Plastic Free July – Week 3 RE-USE

Plastic Free July – Week 3 RE-USE

This is week 3: RE-USE in our series of weekly blog posts about Plastic Free July. You’ve done a good job of refusing and reducing your plastic intake. It’s time to turn attention to the question, “What to do with the plastic that comes into our lives?”  

In recent years, customers have let their grocery stores and farmers market sellers know that we want no or less plastic with our food. More dry foods have been available in bulk bins, less produce was packaged in plastic bags, and customers were encouraged to bring their own cloth shopping bags.

One of the unfortunate consequences of the important pandemic Health Orders is that more of our food is being packaged in plastic.  

So how do we keep being “Plastic Free Warriors,” in the Time of COVID-19?  We offer a few suggestions. 

Grow

Clear plastic cups with domed lids are great for germinating seeds and getting them to the stage when the plants can be transplanted into a large pot or soil bed. These arugula seedlings started from seed in some G&B Harvest Supreme soil in June in a washed Starbucks drink cup. When the seedlings almost reach the top of the dome, they will be transplanted.

Clean clamshell containers serve as mini-greenhouses for new seedlings. Using a utility knife or sharp scissors, remove the lid of the container. Turn the lower part bottom side up and place over tiny leaves that just germinated. This creates a warm, humid environment that can support seedling growth. 

This container used to hold granola.

Yogurt containers can be converted into “tubes” for deep watering your tomatoes.

All of these containers can be used over and over.

Storage

Because we are doing more take out from local eateries, the food often comes in plastic containers. They can be washed and re-used many times to store food, like this leftover miso soup.

Plastic clamshell containers make great veggies and fruit gift packs from my garden to neighbors and close-by family and friends.

Packaging

Instead of ordering goods that are packed in styrofoam, plastic bubble wrap, plastic “pillows” or peanuts, find vendors willing to use recycled materials, such as these paper packing solutions.

Create

If you’ve ever dreamed of attending the Kentucky Derby and wearing a fascinator for which it has become famous, you can make one of your own with plastic items you can find in your kitchen!  We made ours from paper plates, plastic forks, spoons, knives, straws, and colorful plastic bags that the neighbor’s newspapers came in. Our “Plastinators” were created for our campaign to ban plastic foodware in El Cerrito.

 

Or how about making an art statement about plastic pollution and oceans, like this jellyfish that was used to make people more aware of the impact plastic has on our oceans.


Combined with  our REFUSE practice, we can ask a cafe or restaurant where we get take out not to put our food in plastic bags, and offer to put it in our own bag, bin, or basket. If they aren’t able to do that, we can still refuse the plastic bag and take the containers of food to our cars to pack there, just as we are doing at the grocery stores.  RE-USING plastic safely is one way to keep it out of the landfill for some time at least.  The added bonus of refusing and re-using is that less energy is used to produce reusable materials. Hopefully it also means fewer people will be exposed to toxic plastic chemicals in factories.

While these steps help us control the amount of plastic coming into our lives, plastic is ubiquitous–from toothbrushes to barrettes to shoelace tips and tool handles. Before the post WWII plastics revolution, people managed to live life without plastics. We  imagine a plastic-free world, and eagerly watch and support innovators like John Hollis of Berkeley with his FlatUpCup who is working to create that healthier new world. 

In the News–the latest on plastic:

Kroeger targets 2025 to eliminate plastic bag use 

KFC Canada switches to bamboo food containers by the end of this year, saving 55 tons of plastic trash annually.

Avery Dennison, makers of labels and other office supplies, has earned certification for BPA-free and FSC-certified thermal labels that can be composted.

 

Barbara Chan, for the Environmental Justice Committee

 

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