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Environment

Think You Can Live Without Plastic?

One writer chronicles the ubiquity of plastic products in daily life.

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Also see DISCOVER's new feature article on the investigation into the dangers of plastics.

How do I love thee, plastic? Let me count the ways. I wake up and glance at my plastic digital cable box to check the time. I go to the bathroom to use my plastic toothbrush, shaking a bit of my “nontoxic” tooth powder from a plastic bottle. I fill the plastic container of my Waterpik with mouthwash from another plastic bottle. I step into the shower—my lacy white curtain is protected by a plastic liner, and my chlorine-free shower water comes to me through a plastic-encased filter.

Ah, but in the kitchen I am a bit freer of you, plastic. When I learned that my plastic bowls, dishes, and containers could leach harmful chemicals—especially the ones with that sneaky, practically invisible little recycling triangle embossed with the number 7—I bought Pyrex. My soft-boiled eggs are served up in a Pyrex glass dish. A moment of rebellion against thee, plastic! But the microwave in which I heat water for tea is made of plastic as well as metal. And the refrigerator shelf on which I store my eggs is plastic.

The coaster on my desk, on which I place my steaming, oh-so-healthy green tea, is plastic. The 22-inch liquid-crystal computer monitor that seems to be the fulcrum of my entire existence is made of plastic. My keyboard, my mouse, my computer speakers, the CD cases for my music collection, my polycarbonate reading glasses, the remote control for my stereo, my telephone—all plastic. The sun shines through my window onto a riot of green plants in … plastic pots. (I could switch to ceramic, but it’s so heavy and hard to heft when I want to water them.) And I’ve been up for only an hour.

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