Wednesday, 16 February 2022

Single Use Plastics, Re-using, Re-purposing and Recycling

 


Single use plastics and people talking about them seem to be everywhere I look at the moment.  It's funny isn't it that when you think about something and maybe read about it or watch a programme about it, suddenly it's everywhere.

I was sat mindlessly chewing the legs off my Christmas Gingerbread Man ... you have to eat them legs first so you can say goodbye to his face ... watching a Youtuber teaching me all about re-using plastic bags when I suddenly thought 'you're teaching your granny to suck eggs here'  ...


... because in my kitchen draining over the cutlery tub before being put away for possibly the fifth time was a zip-lock bag, a regular occurrence here in the lodge.

It always makes me smile when I think about how many times I use some things, just take my green Stay Fresh bags from Lakeland for instance.  At £6.99 for just 20 that might seem expensive ... indeed at 35p each it is ... but when you think that I usually have around four on the go at any one time and these get used and used and used until they can longer be used and then they are suddenly very good value.  I can honestly say that I have used each of my current on the go ones more than 35 times each making them less than one penny each.  And thinking of the money they save me by keeping my vegetables fresh for such a long time I have saved so much money.

I remember last year visiting my Mum and she was really upset after watching a programme about cotton buds and their environmental impact when they had plastic sticks.  She had a new pack purchased months before waiting on her table to remind her to ask me what to do with them.  'Should I throw them away' she said 'and get some of the new ones with cardboard sticks'.  It only took me a moment to point out that if she used them one by one as she occasionally did and then throw them away it would be much better than putting the whole tub in the bin and  rushing out to replace them.  They would be thrown away in either instance ... but we should use what we have first. 

And that's just it isn't it, those of us of a certain generation were brought up to use what we have, keep what we buy for so much longer and not to replace things for replacing's sake.  We grew up with the milkman delivering our milk in returnable glass bottles, using our own shopping bags to carry groceries home from the shop.  Having our fresh produce and our fish and chip suppers wrapped in paper, and in the case of the chips it was actually recycled newspaper.  I remember taking a pile of newspapers to the chippy with a friend and being rewarded with a scallop each ... the Manchester version, which is a thin slice of heavily battered potato which was deep fried with the fish and usually for sale at 2d each.

Google Image

I think we were the original re-users, re-purposers and re-cyclers.


Sue xx





52 comments:

  1. My mum used to wash out plastic bags and wipe lightly soiled tin foil so she could re-use both, and I do the same. As do lots of us bloggers of a similar age, I suspect.

    If I ate a gingerbread man (person!!! have to be politically correct hahahaha!) I'd have to bite his head off first, so he wasn't giving me 'looks' whilst I ate the rest of him ;-)

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    1. Yep, I wipe down foil too, unless a garlic Kiev has leaked it garlic juice all over it then I leave it as it is and keep in the fridge to use again for a piece of garlic toast :-)

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  2. And down here in Victoria your ‘scallops’ are called Potato Cakes 😊

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    1. Potato cakes here just aren't covered in batter ... either way they are gorgeous aren't they :-)

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  3. I suspect that a lot of well-meaning people reacted like your Mum to all those programmes about plastic waste and binned everything they owned.
    There's an absolutely fascinating book called Rummage by Emily Cockayne that explores our attitude towards waste and recycling over the generations, its well worth a read if you can track a copy down. xxx

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    1. I know, I can imagine the damage some of these well-meaning programmes do, they should do a piece at the end to tell people to use up what they have before moving on to the more environmentally friendly versions.

      That sounds like a really good book, I have added it to my Amazon Wishlist to remind me about it as obviously I can't purchase things this year. Although if I see it at a car-boot sale that I'm selling at it would be permissible to buy it.

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  4. Totally agree that we were the original re-users and recyclers. I wash and re-use my plastic bags, just like you and always have. We both repurpose nice glass jars, and I think many of our generation do the same. Old towels get used to cover cushions and catch the cat hair, then become dusters or mopping up rags, and clothes have several metamorphoses from best to painting or gardening, then rags for my husband in his workshop.

    I have to take my hat off to your with your current frugality though. I was inspired to go through the fridge bottom yesterday when soup-making, and quickly chop and freeze chestnut mushrooms, spring onions and a red pepper before they began to shrivel. Perfect for a pizza topping, they all went in one (recycled) bag.

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    1. I am one of those strange people who love thin, scratchy towels rather than plumped up fluffy ones so mine get used for a lot longer than perhaps they should. But once they are too far gone they do become dog towels briefly and then floor cloths.

      I'm glad I inspired you to process your 'fridge gravel' ... this seems to be the new name for bottom of the fridge leftovers rather weirdly!!

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  5. How right you are.When I buy frozen fruit or fish I wash the bag(when empty)and then use them to portion out anything for the freezer as it is usualy cheaper to buy larger amounts than smallerI never buy small plastic food bags. Oh, our Coop recycles soft plastic, anything that when screwed up doesn't flatten out again. Val

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    1. Yes, our Booths has a large container outside for recycling soft plastics. I do have to admit to not being that brilliant at this aspect of recycling yet ... I must try harder as I'm so good at most other things.

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  6. Our chippy still sells them we call them fritters a very occasional naughty treat.

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    1. I love that even here in the UK there are so many regional variations of names for things. It makes moving around the country so much like I have done so much more interesting.

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  7. You're so right! Why did we stop doing all the things our parents and grandparents did without thinking? Every night my mum put out the clean empty glass milk bottles and every morning the milkman replaced them with full ones. The lemonade lorry took our empty bottles back as did the local shop AND we got money back. My dad took sandwiches to work every day for lunch wrapped in the greaseproof paper the bread came in. Sheets, towels and blankets were used and reused for years until there were literally threads left. Somehow we lost our way in the name of convenience and have got ourselves into a bit of a mess!

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    1. We did it, or rather in some cases our Mums did it as they were just being modern and moving with the times. When I was at junior school in the 60s it was all about 'saving the trees' and cutting back on paper usage and thus plastic invaded our homes.

      Yes butties in the bread wrapper was a thing for my Dad and first husband. And Mum used to re-sew the sheets when the middle wore out ... gosh I hated sleeping on that seam in the middle of the newly re-fashioned sheet.

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  8. My mum also washed and reused poly bags. I do more in the summer when I can let them blow dry on the line rather than get in the way in the kitchen. I ought to do this more though, I really ought.
    xx

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    1. I just have them upended on the draining board while they are dripping and then on the worktop over a pot until they fully dry out for 24 hours before putting away.

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  9. Everything in this house gets reused or recycled. Clothes get worn until they're practically in bits. We have an account with the local scrap metal guy and we sell all our metal to him ( £90.25 since last September ) Takeaway containers ( not that we have many ) are saved and reused. Absolutely no food gets wasted. Egg boxes go to a lady who keeps chickens. The only thing I feel guilty about is that I buy milk in plastic bottles from the supermarket. I simply can't afford the prices the milkman charges! Fiona x

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    1. The milkman is more expensive and many of them actually use plastic bottles now anyway :-(

      When I buy my plant-based milks it's always the shelf-stable kind so it's in cartons, which some local authorities recycle and some don't, luckily ours does. But I have a one litre glass bottle in the fridge for when I make my own.

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  10. Fish and chips still served and sold in paper here! And quite a few dairy vending machines across Wiltshire that sell milk. You can take along your own container or buy a recyclable and reusable bottle from the same place.

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    1. Brilliant news from your chippys :-)

      That is quite a good way to buy your milk, there is a farm not too far from us that does that but not close enough for Alan to use.

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  11. I grew up helping out in my parents' chippy in Manchester in the late 70s/early 80s. We didn't actually use old newspaper to wrap up fish and chips but the next best thing, offcuts from the newspaper industry so no print and no waste. I remember burning my hands as just newspaper didn't provide much insulation for boiling hot chips fresh from the fryer! Also remember customers returning empty pop bottles for which we paid pennies and then our supplier took them away. We never gave out free carrier bags. Most of our customers just stacked all their purchases and carried them out themselves or we'd put really big orders into empty cardboard boxes. We had one customer who came every evening and each time asked for a plastic bag to put his 3 items in. As he was a regular, my mum always gave him a bag before he even asked but I must have had early eco leanings as even then, as a young teenager, if I served him, I would make him ask for it every time and charge him which he did not like! And finally, scallops .. I remember my parents making them. Happy memories.

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    1. I'm obviously older than you it was definitely used papers in our chippy. But it did give you something to read while you ate your chips ... I've always been the sort of person that reads every written word put in front of her, I knew the cereal packets off by heart when I was growing up :-)

      It also gave you mucky fingers, which no doubt would be considered a real health hazard these days. Two scallops and a large pickled onion were a regular meal for me, at 6d quite a treat :-)

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    2. My first interest in the French language was when I used to read the HP Sauce bottle labels. They had the English version on the opposite side so I learned the meaning of the words as well.

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  12. I've been washing plastic bags out for as long as I can remember and jars to reuse or for the bottle bank - which I can now walk to for the first time ever.And clothes of course are unfit for much at all by the time I've finished wearing them - I still change into old stuff when I come home from an outing just as we changed out of school and 'best' clothes when young.

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    1. Oh yes, getting changed after school was a must. We had one or two uniforms, two sets of playing out clothes and one set of best for visiting granny or going church.

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  13. Pretty much everything gets reused in our house.


    One thing that does bother me, and it's a first world problem. When I buy a new item of clothing (not often, I might add) I reent being asked to pay for the bag. No, I'm just going to roll up that $90 cardigan and stick it in my handbag. I mean really? Just put the thing in a bag.

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    1. I always have a folded up re-usable bag in my handbag in case I need one, it's washable too so it never smells of food and is suitable for use if I do buy clothes.

      I always purposely say 'I've got my own thanks' if I see a clothes shop seller reaching for one.

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  14. 50 and counting, I understand what you are saying but I take my own freshly washed cloth bag with me if I want to buy a new item of clothing (which doesn't often happen here either!) but some stores here (like Primark) supply strong paper bags with handles free of charge.

    Sue, I think you are totally right in saying we were the first re-purposers and re-users. My mum never wasted anything either. Milk and pop were home delivered in returnable glass bottles and if we were on a day out where bottles were abandoned by other families, my brother would collect them up and return them to the shop for a few coppers return value :) Our meals consisted of cheap cuts of meat or offal eg liver, oxtail, kidneys, brains, chitterlings, pigs feet ( yuk!!) We sometimes ate toast spread with lard or the beef fat saved from cooking the weekend joint. I couldn't stomach any of it now but you eat anything when hungry I suppose and I didn't understand where it all originated! There was not a bit of clingfilm in sight. Things were put on plates and covered with a dish.

    To this day, I enjoy fish and chips eaten from the paper more than those on a plate. And, yes, our occasional treat was a battered scollop too!

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    1. Yes, me too with the bag.

      I was always sad that my Mum wouldn't buy any pop from the pop-man or sterilised milk which was the only sort in bottles with a deposit. She did once buy a pint of orange off the milkman for me though after much nagging on my part ;-)

      I now cover most things with an inverted dish or another plate instead of using my cling-film, cling-film is a habit I want to break.

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  15. Oh, and you made me laugh talking about eating your gingerbread man feet first. I would eat mine head first so that he wouldn't know where the next bite would be! ...lol...

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    1. Oh the poor gingerbread man, never knowing what is going to be bitten next .....

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  16. I'm so old as to remember a world primarily without plastic, period. Our groceries & our sandwiches were wrapped in paper. Try challenging yourself not to use plastic bags at all. I know you enjoy challenges so I bet you'd have fun at it. I enjoy your blog posts very much, even though I don't comment on each one. ~Andrea xoxo

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    1. I really am only a couple of years behind you!!

      Well I won't be buying any more bags this year so I really do have to make what I have last, but while I have them I will use them in an effort to wean myself off gradually.

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  17. Lots of good memories of fish and chips rolled up in newspaper...the Friday night treat of my childhood.

    On another note...whenever I come over the Pond, I always bring several of my roll-up fabric shopping bags with me to use when I go out to buy anything from food to books to clothes. US stores do not expect anyone to have their own carry bags for purchases. About the only place you see people bringing reusable bags (and this is still a minority of folks) is to grocery stores. What is funny to me is that when UK clerks hear my US accent, they almost always anticipate that I won't have my own bag for purchases, so when I whip mine out, they often act surprised.

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    1. Now that is a nice way to surprise them :-)

      Luckily our chippy does at least serve the fish and chips in paper trays and in paper carrier bags, so although it seems like a lot of packaging once rinsed it can go into the paper recycling bin.

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  18. "Teaching your grandmother to suck eggs" indeed. It can be a tiny bit irritating to be preached at by a younger generation who think they're doing things for the first time. Reusable carrier bags, cloth diapers, homemade baby food...and my favourite:"urban farm" (isn't that what we used to call a vegetable garden?).
    Sigh. Apparently, I'm becoming a grumpy older woman😊

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    1. Join the club, I'm already a grumpy older woman :-)

      I used to love watching the Terry nappies drying on the line, at least a dozen at a time and all nice and white. It was a real labour of love as I didn't have a washing machine when my boys were small, but it was also a matter of pride and satisfaction.

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  19. I agree with all the comments made here today. I reuse as many items as I can, including Zip-lock bags! When I do have to replace items I do try to switch from plastic to glass, or bamboo, or paper - that sort of thing. We are encouraged to bring our own recycled bags to all stores here. Cashiers ask if we actually need one and more and more your only option is a paper one - plastic is bing phased out. I always have a couple with me and all my friends are the same. We are also lucky to have good recycling options - we must separate our garbage, recycled goods and organics and they are all picked up separately. I do have the reusable produce bags and I often shop at a bulk goods shop where they weigh your personal containers when you come in and mark the weight on the bottom so it is deducted when you check out - a great use for all those saved glass jars!

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    1. Yes, I'm only replacing things as and when they wear out, and of course just managing without completely this year and finding alternatives if necessary. Most of our supermarkets now sell net drawstring bags for around 30p to put loose items of fruit and veg in if you don't want them to be loose and have non of your own. Unfortunately there aren't any bulk stores in our area. If I were 10 years younger I think I would be opening one of my own.

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  20. When my kids were little in the late 80's/early 90's, not only did we have a milk man, we also had a weekly 'pop' man. We used to go to his van and choose 12 bottles of fizzy pop to last a week, real glass bottles in a crate. These were returned the following week and we chose our new pop. Happy days - even if it was fizzy pop that's not recommended these days!!

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    1. Fizzy pop is a real childhood treat though and we should never deny some treats, at least most of them are sugar free now and toothpastes are better :-)

      Unfortunately when my boys were small I couldn't have afforded that so they made do with supermarket own label cola or lemonade ... or on a good week both.

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  21. I remember my Mom reusing the paper bags for the trash can under the sink.

    We were brought up to use and reuse everything we could. I try to buy recyclable plastic, and take my own bags to get my groceries. Only makes sense not to fill up the landfills with things that don't decompose.

    God bless.

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    1. Yes any bag, best a paper one but even a plastic one, is no longer single use if it can be used more than once.

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  22. New Zealand banned single use plastics in supermarkets a couple of years ago, but vegetables are still sold in aa filmy plastic that is supposed to decompose. I won't use it, but my favourite supermarket also has paper bags. And we all use our own bags to take groceries home - or pay 10c (5p) for each sturdy paper bag. There is still glad wrap over meat etc, and quite a bit of that is not recyclable. We were using our own plastic/glass take-away containers for meat and fish, but since Covid we're not allowed to do that. Where I fall down is sorting the difficult to recycle stuff and taking it to the recycling centre. Must Do Better! For some reason, the daily newspaper comes in a fairly sturdy plastic cover, but I do find lots of used for them, so they're never single use here.

    I remember milk (with tinfoil lids we saved for arts and Craft activities) delivered in glass bottles, and all food coming in paper. Mind you, it made for smelly rubbish bins - which used to be emptied by a rubbish man who came up to the house, emptied the bin and left again, closing the gate after himself! Those were the days!! And, while I'm winding my mind back, my mother carefully saved butter papers to line the baking tins with. I think those memories mean "I'm OLD"

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    1. The poor bin men these days would have to be weightlifters if they tried to carry the rubbish generated by some households!! It's wheelie bins in most places in the UK as far as I know. The only time I've had proper galvanised rubbish bins since I was a child was when we kept pigs and we had all theirs and the chickens feed in them in the shed to stop the rats getting at it.

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  23. I find it funny when I see all these "new" ways to recycle and save! My grandmother and parents saved every bread bag, other bags, foil and so forth. They rewashed and used them many times over. Our milk, pop and other things came in glass bottles that were recycled. I bet most everyone here used cloth diapers for their babies too!

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    1. That's just it they used everything of what they bought didn't they. The food and then the wrapping or containers it came in.

      Yes I used Terry nappies as well call them here, hard work to keep sparkling clean but so worth the effort and my two dozen lasted for both boys, think of the money I must have saved if disposables had been around then.

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  24. And how good is it that most supermarkets now accept soft plastics like bags to recycle when they have become past their best.

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    1. It is really good, and is one of the last things I have to get my head around.

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  25. Living in the United States I am appalled at the casual use of plastics. We had a tutor come to the house and I would make her coffee. She told me not to use a mug but a disposable cup. I don't have any so she had to make do with a proper mug.

    Rubbish pick up days astound us - often the bins are overfull. What on earth are people throwing away each week?

    We go to the dentist twice a year and each time they try to give me a small plastic bag of samples: a tube of toothpaste that weighs more than the contents, a container of floss that is again big compared to the contents and a plastic toothbrush. The waste is dreadful but is viewed as normal.

    If anyone were to try and campaign on reducing plastic waste here I am sure it wouldn't go well. At the Outer Banks in North Carolina "single use" plastic bags were banned for many years until the new republican governor vetoed the law. It is so sad to see the bags in the ocean and at the side of the roads again.

    Helen

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  26. It's all coming back isnt it? As a wartime baby I grew up with very thrifty parents. There simply wasnt any plastic in those days, it was greasproof paper only. Shops sold food in blue or brown paper bags. No Fairy liquid for washing up, instead bits of soap were put in a little wire 'cage' and swished about. Eggs kept in Waterglass....etc.etc! i could go on but won't.

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  27. I loved reading this, so much stuff just arrives with excess packaging or in plastic, I struggle with the cost of using a refill mill type place though, even M&S in London has one and it's just so much more expensive to refill your own jars with say lentils than it is to buy them in a 500g bag, even the cheapest of grains such as long grain rice work out so expensive per gram, as there are 6 of us in the house it really adds up.
    I've seen a reusable cotton bud type instrument - looks a bit odd and I'm not sure how you go about cleaning it, but it's quite interesting how many alternatives are available.
    I also find that the one thing I have to replace quite regularly is socks, I like bamboo socks but they get threadbare at the heel and under the ball of the foot so I find myself replacing them now and then, I don't have time for darning, I think that's part of the reason we have created a throw away society - everyone seems to be time poor.

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