Saturday, June 15, 2013

plastic not-so-fantastic

I was reading this article via an ECE Sustainability group on facebook about cutting plastic out of life. Much as I admire the dedication of those who attempt it to prove a point I can't see me every achieving the same - for a start metal typewriters don't pick up the internet very well...

For me plastic is one of those necessary evils in life that I've yet to come to easy terms with. Technology aside though it is one of the many considerations I take into account when shopping. For example I'll buy my porridge oats in a paper bag rather than a plastic one (yay for Pams and Harraways!), but I gave up getting Ryvita (packaged in cardboard and paper) once I could get Healtheries grainwafers which are produced this side of the world, and even if they are wrapped in plastic it is only one layer not two like Corn Thins. Mind you I don't get through half as many now I'm not taking packed lunches 4 days a week anyway.

I've got one of those metal drinks bottles, but have never been one for buying bottled water if I could avoid it - however there is a plastic container full of bought water in bottles out in the garage in the Civil Defence Emergency kit (not that ours is as comprehensive as the link suggests!) - when we don't get through many bottles of pop (soda etc) etc it is hard to build up a big enough collection otherwise! And whilst on that subject I realise that context/location makes a big difference to the use of plastic - having seen photos of the mess various Christchurch friends' kitchens were in after the earthquakes I can't imagine anyone there choosing to store kitchen ingredients in glass jars rather than plastic again in a hurry, generally plastic tends to bounce better.

But whilst I (in my tsunami rather than earthquake risk area) can try to limit the amount of plastic I buy especially connected with food there are times when I really don't know what else to use - what do you freeze things in for example?! I've just discovered our local wholesaler has white basmati rice in 5kg cloth bags which is great, except mostly I use brown rice...I take my cloth shopping bag to the market each week when I go to buy our veggies, one of the stall holders commented on how unusual that was for Kaitaia - normal for Kerikeri and Paihia markets but not Kaitaia where he reckoned supplying a plastic bag is seen as a insentive to shop at his stall. I muttered something about trying not to use plastic bags and scuttled off as I couldn't think how to say that was probably because more people shopping at Kerkeri and Paihia markets do so because they are conscious about the environmental impact of food miles etc and thus the environment in general rather than because it is cheaper, without that sounding as though I was belittling Kaitaia. I'd far rather folk shopped at the market, no matter what their reason for doing so. I just wish fewer of the stall holders pre-packaged their goods in plastic bags, but I can totally appreciate why they do.

Whilst I can't see me ever managing to live without plastic (and would I want to?) the article certainly prompted me to think again each time I reached for some - what could I use instead? Sometimes I've had an answer but not the means to avoid it, sometimes I've been able to use something different - greaseproof paper instead of clingwrap for example. A provocation to re-evaluate my impact on the environment from a different angle that is for sure. And rather than beat myself up about what I do use I take comfort in the words of George Fox to William Penn 'wear it as long as thou canst', or in this case mostly that would mean use it - I'll know if and when the day comes that the day is right to cut it out completely. Until then, refill, reuse, and recycle is still a pretty good fallback position.

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