How Your Razor, Face Wash and Teabag Are Killing Our Planet, Secretly

Posted on March 10, 2015 in Environment

By Anjali Nambissan:

India is regarded as a leader in banning plastic bags, with Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur and Vasco as some of the major cities with blanket bans. Enforcement, as we all know from experience, is a different issue. PM Narendra Modi is taking some major steps towards moving India’s energy portfolio in favour of renewable energy, and yeah, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is a little difficult to ignore, not in the least for it 2 lakh crore intended budget.

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But personally, you might be damaging the environment more than helping it, simply by living your everyday life.

You are killing this planet, slowly but surely, simply by using any of these 5 simple everyday things. Think about it this way – the cost of a consumer product – anything from a fork to a forklift – is not just the amount of money you pay for it. It is a cumulative of the resources that are mined to manufacture this product, ship those resources to a manufacturing unit, run that manufacturing unit and then ship the final product to millions of supermarkets the world over.

So, is that individually wrapped little plastic bowl of yogurt really worth it?

Let me ruin a few more everyday things of utility for you:

1. Plastic bottles: Around the world, approximately 50 billion plastic water bottles are consumed every year. No wonder the gargantuan amount of plastic in the oceans (6,350-245,000 metric tonnes) is set to double over the next ten years. That very minuscule minority who recycle their plastic bottles are also not really able to help as not all plastic bottles are made to be recycled. Do us all a favour; carry a reusable water bottle, will you?

2. Anti-bacterial washes, wipes and toothpaste: I know that is more than one everyday thing. But my point is that all these have one thing in common – triclosan. This anti-bacterial agent (C12H7Cl3O2… Whaaa…) is used extensively in consumer products such as soaps, washes and detergents. Researchers have found triclosan to be quite persistent, it survives treatment at sewage treatment plants and small quantities have been found in streams and water bodies in Mediterranean water systems. Some evidence suggests that triclosan in your toothpaste can give you cancer.

3. Face wash/exfoliating scrub: If you haven’t heard of microbeads, you might have been on Mars all this time. Microbeads are the tiny pieces of plastic that serve as the ‘exfoliator’ in your face washes and the anti-microbial little balls in your hand wash. Those tiny little coloured balls in your liquid hand wash? Yeah, they’re made of plastic. They might look good, but they never leave the earth’s system once you’ve washed them down the drain, according to the good folk at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University. They starve corals, soak up toxins and are all-round plastic pains in the asses.

4. Disposable razors (and pretty much everything disposable): Where do you think that plastic and metal razor goes once you chuck it into the dustbin, boys and girls? Into the landfill waste of our country that is generated at the rate of 1,00,000 metric tonnes every day.

5. Tea bags: Most of us make our chai the good old fashioned way, with loose leafs tea. But then there are those who prefer their tea in bags. For those propagators of individual-wrap consumerism, here’s a newsflash – teabags by manufactures ranging from Twinning’s to Tetley are only 75% biodegradable. While the report, by UK-based consumer protection and review magazine Which?, pertains to tea bags in the UK, it is the same manufacturers that are available here in India. I doubt they have more stringent manufacturing policies for the subcontinent. Apparently, teabags are made of paper fibre and polypropylene to make them heat resistant. Didn’t you ever wonder why your teabags never dissolved in boiling water? This plastic propylene is not biodegradable and so, ends up in the landfill forever.