Before we had plastic products we had nothing. We lived in caves with no clothes and no furniture and our food was…well, we had better eat it all because there was just no way to save it. Our cell phones were made with rocks and real difficult to carry, especially without pockets.
Okay, you know I’m kidding. But the point is, we did manage before plastic became so much a part of our lives. Now, for anyone younger than 40, this has been ALL your life, but for us gray hairs, we remember when our sandwiches were wrapped with waxed paper and yes, we carried regular plates, silverware and glasses to a picnic. Life was okay. Maybe some broken earthenware, but hey! There are paper plates now so go use those and start getting used to ….throwing your money away. Because that’s what single use disposable products require. You can spend money….throw what you purchased in the trash, and spend more money again to do it another time.
Sometime in the late 50s, early 60s there was a new plastic product called melamine. I think I have some plates….because essentially they are indestructible. And those plates can be carried to a picnic and come home without any concern for breakage.
When we get really thinking about zero waste it is very easy to jump on the bandwagon that every plastic product is bad. But that is not the case and that is not the point. Yes, there is toxicity all throughout the mining and refinery stages. There are transportation costs as well, but consider those pretty even when comparing many products unless you live near a green producer who has a bricks and mortar outlet.
Not all plastics should be shunned. For example, kayaks made from plastic last a lonnnnnnnng time. Why not purchase a used plastic kayak if you want? This does not require any new plastic object to be manufactured and keeps the older one out of the landfill.
How about those sippy cups used by millions of American toddlers? You can buy some at a fraction of the cost of new at yard sales or on a resale website. Yes, sterilize it…..you should anyway if you bought something new from the store for your baby to use. Within 3 or 4 days of use a new cup looks well loved. So, considering the lifespan of a sippy cup, switch your buying to used and relax.
Now, how about plastic straws? We’re now talking about an item which has for most people a single use. You buy a soda when ordering fast food and there it is. And afterwards, you throw it in the trash because you already know they can not be recycled.
There’s a big push throughout the media for people to stop using plastic straws and this is smart. There are metal straws and also glass straws (made with tempered glass so they are not easily breakable) that offer straight and bent versions as well as tiny brushes to clean the inside. These straws easily can be used at home or on the go (refuse that straw at the fast food!!), washed and used again and again.
But there are people who need the bending capability of the plastic straws. I know two adults who have different health conditions that require the use of a straw to drink and because of their posture issues, the bendy part of the plastic straw is priceless to get the drink to them cleanly. Those people should be able to continue to obtain plastic straws for their use until they can also obtain some that are becoming more readily available that avoid single use plastic also. I would suggest that current plastic straws could be washed to be reused, especially in a home environment.
For the rest of us, from age one to 91, please use paper or the glass or stainless straws. But allow those who are not as able to still have their cup and drink it too.
We have to keep an eye on our consumption of single-use plastics. We have to greatly reduce if not completely eliminate them from our lives in order to help manufacturers find new sustainable packaging and objects. When we make our choices, people WILL start new businesses to meet a new trend.
Perhaps some of you may not know that I am a commercial food processor. I can foods and they go into glass jars. Lids have to be new for a good seal, but the jars themselves can be sanitized and reused as long as the sealing surface is intact without any chips. My dehydrated products, however, are packaged into plastic zip-locked bags that are rated for 5 years of safe storage. Right now I have not found anything available on the market at any price. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know. I will be searching and when I find a substitute that provides safe food storage, I will make the switch.
Each of us needs to think of our own use and find better substitutes to help better steward our planet.