Have you seen the video of rescuers removing a plastic straw lodged securely in a big sea turtle’s nostril?
Have you seen photos of the vast islands (continents?) of plastic floating in the ocean?
Have you walked on a remote ocean beach and seen all the plastic washed up on shore?
I’d seen enough. When China announced it could no longer accept all our plastic for recycling, I realized I’d become sloppy. I was buying way too many plastic bags and wrap. Sure, I often carry my own cloth bags grocery shopping, and I keep all my clean plastic bags to return to the grocery store for recycling. But I am no longer confident that much of that is actually getting recycled anymore.
Plastic bags last 10 to 20 years. Plastic cutlery? Between 100 and 1,000 years. Some plastics last forever.
I’d already made two good changes over the last few years–using my own shopping bags, and recycling as much as possible. Both of those have become routine and super easy. But somewhere along the way I’d grown weary of washing and re-using plastic bags. That all changed when I discovered that the Potter, this man who is proud of the thick layer of dust on his dresser and can keep a tray of cinnamon rolls on his kitchen counter for weeks at a time, was actually washing out and re-using plastic bags.
This morning at Safeway, the woman ahead of me in line had each of her produce items in some odd-looking bags. I asked the checker about them.
“Yes, they’re becoming quite popular–re-usable mesh bags. You can find them sometimes in the produce section (for purchase) or buy them online.” I will watch for those. I’m embarrassed that it’s taken me this long to discover them.
Replacing plastic wrap? I bought 3 sheets (different sizes) of non-plastic wrap online. It did not come cheap ($18 at Etee, no shipping fee), but can be washed and re-used time after time. They work well–not quite as tight as plastic wrap, but my food doesn’t sit in the frig for a long time anyhow. And I’m using my plastic containers a lot instead, especially see-through containers that I’ve bought with food in them.
Just this month Seattle outlawed all use of plastic straws and cutlery in food service. Every time I go to a fast food restaurant, I’m asking politely if they have paper straws. I know our city hasn’t made that switch yet, but it makes sense to let them know that there are some people out here who are ready to eliminate those turtle torture tools.
From everything I’ve read, it’s easiest to implement one change at a time until that practice becomes routine and easy. Then it’s time to make another change. The EPA is relaxing lots of clean air and water standards–it’s up to us!
Does this save the world? Of course not! It doesn’t even make a dent. But like that woman ahead of me in line at the grocery store, I’d like to maybe influence a little bit of change. Big changes start small. We can’t all do the same things, but we can do something.
I’m interested in any ideas you have found that work well to eliminate plastic, especially at the grocery store. Shop the farmer’s markets instead? Resist buying anything in those stiff plastic containers? There’s a comment section somewhere on this page.
Someone recommended a book to me once, Necessary Losses. It was a popular book some years back about dependencies and grieving that we need to give up in order to move forward and grow. As a world we need to give up a lot of plastic not only to move forward, but in order to live.