Reuse, Recycle, and Rot
A friend who is an ardent environmentalist recently pointed out to me that everything we do has an impact, and we have to choose which battles to fight. Until single-use, non-degradable plastic is designed out of packaging, I will always have some plastic waste from certain purchases such as fresh berries, dried fruit, yogurt, chips of every sort, and frozen vegetables. The good news is that one can give a second life to much of this plastic packaging.
For many plastic recyclables, there are many reuses for them as well. I give a second life to larger plastic bags as small trash bags while one can reuse plastic clamshells as to-go containers, organizers, and even craft arts. I personally repurpose them to ship homemade dog cookies to friends and family. I reuse large chip bags as small trash bags, and I intend to use the shiny side of these mylar bags as future gift wrap. The small resealable plastic bags which are used for dried fruit are a bit more limited, but one could reuse them as a snack or sandwich sacks. One, of course, could avoid packaged dried fruit altogether by getting a dehydrator, and drying one’s own fruit. Likewise, I could make my own yogurt, but I don’t eat that much - and fortunately, Yoplait produces a line of yogurts, called Oui, in glass jars. They even have a vegan option, made with coconut milk. These sweet little glass containers could be used for storage or candle holders if not outright recycled. For those plastic yogurt containers, the popular reuse is to grow seedlings.
In a nutshell, producing your own foodstuffs would avoid most packaging, but if that is not an option for whatever reason, packaging, except for plastic bags and film, can often be reused and/or recycled. Composting food scraps is another way to reduce one’s environmental footprint and help regenerate our depleted soils.
Why is there so much plastic? Plastic packaging in particular is the culmination of safety regulations, marketing strategies, and fossil fuel growth. Per the World Economic Forum, plastic production will double in the next 20 years since oil and gas companies seek to make plastic their next growth business as markets transition away from fossil fuels. On a more positive note, many companies are choosing plastic packaging over glass or metal to decrease their products’ carbon footprint (mainly from shipping.) Light weighting is especially an eco-friendly alternative because products, such as laundry detergent sheets, are made liquid-free and shipped with lighter or no packaging.
Strive for Progress, Not Perfection
Small, consistent steps make the best gains for all. First, create a zero-waste kit, consisting of reusable utensils and water bottles, to carry with you. It helps one avoid disposable products such as take-out containers. Finally, use what you have. There’s no point to trash an item just because it has plastic unless it sheds toxins into your food or water. All this effort is well worth it, for a recent study has found plastics (used in common plastic bottles and food packaging) in human blood. Please share what steps you are taking to reduce your plastic waste footprint!