Saturday, January 5, 2008

Plastic, Plastic Everywhere

I really hate know-it-alls. Having said that, don't detest me if I admit that most of the suggestions in an article in today's New York Times about using plastics healthfully, I've been preaching about for years.

Never use plastic in the microwave was one of them. I abandoned heating things in plastic containers eons ago and I NEVER cover anything going in a microwave with plastic wrap. I use the Corning Ware glass lids that go with my soufflé dishes. You can cover anything from a soup bowl to a dinner plate. Or I use waxed paper, if something is spattering. I did learn from this article that waxed paper is manufactured far less efficiently than plastic, but its disposal is less problematical.

As far as plastic water bottles, I try not to buy them more than a couple times a year for road trips, but definitely not for everyday use. I find it completely gross that people keep the same water bottle by their desks and just rinse it out (a bit) and then refill it. And even washing them well isn't a particularly good solution. The narrow mouths make it difficult to get rid of the bacteria and putting them in the dishwasher actually degrades the plastic and makes the leeching out of the dangerous chemicals more possible.

As with so many things, the more we learn, the more difficult it becomes to know what to do. Don't reuse a plastic water bottle with a number one on the bottom...that's easy. But reusing plastic containers with the numbers 2 or 5 on the bottom may be okay, but never in the microwave.

Hey, wait a second, I'm not so great after all. I just took a look at my seltzer bottles. They're plastic with a number one on the bottom. I never even thought about them. Okay, I may not buy them for daily use, but I still always have seltzer on hand. I guess I will look for seltzer in glass bottles.

The microwave part is not really that complicated. Just put things on a dinner plate or in a bowl before you zap it and only cover it with a glass lid. Use plastic wrap only for stuff that's going into the fridge or freezer. But it is difficult to know what to do about the water bottles, especially if you have sports playing kids. I always used those heavier plastic sports bottles that I put in the dishwasher, but now those don't seem to be 100% safe.

I'd love to hear other ideas for cutting down on single use plastics. I don't buy water bottles, but I do have to look into my seltzer consumption. I try to buy soaps and liquid cleaners in big containers and then decant them into reusable smaller ones. I almost always bring my own bags to the supermarket. Look at this pretty one I got in Paris.

This is one A gave me.

I used to eschew plastic bags for produce and just put them in my cart, until I saw that story about the unbelievable amount of bacteria on the checkout conveyor belt. Wegman's has small brown paper bags in their produce department, which I use when I go there. I guess every little bit helps, but sometimes it seems pretty difficult to make a big difference.

The last suggestion in the article was probably the most helpful:"Stop buying and use what we have in the house."


Emiline said...

I went to the grocery store today, and I couldn't believe how many plastic bags they gave me. Every two items were in a bag.
I want to bring my own bag-I have a cool Trader Joe's one, but is that ok to bring it into the store, and shop with it? Will it seem suspicious? I'm going to do it anyway.

Sue said...

Hey Em,
You absolutely can take a Trader Joe's bag into another supermarket. You could even take a Walmart bag into Tiffany's and there's not a darn thing they could do about it. Go for it!

Tracy said...

I feel very guilty about this ... I don't take my own bag to Wegman's. I need those plastic bags for cleaning up dog poop when I walk my dog. I can't find anything that works better. That qualifies as reusing, doesn't it?

Sue said...

Hi Tracy,
Yeah, but if you reuse THOSE bags, that would be a problem.

I just can't stand packing groceries in plastic. Everything falls out all over the trunk. It's the worst way for your back and arms and wrists to carry stuff and the bags seem to multiply when you get them home.