The Bad Old DaysIn my last post, I advocated for using real dishes and cutlery - rather than disposables - at a kids' birthday party. I think it's a solid idea. However, like many people, I'm on a journey towards more sustainable living. I wasn't always as aware of my environmental footprint as I am today. Back in the bad old days, I bought a bunch of disposable plastic cups. I bought so many, in fact, that I still have dozens taking up space in a high cupboard in my kitchen.
- Use the disposables I already have until they're all gone, and then go reusable from there on out.
- Just chuck the disposables. It will de-clutter the shelf in my kitchen, and they're going to end up in the landfill sooner or later anyway, so why not sooner?
- Use the disposables judiciously, perhaps even washing them between uses to get as much wear out of them as possible, and then go reusable once they've fully expired.
|Image credit: Arvind Grover on Flickr|
Making a DecisionThere are some factors to consider as I make my decision. The first thing I'm considering is that the more use I can get out of the disposables I already have in my possession, the better for the planet. If I can use a disposable cup five times instead of one time, I'm going to go through the cups that much more slowly, which is probably a good thing.
But is it safe to reuse a plastic cup that's meant for one use only? The answer to that simply isn't clear. Disposable items are generally pretty flimsy, which means that they're more likely to bend and break, and give way to the stress of multiple uses. As this happens, the plastic could be leaching harmful chemicals. Not so good. However, there really isn't solid evidence one way or the other for what the actual danger level is. Most of the warnings about the dangers of reuse come from the people who make the disposable item, who are invested in you buying more of them.
Last summer at the BlogHer conference our food was served on disposable dishes. I decided to tote a plate and bowl around with me, washing them between uses. For myself, I made the decision that the risks of reusing were low enough that I would do what I could to reduce my environmental footprint. I think I'll take the same approach with the disposable cups I already have in my house. I'll use them as many times as I can before I get rid of them, and hopefully reduce the waste I produce in the process.
I wonder what you would do. How would you handle a bunch of disposable dishes that you already had in your house? Would you use them, reuse them, or just toss them outright?