Plastic is everywhere, and it’s not pretty. The chemicals in various plastics can migrate into our bodies, and they have been linked to everything from obesity to cancer to messing with our hormones. “There are substantial data to suggest that phthalates found in plastic mimic estrogen and in some cases counteract the effects of testosterone in our bodies,” says Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Medicine at NYU School of Medicine. A recent study estimates that hormone-disrupting chemicals such as BPA cause a range of human diseases that cost a whopping 157 billion Euros per year in the EU.
Plastics are equally unkind to marine life; they injure and kill birds and fish and fill our waterways with debris. Somewhere between 10 and 28 billion pounds of plastic ends up in the ocean every year, according to the nonprofit eco-advocacy group Ocean Conservancy. This is all a huge bummer, but there is good news: “If every single person in the U.S. were a little more conscious about what they were using, we could make a huge difference,” says Dianna C. Parker, legislative and communications specialist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program.
Thankfully, there are tons of simple ways to opt out of this ugly, plastic-perpetuating cycle. Choosing reusable shopping bags and water bottles are only a couple of the changes you can make to protect yourself and your planet. Click through for other tactics.