Plastic Fantastic?

What should we tell our kids about plastics and recycling? It has been in the news a lot recently. Quite rightly. Discarded plastics – now referred to as ‘single use plastic’ – are causing all kinds of problems for the sea-life. Worse than that they are getting into the food chain. There are two things. One is the use and even the need for single use plastics (more on this at a later date). The other is recycling plastics. But is recycling the answer?

Governments are finally getting around to the subject of return deposits on containers and bottles. Not just of plastic it seems. That may seem like a novel idea to the kids but it is in fact a very old one. Although nothing has actually been done yet.

”Do not re-use”

Why do plastic bottled drinks come with a ‘do not re-use’ warning? I am sure they also used to have a “sell by” date. There used to be an old joke about mineral water filtering through the mountain rock over thousands of years and then being bottled with a ‘sell by’ date.

Keeping the stale air and germs off our food is one thing but what about all the unknown side effects of using plastics? What about the (more or less) known side effects. I say “known” because otherwise why do they put those use-by dates on bottles of water. And why do they say on the same bottles “do not re-use”? I am certainly no supporter of the “green” agenda but these are questions you wonder about more when you have a small child growing up in an increasingly polluted environment.

The Tupperware Generation *

We are indeed the Tupperware generation. I can still remember the Tupperware parties back in the early 70s. Since then many companies have produced plastic sealable containers specially made to keep our food fresh.

Back in the days of my grandparents everything was stored in glass jars and bottles. Even when I was very young this was the case. Then along came plastics. Nowadays all our food and drink is either packaged, stored, wrapped or bottled in some form of plastic. Even our milk now comes almost exclusively in either plastic bottles or plastic-coated cartons. We should all find that scary.

Why Can’t We Reuse?

It makes me wonder why we are told not to reuse plastic bottles and yet we always use the same old tupperware (or similar brand) containers to store our food or packed lunches. What is so different about the types of plastics used?

The official answer for not reusing the plastic bottles – the one they want to tell you – is that tiny cracks that may appear on the inside surface can harbour bacteria and even washing will not necessarily remove all of it. Such bacteria can make you ill, much like food poisoning. This may well be true but surely the inside of our old Tupperware containers must be scratched to hell! How many of you still use them for your packed lunches or to store food? Pretty much everyone I would think.

Better than Recycling

Glass is about as natural is it gets. It is can be reused many times if care is taken and the raw materials to make it are in such abundance. Also, the glass industry is going all out to tell us just how recyclable glass is. The energy saving benefits etc… That is fine for old bottles that have lost their shine but what about new bottles?

Forget recycling bottles – both glass and plastic! Let’s go back to re-using glass bottles. Back when I was a kid we used to collect any empty bottles we found lying around and take them to the nearest off-licence (liquor store) where they would give us a few pennies for each bottle. It was a great way to make a bit of pocket money and one reason why there was far less broken glass on the streets and pavements in those days.

It makes perfect sense yet none of the politicians pushing the green, recycling agenda ever make the case for it. Until now. Maybe….

Now why is that? Makes you think eh?

*NOTE: I realise that Tupperware is a registered name but I am using the word very loosely to describe any plastic container. As Tupperware were the first ones to make such household containers the name is now synonymous with all plastic storage vessels. Incidentally how many of you knew that it was the creation of a man called Earl Tupper?

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