We began drifting from plastic when, even after a thorough scrubbing, our new Tupperware bowl held tight to a spaghetti sauce stain. Something about being reminded of past meals put me off of using plastic in the kitchen so we threw out the new bowl. The remaining plastic storage containers disappeared through attrition. I refused all invitations to Tupperware parties. I walked down the Rubbermaid aisle with blinders on, except when peeking to pick up a new laundry basket.
For the most part, unless a Lego logo was attached, plastic rarely entered our world.
We became a household that daringly served beverages to our children in glass cups. And did you know that shattering a glass once will cause clumsy children to work very hard not to do it again? A universal truth: nobody enjoys stepping on broken glass. For the grandchildren? Well. I’m old and tired. We have a set of stainless steel cups for the grands.
We didn’t have special plastic containers for the microwave because our microwave rarely processed anything messier than a potato. The mixing bowls were stainless, the mixing spoons wooden, the everyday dishware Corelle, and even Bosco The Rott-Lab was served her evening’s meal in a ceramic bowl. Except for retiring Bosco’s bowl after her passing, all of the other items are still in our kitchen and used daily. The grandchildren’s stainless steel cups may be around for serving drinks to their own grandchildren.
But from the start, there was no resisting the offerings from Zip-Loc. Was there any product handier for marinating the protein, storing leftovers, freezing future sauces, corralling collectible bits or protecting valuables from damage? Nothing. Not as far as I knew. Although, since I was uncomfortable about properly cleaning most things plastic, in spite of recommendations ours was a Use Once And Throw Away household when it came to Zip-Loc.
That was then.
I transitioned away from “reusable” plastic storage bags when I got the notion to make chutney using mangoes from the yard and bought a case of Ball glass jars in one-pint and one-quart sizes. I don’t recall ever making the chutney, but delighted that jars can store almost all of the same things a Zip-Loc can (sandwiches : wax paper), except they aren’t thrown away after each use. They emerge from the rinse cycle shiny clean every time.
I’m still impressed that although today a one-quart size Ball jar with lid set costs about $1 and a one-quart Zip-Loc about a quarter, even among those dedicated to reusing zipper bags a few times, the final cost-per-use for a plastic bag is higher. After many years, by now the cost-per-use of our glass containers must equal nano-cents.
But here’s the part about the majority of plastic products that really twisted my braids, which had never before occurred to me: while a jar may break and be swept away, it isn’t bought with the intent to throw it out. Buying something with the deliberate knowledge that it is to be thrown away…
…which naturally presents a discussion of trash can liners. In our neighborhood, just one of several garbage collection rules requires homeowners to: “Bag household garbage before placing it in the cart.” We have to keep our garbage tidy or municipal workers will, what, be annoyed? Penalties aren’t identified with the rules, but I’m sure we don’t want to land on the sanitation workers’ naughty list.
I will say, the rules don’t specify plastic bags, but we all know that in the second decade of the new millennium, to keep the garbage tidy, that’s what they mean. After all, since we bring our own totes to the market (finally), we no longer amass plastic or paper carry-alls. So as we’ve done for years, we buy plastic bags to throw away with the garbage, said garbage top heavy with stuff that was bought in full knowledge of its eventual disposal. Even at our house. Where we’re fairly conscientious about these issues.
The mind boggles. Yet, we’d have a hard time wresting ourselves from Swiffer products.
Think about it: diapers, razors, plastic pencils and pens, all ordinary in our lives, all disposable. Lighters, air system filters, lollipops on plastic whirly stems. Coffee mugs and meal containers and towels. Plastic stick-on toilet bowl cleaners, laundry detergent dispersing balls, dryer balls, and plastic plug-in room fresheners, once used they’re headed to the trash. Must we mention individual bottles of beverage? Those wee plastic pods of coffee and tea? Spice jars with built-in grinders that can’t be refilled. Shake ‘N Pour Pancakes by Bisquick makes 6 to 8 cakes (the monocalcium phosphate monohydrate for the tummy and plastic container for throwing into the bin don’t cost a penny extra)! “Lunchables?” Is that a joke?
I wish I could ask my parents how they ran a household with eight children, while having only one 20-gallon trash bin for the municipal worker to empty each week. And no recycling. I’ll bet that old Tupperware bowl I threw out over thirty years ago is still in shape at the bottom of Mount Trashmore.