and with microplastic becoming an increasing concern it makes you wonder what impact this has had on our soils.

PG tips and the Co-op are on the cusp of producing a plastic free bag, but until then perhaps dust off the the tea pot and go back to loose leaf?

Chewing Gum

Yes my friends, chewing gum contains plastic. It kind of answers the questions as to why chewing gum on the streets is virtually indestructable and how Violet Beauregarde managed to keep chewing hers for 3 months.

In the ingredients you may see the reference to ‘gum base’ this is in fact a composit of rubber, resin, wax and oil.  The waxes are paraffin based (i.e. like vaseline) and the resins are polyvinyl acetate or polyethylene – the same plastic as shopping bags.

Blurgh!

Receipts

Have you ever bought something that says it is BPA free? BPA stands for Bisphenol-A  which is a chemical used in plastic production. It has been found to mimic and disrupt natural hormone production and for this reason BPA has been prohibited in the production of baby bottles.  However, it is still commonly used to line drinks cans and as the magic ink in receipts.

The BPA is found in the shiny receipt coating and this turns black when it is heated so thermal printers are used to ‘burn’ the text onto your reciepts (if you put a receipt on the radiator it will turn completely black*).  This leaves us with a environmental quandy – because receipts contain BPA they are not recyclable, as it contaminates new paper, so receipts should go to landfill – But what happens then?  The paper itself is still biodegradable, but the BPA is not and will sit in the soil or even make their way into water sources – at the moment there is no answer, but it is certainly something we should be addressing.

*if you put a receipt on the radiator it is no longer a valid proof of purchase.

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