What is plastic and what can we use, instead?

Tell us what you are doing in your everyday life to stay green. Email asiple@postmedia.com. Photo by Twyla Siple / Interlake Publishing

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As a thirty-something-year-old, I feel that my generation has really only known plastic.

Plastic cups. Plastic plates. Plastic straws. Plastic bags.

Synthetic plastics are going out of style, fast. Unfortunately, a lot of it is ending up in our  landfills and oceans.

According to Wikipedia, incinerating it will release carbon dioxide, and leaving it to rot will result in it lasting for hundreds of years.

The main source of synthetic plastics is crude oil.

The word plastic derives from the Greek plastikos meaning “capable of being shaped or molded”.

The first man-made plastic was patented in England as Parkesine in 1856 by Alexander Parkes. It won a bronze medal in the 1862 World’s fair in London.

This plastic was highly flammable, difficult and expensive to produce and isn’t really used much anymore. Today, you can find this old-school plastic in table-tennis balls, musical instruments, and guitar picks.

With the progression of this technology, we haven’t come very far. While there are biodegradable plastics and bioplastics hitting the market, we aren’t seeing them in grocery chains in their check-out lines, just yet.

Students Against Plastic in Arborg is a grassroots movement made up of Grade 7 and 8 students, their teacher, Jay Ewert, and the owner of the Arborg Hotel, Owen Eyolfson, who supported them as a member of their local chamber of commerce. They gathered at their town’s municipal office where they presented their ideas on how to reduce the use of plastic, single use bags in their community on May 9, to rave reviews.

The municipality of Eriksdale has banned plastic bags for nearly 10 years. This means people will be charged a fee and retailers will be fined for handing out plastic bags for free. This is to encourage a greener community outlook, which is as simple as remembering to pack your own reusable bag when you go shopping to preserve the planet.

Eyolfson also told me that the restaurant in his hotel is reducing the number of plastic straws going into the trash by requiring clientele specifically request a straw for their drink. Simple.

I asked him if he had ever considered reusable to-go containers, unto which he entertained my explanation. I told him how folks use tradable to-go-containers in other countries.

A dabba, or Indian-style tiffin carrier, is a set of round containers that have a small catch on either side of the handle that latches to create a tier of containers.

Typically they come in two to four tiers. The bottom-most tier, being the largest, is the one usually used for rice and the rest typically contain a soup, a main course and piece of cake.

In Mumbai, India, I discovered a complex and efficient delivery system that regularly delivers food to city office workers from their homes in exchangable dabbas. It uses delivery workers known as dabbawalas.

A very similar device called a Henkelmann that was popular during the 1960’s in Germany and is rarely used today.

Please write to me and share your stories about what you are doing in your every day life to stay green.

Email: asiple@postmedia.com