Instead, the mountain of disposable containers collecting in my kitchen earlier this year filled my eyes with clarity and opened them to the insidiousness of single-use plastic. The issue for me isn’t how long single-use plastics take to decompose (hundreds of years), but how easily it gets into our homes.
Hidden behind seductive brand names and attractive colours, single-use plastic is pretty much invisible — until it’s in a clear plastic recycling bag headed for the plastic blue bin. In my attempt to repurpose (upcycle/reuse) ALL the plastic packaging that snuck in, I realized some serious lifestyle changes were in order. The demand (I’m guessing) for my repurposed plastic butterfly strands and bleach hut bird houses - as cute as they are - will never be enough for the amount the plastic coming in, unless I make a conscious effort to change.
After getting to know the various grades of single-use plastics housed in my kitchen cupboard, I concluded some are best off re-used in their present form, or as close to it as possible, than punched into to shapes. The less work involved, the better. Sunflower hummus containers became containers for hummus I made with chickpeas and my empty bottle of Palmolive dish soap went to Token in Riverside for a refill instead of the recycling bin. It delighted me recently to discover several stores in Toronto offer refill stations, which will tremendously cut down the amount of single-use plastic in my home. After loading up on shampoo at The Source Bulk Foods in Leslieville, I told my neighbour all about this trend (and tried, and failed, to give away a few plastic containers at the same time).
Ultimately the solution requires a significant change in how we view single-use plastic. If you can see past the marketing, you may find it isn't necessary at all. The next time you pick up a plastic bottle or container of ANYTHING, consider what alternatives are available. Scrub your tub with baking soda and vinegar. Exfoliate with coffee. The abundance of options, likely already in your kitchen, might surprise you.
As long as it's cheap to produce and expensive to recycle, the world's plastic problem will persist - unless we pay attention and stop the demand for it.