One of the great things about reusable shopping bags made of recycled plastics is that they have made me realize how many other plastic bags we use that we don’t recycle.
Every time I put my hip, colourful environmentally friendly bag on the counter at the check-out, I watch it being filled with carrots in a plastic bag, milk products in plastic containers, cucumbers individually wrapped in plastic, potatoes in plastic bags, meat wrapped in plastic on Styrofoam trays and frozen veggies in plastic bags.
The lemons and the pre-cut and pre-washed salads are in plastic bags. The kitty litter is in a plastic bag and the cat and dog food are in some kind of brown paper bags strengthened with an internal plastic coating.
Plastic encases the frozen turkey and the schnitzels. The toilet paper, even the really “green” stuff is in a plastic bag. Oddly the plastic food wraps are in cardboard boxes.
The flat of canned beans is also wrapped in plastic, as is the deck of blank CDs.
The new plastic shelving for the home office also has a plastic wrapper and so do the triple packs of underwear and socks.
I know I can take my regular shopping plastic bags back to the store and put them in a recycle bin — but what do I do with all this other plastic wrap? I put it in the garbage where I guess it goes into the landfill. What do you do?
I am thus very impressed with the program my son’s teacher runs called Wasteless Wednesday, where we are to pack a lunch that uses easily degradable wrappings like wax paper.
I’m surprised at how easy it is to reach for all the pre-packaged snacks and plastic sandwich bags, instead of the washable, reusable containers. Or the real thing — like instead of fruit leather in a plastic baggie, just a piece of fruit.
Can we have Wasteless Wednesday every day? For the grown ups?
Can we think about how to change our economy, buying and shipping practices so that plastic is not the element that stands between us and consumption? Or, what to do with these endless mountains of plastic that don’t have a proper recycling home?
I remember how school lunches used to consist of a reusable brown paper bag — and woe betide you if you didn’t make that one bag last for a week or two. Snacks were wrapped in wax paper and my mom used and re-used and re-re-used the leftover plastic bread bags from the old Silver Bakery for our sandwiches. (I’m sure the health department would not allow it today! But we never died from it.) Oddly enough, I just found a few of those bags the other day while sorting through her things.
Reuse. Recycle. Rethink the real cost of convenience.
Michelle Stirling-Anosh is a Ponoka freelance columnist.