I admit it. I reuse plastic cutlery. But don’t worry; I wash it first.
“Disposable” just seems like a funny way to describe something that will outlast us, our kids, grandkids, great grandkids and probably their great grandkids too. Heck, we could pass down plastic cutlery as family heirlooms. “See this fork, honey. Your great grandmother ate cake with it at her fourth birthday party.”
Besides spending money on something so durable and using it only once feels wasteful to someone who grew up wearing darned socks.
I know some people prefer we not reuse plastic cutlery—the makers of plastic cutlery, for example. And some people find it distasteful to eat with a plastic spoon someone else ate with first—so I don’t tell them.
Still others say if you’re going to reuse plastic cutlery, why not just use the real thing in the first place? I couldn’t agree more. And it turns out there’s a whole month set aside for people like me. Welcome to Plastic Free July. It’s a shame I didn’t hear about it until July was half over because it’s also National Picnic Month. I could have told everyone to bring more finger foods to our Fourth of July picnic.
Plastic Free July started in Australia in 2011 to raise awareness about the problems of single-use disposable plastic. How did I not know about it? I’ve been known to rummage through other people’s trash, steal their plastic bottles and put them in the recycling bin. Not everyone appreciates this as much as you’d think they would.
I carry a giant mug wherever I go. I drink water out of it. I drink iced tea and diet cola out of it. The only beverages I don’t drink out of it are milk, juice, and whiskey—because then I’d have to wash it. Plus I don’t like whiskey.
Millions of people from 159 countries now pledge to avoid buying single-use plastic items every July. These are my people! If I can convince everyone I know to join us, I won’t have to dig through their trash for the rest of the month. I would love that. They probably would too.
Obviously Plastic Free July is just the beginning. We won’t make much headway if, come August, we stock up on plastic forks and everything else plastic. And single-use plastic is hard to avoid. My detergent, my shampoo, and my dishwashing soap, all come in plastic bottles. And I go through a lot of dishwashing soap, much of it washing plastic cutlery.
Maybe someday, stores will be filled with giant barrels of shampoo and lotion. You’ll walk in with your empty bottle and say, “fill ‘er up.” Things change. But for now, people like me will keep washing plastic forks and digging through the trash looking for plastic bottles. Just to be clear, I’ve never taken a plastic fork out of anyone’s trash—or a straw or Styrofoam cup for that matter. I’m not crazy. Also those aren’t recyclable.
But every single hour, Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles which are recyclable. Honestly, I don’t see how we get anything else done.
And don’t get me started on plastic bags. Oh, too late. Up to a trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year, but less than one percent are recycled. And do you know where the other 99 percent are going? Into my yard, that’s where.
I might be exaggerating a little. But there’s been a plastic bag tangled in the cottonwood tree outside my dining room window for more than six months. Based on my research on plastic, there’s a good chance it will outlast the tree.
(Dorothy Rosby is the author of the humor book, I Didn’t Know You Could Make Birthday Cake from Scratch: Parenting Blunders from Cradle to Empty Nest. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.)