Should we be burning plastic – that’s the burning question?

Should we be burning plastic – that’s the burning question?

What chemicals are released when we burn plastic and what effect can each one have on our health?

Bonfire night on St. John's Eve
Bonfire night on St. John’s Eve

The weather has been great here in Ireland recently and I love the smell of the warm Summer air in the morning. On Tuesday morning when I stepped outside I did not get the smell I expected. It was a harsh, burning smell and it took me a moment to realise what it could be. The day before was 23rd of June and people around my area often celebrate St. John’s Eve by lighting bonfires and gathering the communities together. To be honest I had never heard of this tradition until I moved to Galway but I think it adds a lovely social element to the community. What I don’t like is the small number of people who use it to burn off their plastic waste… and that was the reason for the smell I got on Tuesday morning.

I should add, I am no saint myself… I have absent mindedly thrown the odd crisp bag or wrapper into the fire at home. What harm can it do, right? Well, I have done a little research and it can do a lot more harm than most of us might think.

The graphics below explain what chemicals are released when each of the seven plastic groups are burned, the effects these chemicals can have on our bodies and some very startling facts!



Bisphenol ABPA research articlesDioxinHydrogen Chloride in firesDangers of burning plastic and rubberHome burning of plastics and waste


If you want to find out more on this subject check out these great blog posts…

 Burning of waste – not in my backyard

A new breed of gansters.


It is International Earth Day – and this is what is on my mind!

It is International Earth Day – and this is what is on my mind!

photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc
photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

It is International Earth Day today.

I have been thinking of the Earth a lot lately, even more than usual.

Global warming, endangered species, renewable energy have all been in the news lately, and well they should be.

But that’s not what I am thinking about.

I am thinking about plastic!

In fact I am thinking about plastic so much I am trying to think about anything else!

But I can’t!




My ten year old daughter did a project on plastic for school recently.

Here are just some of the facts she shared with her class…

photo credit: jschneid via photopin cc
photo credit: jschneid via photopin cc

Plastic takes 500 to 1000 years to degrade.

It has been estimated that over ONE TRILLION plastic bags are used worldwide EACH YEAR and only 0.5% to 3% of all these bags are recycled.

In 2006, the United Nations found that each square mile of the ocean has 46,000 pieces of plastic in it.

Over 100,000 mammals are suspected of dying due to plastic pollution every year, on both land and in our oceans. 

Marine trash, mainly plastic, is also killing more than a million seabirds each year.



But it is not so bad, right? We can recycle the plastic we use!

Unfortunately not!

My obsession has run to reading all the fine print and checking the recycle symbols of the packaging we use everyday.

Supermarket shopping has become a major stress… it is not enough that it is Irish, locally grown or organic… the plastic it comes in cannot go in my recycle bin!

The more I look, the more I see…. and I wish I didn’t! I wish I could go back to a previous state of ignorance, but I can’t!

It is driving me mad.

So what will I do? Little old me, what can I change… and what difference will it make?

I am not sure what difference it will make, but I have to do something. I may rant and rave here from time to time but I am not a big activist.

So I am going to start off small.

One piece of plastic at a time!

I am going to bring a cloth bag for my vegetable.

I will change to choosing loose vegetable whenever possible and they will go into my cloth bag, not a little plastic one that is on offer for such purposes!

I will choose more farmers markets, where loose produce are more readily available.

I will join a local scheme that delivers a selection of in-season fruit and vegetable to my door each week. It may cost a little more but if I cook wisely I can make these go further.

I can grow more vegetables in my own garden.

Small changes I know, but often small things can lead to BIG changes… so I will keep reminding myself of the Butterfly Effect theory, every time I eliminate one plastic bag from the shopping trolley!


So that is what is on my mind this Earth Day, what’s on your mind?