Antiplasticestablishmentarianism – There, I said it – In fact, I think I just invented it, (the word, anyhoo…) The word today is plastic, and as my tongue in cheek neologism is meant to imply, it’s a thing deeply entrenched in our world, and that’s not good – We need to do something about all the plastic in our kitchens.
The root word I bastardized means, in essence, that the user finds, ‘a nation’s policy or attitude corrupt and exploitative,’ among other diatribes. Frankly, I can’t think of a thing more demonstrative of that than our massive use and abuse of plastic – Not even politics. There’s zero doubt in my mind that this abuse focuses more around food than any other aspect of modern life.
Look through your kitchen as we have ours, and chances are, it’s a plastic rich environment, indeed. Granted, some of that is reasonable, to a degree – The large plastic storage jars with wide lids that we’ve had for years, for example, don’t seem all that bad, nor might the other, smaller storage boxes that get daily use. We bought all those because they were cheap, light, and they worked, of course. Plastic wrap? Got it, albeit it doesn’t get used much at all. Plastic bags? Oh my, yes, in everything from snack to gallon. Hmmm… The garbage and trash bags have been biodegradable versions for a while now, but all that other stuff – Hmmm.
We could probably assuage our growing guilt if we considered that we recycle diligently – Well, M does, anyway – She’s the recycle Nazi in our house. That doesn’t mean I cheat purposefully, but it does mean she has to remind me that wine corks and metal foil don’t go in recycling, and anyway, I haul the bins out to the curb each week – That aughta be worth some kinda dispensation, shouldn’t it?
All in all, according to a recent National Geographic piece, ‘The world generates at least 3.5 million tons of plastic and other solid waste a day, 10 times the amount a century ago, according to World Bank researchers. The U.S. is the king of trash, producing a world-leading 250 million tons a year—roughly 4.4 pounds of trash per person per day.’ To not know that plastic is choking our oceans, landfills, land in general, everything, you’d have to be living in a cave, under a rock. So the question is, what can we do about it, us little folk? That answer has to be formed with our kitchens in mind, because the lion’s share of the overall waste we produce, and especially plastic, lives there. The answer is, surprisingly, quite a bit.
One of the easiest things to do is get rid of plastic wrap and plastic bags, because that’s where most of the kitchen use comes from. There are reusable silicone zip lock bags and sheets out there, but they’re expensive, and frankly, that doesn’t seem like a very smart answer in a busy kitchen. Nobody that I could find makes recyclable zip lock or food grade plastic bags, yet, but I’ll bet it’s coming. In any event, it seems a lot smarter to just eliminate that crap.
Most community recycling programs don’t accept plastic bags in your curbside bins, albeit you can recycle a lot of that stuff at many grocery stores – The list of what’s OK to drop off there looks something like this –
plastic shopping bags (from any store — remove receipts, etc.)
food packaging (Ziploc-type bags)
plastic liners from cereal boxes (do not include if they tear like paper)
dry cleaning bags (remove staples, receipts, hangars)
plastic newspaper wrapping
product wrapping (such as covers a case of water bottles, etc.)
bubble wrap and air pillows (popped)
plastic shipping envelopes (remove labeling)
And you should make sure that what you drop off is clean and dry – Stuff with food waste on it is gross and unsanitary, no matter where you drop it off, and it’ll contaminate the clean stuff other folks left.
What they generally will not take includes,
frozen food bags
cereal box liners that tear like paper
pre-washed salad bags
candy bar wrappers
There are makers of many things turning to non-plastic containers, and they’re worth pursuing if you can – Our laundry detergent even comes in what is, basically, paper packaging and is biodegradable – It’s found in the ‘natural’ stuff, which most mainstream grocery stores have at least some of these days. Those biodegradable trash bags are very decent by the way – Not super expensive, and they don’t fall apart with stuff in them, either.
The best route to go in your kitchen is to eliminate plastic wrap and bags, and that’s what we’re going to do – We’re transitioning to solid food containers across the board – Yes some of those are plastic, but a lot are glass – they last for many years, and as such, really can change the waste equation to a significant degree. The other side of that equation is to not collect a whole shitload of plastic when you hit the store. There are string and mesh bags designed for produce that you can bring with you, along with your reusable grocery bags – And if you bring those, you can get by without further plastic just fine. Stuff like lettuce, cabbage, cilantro, and so on does not need to sit in a plastic bag to last in your fridge. Moist paper towel, or clean kitchen towels work fine – Your crisper bins probably work better without an additional layer of plastic anyway, truth be told. If you get your meat, fish, poultry and such from the butcher counter, you get paper wrappers instead of plastic and foam, and that’s very good indeed. And frankly, not buying stuff like pre-whatevered produce is not only better for the plastic count, it’s better food as well. Better yet, find your local farmer’s market and buy there instead of the big name grocery stores. And frankly, if ever there was a plug for shopping as many parts of the world still do – What you need for a few days every few days – This strategy would be it.
The big picture view of all this is changing radically – China and various other countries don’t want our trash any more, because they’re all generating a hell of a lot more of their own – That makes our first world problems 100% ours, and we really can’t afford to be callous and clueless any more. We’re taking some significant strides to clean up our act, and we invite y’all to do the same – If every household does what they can, it’s a firm step in the right direction.