Can This Be Reused?

After being assigned to collect every piece of “single use” plastic, I thought it would be easy to make a concise list of everything that is plastic in my day-to-day life. For the first Outside of Class Journal Entry, I was able to list about 40 non-synthetic materials that I touched throughout one Saturday, and I came prepared to talk about it in class. After sitting and listening to my classmates discuss all the items they wrote, I realized that a lot more things are plastic than I thought… From light switches to shower curtains to the fabric sewn in my chair, it seemed almost everything around me was coated in the material or was plastic itself. After coming home and recounting, the list was not about 40 items, it was a lot more than that. I was nervous to collect all my single-use plastic throughout one day, but I knew that once I could physically see it all, I would be able to decide what is necessary and what is not.

After collecting all the items, I laid them out and looked at the various materials that composed the disposable mess. Some of it was thin, some was hard and sturdy, some was soft, while others felt sharp. I came to realize that plastic has so many forms and finishes, and that you can touch something that may look like wood or metal, and it is really just plastic (both definitions).

I also noticed that most of the disposable plastic that I used throughout the day was for food purposes, like cups, storage containers, water bottles, utensils, etc. Even though a lot of the materials pictured above are compostable, they are still deemed “single use”. Because of this, cups that are in perfectly good condition get thrown away even though they definitely could be used again, and probably a third time too.

Most of the food that uses single-use containers cannot be reused again because it is often destroyed after opening. For example, the popcorn bag cannot be reused because it is covered in grease and it is broken after opening. The fruit snack bag will not serve any other purpose than being a container for fruit snacks, so why would someone want to keep that? No wonder so much plastic is thrown away… It is just SO unnecessary.

The last group of disposable plastics I looked at was medical/other. This contained ziplock bags, q-tips, bandaids, and probe covers for my plastic thermometer. These items were a mix of necessary and unnecessary items, as there are few replacements for plastic medical equipment. Items such as the ziplock bags (they are not actually ziplock brand, I am just using the name to describe them) are unnecessary because there are alternatives in place such as glass storage. These storage bags are made from plant material and are compostable, which is why I bought them. It didn’t feel right to attend a school so close to the ocean and use so much unnecessary plastic… yet here I am, overusing plastic.

This assignment was a good representation of how much plastic I use on a daily basis, because I did not plan to collect plastic the day I did this assignment. I was planning on doing it during the weekend, which would have reflected a smaller amount of plastic as I do not go out as much on the weekends. I know it is not worth it to feel guilty, because from here on I can only be better about how much plastic I use. I know that from now on, I will think about my ability to reuse “single-use” items. Next time you use a pack of cutlery or a plastic straw, think to yourself, does this really need to be thrown away or can I maybe use it one more time?