What’s SUP? Examining My Relationship with Plastic

SUP title pic

I heard the term SUP the other day for the first time. I’ve been watching YouTube videos about zero-waste living—what a concept that is! Anyway, they used the term SUP, Single Use Plastic. It got me thinking about my/our use of plastic, particularly how many things are designed for a single use.

Just the idea of “single use plastic” is kind of ridiculous if you think about it. We have this hard, moldable, air-tight substance that can be used to make durable goods of all types, from clothes hangers to hospital beds, and we relegate it to single use status. Just use it once, then throw it away.

I guess we must have an endless supply of the stuff, or whatever you use to make it, as well as an endless supply of places to put it after its maiden voyage, its one and only use.

Yeah, right.

Where did it all begin? How much SUP do we North Americans, individually and collectively, go through in a day or a year? Is it cause for alarm? Does SUP cause any damage to the environment? And what can one concerned individual do to turn the tide in some small way?

(And, no, Google, I’m not talking about Stand Up Paddle sports. Sheesh. Guess I’d better be more specific.)

Rather than bore you with statistics, I’ll share a couple of links. One quick stat, the truth of which I cannot totally verify—we throw away enough plastic every year to encircle the earth four and a half times. (That’s a lot.)

I might mention I have a personal grudge against the medical industry for using so very many plastic things one time only. I understand why with the need for sterilizing everything, but wow, what waste!

This is a neat infographic that illustrates plastic statistics.

This page contains 22 facts about Plastic Pollution and some ideas for combating it.

Some single use plastics I can see from my desk include:
-a padded mailer I was planning to reuse to send some things to a family member
-a coffee creamer can with colored pens in it
-all kinds of plastic wrap scraps from things purchased, such as clothing, furniture, etc.
-the container from a birthday cake that is holding a variety of tools in my “tool box”
-some bubble wrap I was saving to give to a little boy with autism who loves bubble wrap

A stroll around the house reveals:

-Numerous examples of bags holding things like potatoes, bread, beans, potting soil, -Epsom salts, etc.
-Several boxes of sandwich bags, zipper freezer bags (a particular vice of mine), and plastic wrap
-Containers filled with margarine, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.
-Bottles and jars filled with milk, mayo, vitamins, shampoo, laundry detergent, cat litter, etc.
-At least one of those zippered bags that bedding comes in
-Sturdy dog and cat food bags
-And far too many plastic shopping bags

I’ve been a pretty avid recycler for years, so I reuse a lot of those things, but you can only be so creative before there are more of them than you can find jobs for. I save plastics that can be taken to the city recycling bins, but we don’t have curb-side pick up, and I can tell you it is a pain in the rumpus to have to load those babies up and take them, not to mention the eye-sore they are while accumulating. Which doesn’t take long.


The Plastic Free Challenge  is scheduled to begin on Earth Day, Apr. 22, 2016. You take a pledge to reduce the amount of plastic you use and throw away. I think I’ll give it a go. but I don’t want to wait until April 22 to get started. Here are a few things I’ll try in the meantime to slow down my consumption of SUPs….

-Keep using reusable shopping bags every where I go. Encourage my kids to do so as well (a seemingly lost cause, but I can keep trying!)

-Rig up some reusable bags for bulk produce.

-Look for places around the area where you can buy foods in bulk. I noticed you could get pinto beans in bulk in the grocery store I use the most. We have Amish bulk stores in the area, but they bag things up to sell them. I could ask how they feel about us bringing in jars or what have you.

-Get my plastic mailer reusing system more organized.

-Cook from scratch more instead of using premade things like individually wrapped veggie burgers and entrees that come in single use microwave dishes.

-If I must drink soda, use my reusable cup and fill it at the convenience store fountain instead of buying it in a plastic bottle.

-Try to get off some mailing lists. (Amazing how much plastic wrap comes into the house in the mail!)

And might I encourage YOU to take the challenge, or at least examine your own relationship with SUPs?

You know, if everyone did something, a lot would get done.


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