Refuse, Reuse, and Recycle That *** Plastic

“Paper or plastic?” When have you heard this question lately? I haven’t. It’s “plastic, you must!” That happens to me each time when I forget my reusable bags.

DETOUR to Germany. I just returned from there. Hey, Nutella comes in a glass jar there, isn’t that great? But vitamins are in messy bubble packs, why? Be it as it may, they are ahead of us with managing the mess. They charge deposits on (plastic) bottles and customers will return them to the store (picture below, the fully automated return).

  • Bottle return at a German grocery

Leergutannahme–Acceptance of Empties: Nice! Let’s bring all our bottles back to where they came from (Fry’s, Albertsons, Safeway, etc.). They made a buck on them, so they must share the recycling responsibility.

All other, non-deposit, glass (wine etc.) bottles must be brought to recycling dumpsters separated by white, brown, or green colors. Papers and cardboards are collected in a separate bin. Compostables go in a brown bin. Next, the packaging refuse (yogurt cups, food containers, cans etc.) are to be cleaned to be recycled. That leaves the “Restmüll” pile much smaller: diapers, hygiene items, & other messy messes to be incinerated.

On packaging: as the consumption of take out food ramped up in Germany during Covid too, there is a new law that all carry-out containers must be paper/cardboard. My mom has a wood-burning stove and can dispose of these in the hearth. For community festivals, china plates, real silver ware, or edible bowls must be used. I went shopping at the grocery store with a basket. Nonetheless, that dang plastic showed a horrible presence in the Edeka cooler section: sliced meats and cheeses strutting more plastic per weight than food. And lots of extra plastic wrapping on fruits and vegetables too (see Aldi).

In the US: Do what you might, you can’t apparently refuse the plastic. Store clerks look at you with disbelief: What? No bag? One for the apples, one for the meat, one for the shampoo, one for the tortillas, one for the toothpaste, one for the birthday card . . . Come on, what are you doing? Save them! These bags are precious!

I have fought to keep those bags at bay. I confess, sometimes I forget to bring my own reusable shopping bags. Then I tell the clerk, “Just put all that crap from the motor belt back in the cart!”  What? The packer won’t believe my callousness against his expert wrapping science. Little does he know that I have a (plastic) basket in the trunk. That’s where I throw all my purchases (without crushing my lettuce like they do).

That fight against the bags never ends. The only place that is perhaps a little different is Boulder, Colorado. There they make you buy a bag. Definitely, bags are precious. So, we should pay for them, reuse them, or refuse them. Let needier people have them.

Fight the plastic bags! If we can’t stop this trash, we will drown in it eventually.

Plastic bags should have become extinct by now. The next things to scratch on this long list are the one-way water bottles. Bring your own bottle to the game or school event, fill it at the faucet. Don’t be lazy. Or buy something in a can or glass bottle. Look, San Francisco Airport banned them already in August of 2019. Schools—oh my God, how much trash piles up there—should do the same! Train them school kids to bring their own bottles!


There are signs of hope against that plastic tsunami we live in. Here in Phoenix, the Phoenix Suns Arena was recently renamed the FOOTPRINT Center Arena for its partnership with a material science company that works hard to replace single-use plastics with biodegradable plant fibers. Imagine, all the hot dog boats and burger boxes will compose in the fill after three months!

Footprint Center

So here are my three points:

Let’s skip the plastic bag,

Bring your own refillable drink bottle, and

Boycott liquid detergent.

Why the detergents? Is there any proof that liquid detergent works better than powder? And if, is the result noticeable? I doubt it. BUT: It creates a lot of plastic trash. And plastic is precious, as we know, as our lives are precious. So save that plastic and spare us from it! Because the plastic comes around in the food chain from the plankton in the ocean and up to us. Therefore, if plastic is “dear” to us, we must use it most sparingly, even that micro-plastic.

If we fail on these easy things, we are failing ourselves on many levels. Let’s muster up some strength. Maybe St. Kateri Tekakwitha (Feast Day: July 14th), Patron Saint of the Environment and Ecology could help.

Oh, Holy Saint Kateri! May you protect us from all superfluous plastic and our own negligent recalcitrance! Or can you clean up Midway Island, please? (Sorry, you are right. We better do it ourselves.)


Someone needs to do something about it! How about YOU?

Take the pledge here:


READ about this Science Fair Winner: Fishing Micro-Plastic Out of Water–Fionn Ferreira

Fionn Ferreira, Science Fair Winner, Ferro-Fluids & Micro-Plastics

IDEAS? Any IDEAS? How can we cut out the plastic?

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1 Response to Oh, Heck! Plastic Up to My Neck!

  1. edda Milda Buchner says:

    Good point AnnElise. Plastic can be avoided or reduced as your German examples show.
    What bugs me, are the billions of plastic bottles for prescription medicines. The pharmacies hand out 30 to 90 prescription pills in unreasonably big plastic bottles year in year out to people who need them. As a matter of fact all of the vitamin bottles etc. are made of plastic. And there is apparently no way of avoiding this unless laws for packaging change.
    The same waste is true for the building industry. They use enormous amounts of plastic during construction and wrap huge stacks of lumber etc. in layers upon layers of cling wrap. Your example illustrates that Germany is at least taking a crack at the plastic waste.
    One last thought, a bar of hand soap is cheaper and produces much less waste than liquid hand soap.

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