The top five items used by the world’s most common household item are made of cotton and plastic, according to a new study.
The findings, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, found that babies prefer plastic-containing bags, which are also commonly found in bags used for diaper bags, because they are lighter and less expensive to produce, according the authors.
“There is a huge amount of interest in this topic and we’ve found that people don’t necessarily know what to make of plastic bags,” says lead author Dr Janna Zetterman, a research associate at the University of British Columbia.
“They’ve made it into a fashion accessory that we don’t see that often.”
The researchers compared plastic-related items to other household items, such as clothes, furniture and appliances, and found that the items with the highest plastic usage rates were the same as the items used most often by babies, but were made of more materials.
The study, which involved using data from a survey of 2,000 US parents and grandparents, found plastic bags were most commonly used for diapers and wipes, but diapers and other disposable items were also the most frequently used items.
It’s the first study to examine this topic.
It found that a lot of the items that babies and adults are using are not made of materials that are recyclable or recyclably sourced, the authors said.
The report found that around 50 per cent of the total items used for household items were made from polystyrene (PS), a plastic that is recycled.
“The fact that so many disposable diapers are made out of plastic means that many more are going to end up in landfills,” Dr Zettermans said.
“That is something that we need to address.”
“In order to ensure that all plastic products that we use are made from recycled materials, we need a lot more of these types of products in the world.”
To do that, the researchers need to improve the packaging used to recycle the plastic, and develop new materials that don’t cause environmental damage.