Alternatives to single use plastic include reusable grocery bags, milk in glass containers, eggs in cardboard and using your own reusable containers for produce and bulk bin items.
You can also bring plastic bags to supermarkets, which are required to take them back. However, I talked to one recycler in the Los Angeles area who was warehousing plastic bags they’d collected from a supermarket chain. Because China went out of our recycling business, he was waiting to find an American company who could take the stuff. Meanwhile, I’d rather take my plastic bags to Channel Keepers, the CEC or Ablitt’s, because they know where it’s going. Let’s not forget the reason we like plastic. It’s an amazing material: lightweight, yet relatively strong. Able to be made into products as diverse as bags and clear bottles to hold water and other liquids; portable containers for everything from chips, cookies and cheese sticks to dried fruits and nuts. Plastic material becomes a wrap for meats and is made into trash bag liners, so things don’t leak and spill, and plastic provides a coating on cardboard milk containers. In a way, it’s been a miracle material. It’s used in a myriad of medical devices. Just looking around my office, I see plastic everywhere: my computer, copy machine, tape dispenser, phone, calculator, scissor handles, pens. But while most of the items in my office will have years of use, the plastic used for many food and beverage containers are designed to be used just once. As Kathi King, outreach and education director for the Community Environmental Council, told me, “The best plastic single-use container is the one you didn’t use.” 34 | EDIBLE SANTA BARBARA SUMMER 2019
What Did Grandma Do? A form of plastic made from cellulose, called celluloid, was invented in the late 1800s. Later the process was modified to be made from petroleum. Manufacturing began in the 1950s, and then we went hog-wild with the stuff. I like to imagine my Kansas grandparents providing food for their growing family during the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, before plastic was invented. At first they lived on a farm; later, a house in town. Somehow they got by without plastics! Milk came in glass bottles. Sandwiches were wrapped in wax paper. Leftovers were stored in a bowl in the refrigerator with a plate on top. Aluminum foil was invented in 1910, so they had access to it, but I’m sure they didn’t use much of it, because it was relatively expensive and they were thrifty. Yes, I’m sure the garbage leaked sometimes, but I know there was a lot less garbage. They didn’t have recycling, except for returning the milk bottles to the dairy. If they could, they reused things we now just throw away. I remember, because in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s they were still reusing and saving everything, including used, clean foil. As kids, we thought they were crazy. Grandma washed and reused plastic bags, and had a stack of used plastic food containers in her cupboard that she used for leftovers. So did my mom and dad. They never got over the “saving” mentality.
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