Musing on Reusing: Wednesdays Without Plastic


There are lots of resources, and especially, there are lots of inspiring blogs, about living a plastic-free life. And on one blog I visited this week, I found a photo of the inside of the author’s refrigerator.

Those refrigerator innards were so pretty, they made me gasp. Piles of fresh, colorful produce—green and yellow squash and carrots and, I think, sweet potatoes,–tumbled, in a kind of organized way, on the bottom shelf. The other shelves held glass bottles and glass containers (I could see a big block of cheese under a glass dome, for instance). There was some crockery, mysteriously concealing its contents, on the shelves, too.

It was neat and pretty and completely plastic-free.

I open my own refrigerator, and it does not resemble that plastic-free wonder at all.

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At the deli this week, we bought stacks of sliced yellow and white American cheese and sliced mozzarella. We bought a towering pile of sliced ham, which was on sale. Although that deli/meat counter normally bags deli items in plastic, the clerk cheerfully wrapped all of my stuff in big, lumpy paper packages.

I brought the packages home and unwrapped them. I folded the paper, smoothing it into the leanest, least space-taking shapes I could manage, and put those in the non-food trash. Then I took a variety of plastic containers from the Tupperware shelf and packaged up the meat and cheese.

When I open my refrigerator, I see tidy stacks of mostly plastic containers.

This probably will not change very soon. Rather than putting my plastics in the recycling—one blogger wrote this week that recycling plastic delays, but does not deter, that plastic from winding up in a landfill,—I figure I might as well use them, over and over again.

When the plastic storage containers spring leaks or throw out cracks or just get too worn and food-stained to use again, I’ll be faced with a dilemma. I THINK what I will do is find other uses…maybe starting seeds in them or using them as bases for flowerpots outside. I will very, very reluctantly dispose of them in recycling bins.

It’s here, this plastic: I have to deal with it. And only when it’s beyond use will I replace it with glass or stiff cardboard or ceramic.

Likewise, the bread bags. I have a stash of them in the pantry cupboard. I debated taking them to the supermarket, where they collect and recycle plastic bags. But I need to do my research and see what happens to those plastic bags. Melted down, can they be morphed into more plastic bags? Are they spun into thread? Are some of them rejected, to wind up in a landfill?

While I find out, I make bread, so I don’t have to buy more in plastic packaging.

The bread machine I bought for five dollars at last year’s yard sale is my baking buddy. Two or three times a week, I put the ingredients for French bread in the pan, set it to the dough cycle, and let the little machine do its work. The process takes an hour and a half or so; then I decant the dough and put it on a greased pan and let it rise, again, until it’s doubled. In terms of my own work, the bread takes less time to make than it takes me to go to the supermarket.

Mark and Jim are fans of that bread, hot from the oven with butter, or dipped into a simmering pot of homemade spaghetti sauce. Jim mentioned, though, very politely, that the French bread made kind of skinny sandwiches. So yesterday I dug out a white bread recipe for the bread machine, and I ran, it, too, on the dough cycle. (We find, when we let the bread bake in the machine, we have to contend with the paddle hole in the middle, and the edges are crunchier than we like.) I made a one-batch test recipe and slid it into a greased pan, and baked that, too, when it was risen.

Jim circled and circled after the baked bread was tumbled out onto the old bamboo chopping board. He didn’t want to cut it too soon and squash the bread, but he was hungry, and the fresh, hot bread smelled so good. When it was finally cool enough to cut, he dug in, made a sandwich, and deemed it good.

When we bake our own bread, we don’t bring in any more plastic bread bags. But I use the old ones to keep that fresh-baked bread fresh.

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I have directions for making plarn—plastic yarn—saved on Pinterest. It’s an interesting process; I knitted up one bag with the result and it seems sturdy and usable. But I have a back-load of hand-craft projects to do: a quilt to piece, curtains to hem, cloth bags to make to store holiday decorations. I have to struggle with reality: will I actually sit down, make the plarn, which takes a while, and then knit it up into something wonderful? And while I am clearing the decks to do that, where will I store the burgeoning sack full of the blue and orange plastic sleeves the newspaper arrives in?

A first attempt at knitting with plarn…

Is there some other way I could use that plastic?

I ponder. The switch to a plastic-free lifestyle, I find, is not one made overnight.

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Shopping without plastic:

This week, I used the last little bit of the cover-up product that tones down the effect of the age spot on my cheek. I don’t want to hide it completely, I tell myself, but I don’t want that age spot to be the thing people focus on.

The old dispenser is completely and thoroughly plastic, and I wonder how I am going to replace my cosmetics as they run out. I go searching and find this blog: https://greenindyblog.com/zero-waste-makeup-brands/

I’ll be exploring the possibilities and sending out an order.

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I find, too, that living plastic-free creates some conflicts in diet. This week, I ran out of my non-wheat flour mixture. Our doctor wants us living wheat-free; we try to reach a realistic and healthy compromise. But it’s surprisingly difficult to do in a plastic-free way.

My bulk-food store packages everything in plastic bags. I bought glass containers and took them to the store. They promised, when the next shipment comes in, that they will pack up my brown and white rice flour, my oat flour, and my chocolate chips, in glass containers.

Their shipments don’t come in too often, though, and, as I am waiting, my supplies run out.

At the supermarket, I stroll through the organic baking aisle. All the flours I need are there…and they are all bundled in plastic packaging. I add Bob’s Red Mill to the list of companies I am writing to, asking them to re-think their plastic philosophy. I buy a small cardboard box of gluten free AP-flour substitute. It costs almost five dollars and weighs about a pound. This won’t last me too long.

There are no flours in the bulk section. I am just a little stymied. Wheat-free or plastic-free? I know there must be an answer, so that I don’t have to choose. Further exploration needed…

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Meanwhile, I sip, as I type, rich, dark, locally roasted decaf, which arrives in the mail in its biodegradable paper packaging. It’s possible, I think, to live well plastic-free. It’s just a bit of a challenge.

My mama always told me that nothing worthwhile is ever easy. That might not be true for everything, but it sure seems to apply here.

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5 thoughts on “Musing on Reusing: Wednesdays Without Plastic

    1. This is interesting, Sue! Since I read this, I’ve heard from someone who is not happy about it at all! But change is hard, and sometimes inconvenient, and I think this is a strong step forward! I am going to write to my reps here in Ohio and recommend we follow suit…maybe enough voices will join in, countrywide, to make a difference!

      1. Sue

        ~yes, change most definitely is tough…breaking those habits isn’t easy (especially the older we get!) but you’re certainly going above & beyond in doing your part.

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