The Three Rs

When I was growing up, the “Three Rs” were known as: reading, (w)riting and (a)rithmetic. These were considered the ‘important’ things we needed to learn in our schooling. Obviously, two of the three of them have been antiquated by technology, and I suspect that, at some time in the not-so-far future, reading won’t be necessary since everything will be converted to audio (like is already done with books).

These days, we still use the phrase the “Three Rs” but now they mean: reuse, repurpose, recycle. Actually, there is an even newer meaning to the acronym – it’s now reduce, reuse, recycle.

I have long been an avid recycler. I have not let the articles about how less than 50% of the recyclable items we place out for that purpose actually get recycled dissuade me. I have used reusable bags for my grocery shopping for many years; in fact, I had to buy additional bags because I gave some of mine away to my brother to use since he has a lot of steps involved in getting his groceries inside! I often grab one or two of those bags if I’m going into a place other than the grocery store, like a big box store or a thrift store.

About a month ago, I caught part of a news clip about how the state of New Jersey (which borders PA, where I live) was banning the use of plastic bags in stores. Customers had to either bring their own shopping bags or pay a nominal amount for paper bags. In theory, I fully support this idea. However, I’m old enough to remember a time when everyone used paper bags (without paying for them) and plastic bags were invented to replace paper as they were much more economical and saved in the cutting down of trees.

I also saw a headline about California getting on the bandwagon to reduce plastic usage. And I’m all for anything we can do.

And yet, there was a big noise made about single-use plastic straws; just days ago, I was voluntarily presented with a plastic straw in a paper wrapper with the glass of water I ordered. It ended up becoming waste, just as it would have if I had used it, even though it sat unopened on the table the entire time it was there. If I had been asked if I wanted a straw, I would have said “no” and saved the earth – and the restaurant – the result of using one.

After the ban on plastic bags in New Jersey, I asked someone who lives there how they will clean up after their dog while on walks. Instead of ‘reusing’ a store plastic bag to pick up the solids to be disposed in the trash, this person bought the most inexpensive box of plastic zipper bags that could be found and will now use them. So, my question becomes, “If all we are doing is replacing one kind of plastic bag with another that still ends up as plastic waste, what are we accomplishing?”

Bear with me on this… What are our trash bags made of? What is the wrap we put over food made of? What are wrappers for bags of bread, muffins, etc. made of? What are the bags available in the produce aisle for putting our produce into made of? What is the film over so many frozen items in trays made of? What is the film that covers the meat on styrofoam trays in the meat section made of? What wraps up most of the pre-packaged lunchmeats and cheeses available to purchase? What do things like cooking oils and peanut butter come in? What is the band that holds together that 6-or 8-pack of soda bottles made of?

And that is why I can only say that, in theory, banning plastic shopping bags is a good idea. But honestly, to me it feels like using your toothbrush and toothpaste to brush the top 4 center teeth in your mouth while not cleaning the remaining teeth.

I know there are mesh-type bags that can be purchased to be used for when you purchase produce. Use, wash, reuse. But we as a society are all about convenience. That’s why disposable diapers were invented. That’s why we use paper towels and paper napkins. We are still making tons and tons of trash that ends up in landfills because we want the fastest way to get something done, and wipe and toss sure beats wipe and wash, dry, fold, put away to reuse.

As I said, I am doing everything I can to recycle – approved glass, plastic, aluminum, paper and cardboard, etc. But to be honest, I’m quick to grab a paper towel to wipe up a small mess rather than dirty a cloth. And I’m not really sure I’m ready to go back to those days long ago where both women and men used cloth hankies, washed, dried, ironed and the reused. And trust me, I use up, on average, three to four boxes of tissues a month (I do break down the sides of the empty box, remove the plastic around the opening, and put the box in recycling. Oh, but there is more plastic I’m throwing into the trash, darnit!).

I applaud New Jersey for its efforts – after all, you need to start somewhere. But if our government wants to make it easy on the consumers, why not provide a certain number of reusable bags, based on the size of the family per the recent census, complimentary? Then, if persons don’t choose to use them – or forget them – or whatever other excuse that can be made – the onus is on that consumer. I believe the law in New Jersey states that people can bring their own reusable bags or pay a nominal fee for paper bags. (I’ve already been to a grocery store that charges 3 cents for each plastic bag used if you didn’t bring your own with you.)

Let’s face it – the fastest way to get someone to change is to make them financially responsible if they choose not to! So that should be in the beginning of this desire for overall change. And then, at least in my opinion, government should be willing to work on finding ways to make wrappings of plastic somehow biodegradable (some smaller companies already do) so that whatever does end up in the trash eventually dissolves. We also need to make it mandatory nationwide that all residential buildings must recycle. We need to find out why less than 50% of the materials set out to be recycled actually become recycled. We need to make it cost effective to companies – and to consumers – to use recycled products, maybe even save them a penny or two for choosing recycled materials.

So, while I appreciate the start on this issue being made by New Jersey and talked about in California, unless the federal government gets involved, there is not going to be a major impact on the problem.

Maybe the Supreme Court should be looking at how this problem has a negative effect on many, MANY lives and quit trying to allegedly save one!

And that is all I’m going to say about that!

We need to do MORE of this!

7 thoughts on “The Three Rs

  1. I don’t think any of us has the answers, but I do think we need to make this a topic that gets plenty of attention and putting our heads together to try and find answers.


  2. Hear, hear! Have you seen The beeswax wraps that are used to replace sandwich baggies? I purchased a few before I thought about the plastic packaging they came in. I was so annoyed by this that I wrote the company explaining my frustration. It defeats the purpose if the packaging isn’t recyclable or biodegradable. Last Christmas, my brother sent me a few as gifts, and they came in a paper box with some sort of biodegradable cellophane film. At least someone is listening!

    I have written congress numerous times, but they are much more stubborn. HA! I propose legalizing hemp. It is easy to grow, and can be used to replace so many of the plastic products you mentioned. Hemp can be broken down and used in so many ways, and it’s biodegradable. I’m not sure why it isn’t a more popular crop. I mean, I do, and don’t, but hemp doesn’t have to be used strictly for Marijuana purposes. Although, if congress is really concerned with the economy, legalizing it at the federal level could certainly boost it, but that’s a topic for another day.

    I agree, more people in power need to make efforts to save our planet and ALL the people on it rather than trying to control certain groups of individuals. You have raised a very important topic close to my heart. If only we could get everyone on board to do what they can. Even small acts are better than nothing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great thoughts and perspective. I understand and agree. 50% actually are recycled…I had heard that before; wow. In my rural area I have to drive to recycle (I have a place I take cardboard, that same container does not take plastic). Sadly, our trash company does not provide a recycling container without a ridiculous cost. Not to judge my neighbors, but simply, they’re not going to take the time to do it. Money certainly does talk. And education should right? I wish our disposal companies would offer recycling services without extra fees (instead of raising all the prices due to gas and other issues out of their hands). Like you, I try and do my part. We see steps. But the big picture is always good to investigate and understand!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you! There are sustainable and biodegradable products out there, but I suppose the cost of them puts off manufacturers from using them. But until enough people – across the aisles – make enough noise, we won’t see any changes large enough to make an iota of difference in the long run. Bamboo is slowly making its way into the public as a sustainable product, but again, it’s not affordable to all people. Most of us can’t imagine using toilet paper made of bamboo, though the product does exist. If it had come into the market at the onset of the shortage, it would have been in many households and might be more common to still exist in them. We’re saving fetuses for the future world, but may not have a world for them to live in if we don’t make some changes!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. With inflation as it is, what groceries you buy now probably only fill up one plastic bag, right? But if you use the recyclable bags half the time, you’re only half of the problem you used to be! Love you anyhow!

    Liked by 1 person

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