There is no such thing as ‘away’

I don’t like to cook. Luckily, at holiday time, my husband enjoys putting out a fine meal for our family and friends. (I happily do all the clean up!) My one holiday dinner requirement is to come up with a few traditional desserts. I’ll confess that I usually head to our local supermarket bakery to accomplish that task. But I won’t be doing that this year.

Last holiday season, I was shocked and disheartened to see the increased amounts of plastics used to cover all the baked goods – cakes on plastic holders covered with plastic domes, cookies in so-called plastic ‘clam shell’ packages, and especially the pies! An pumpkin pie was packaged in a plastic tray holding the eight inch aluminum pie plate with a heavy plastic protective covering, all topped with a convenient plastic handle to carry it home. Three plastics used for one pumpkin pie!

Because of their complex and varied chemical makeups, none of the plastics encasing all those baked goods is recyclable on Kodiak Island. Nor are the plastics covering the yummy rotisserie chickens … the big plastic bottles of iced teas and other beverages … the containers for cottage cheese, yogurts, and other dairy items – all end up in the trash and landfill.

I realize the corporate decision makers at our single big supermarket believe they are providing better customer service by using more protective food covers. And most of the places where they do business are able to accept nearly all plastics for recycling. But that is not the case in small, remote communities like Kodiak, which don’t have the population base to make shipping off-island of many recyclables economically feasible.

And did you know that the production of plastics uses nearly eight percent of the world’s oil production? Yes, most plastics are petroleum based.

So. What’s a baking challenged recycling advocate to do? It’s beyond my ability to change supermarket policy before the upcoming holiday season. But what I can do is change my behavior and choose products that are not encased in heavy plastics.

I will opt for cake/cookie/pie mixes and other products that come in boxes, paper wrappers or cans. I’ll choose pre-made pie crusts, or perhaps frozen treats. For beverages, whenever possible, I’ll choose cans (recyclable) instead of bottles (not). Instead of buying big jugs of iced tea, lemonade or fruit drinks, I’ll go for the mix-your-own selections. And I will forever forsake the use of bottled water – 35 billion of those bottles are tossed away by Americans every year!

Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century, and we currently recover only five percent of the plastics we produce. Over 50 percent of the plastics we use, we touch once and throw it away.

But there is no such thing as “away” – it all ends up somewhere. In our island community, that is all too often in our oceans and coastlines.

I realize that it is impossible and unrealistic to try and remove all food plastics from our purchases. And it will take time for plastic producers to change their attitudes and business models, and opt for more planet friendly packaging. Until then, I encourage you to learn more at internet sites like The Story of Stuff – you’ll be shocked at some of the plastic facts you’ll find, and encouraged by many of the solutions.

As for me, I’m off to learn how to make a pie.

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