100 million plastic utensils and one very real problem...

Have you ever thought about the waste we create as we opt for convenience? Well let’s take a real look at the every day habit that poses yet another plastic conundrum across so many daily lunch hours. If you’re like most of us, a sit down lunch at a nice restaurant isn’t quite a reality. If you’re lucky you get to step out of the office, walk a few paces in one direction, talk to someone that you don’t see every single day and return to that same office/cubicle/desk that you’ve been sitting in 9-5, 5 days a week, etc. etc. you get the idea. So I reiterate my question: have you thought about the plastic fork/knife combo you grab every single day and throw away in the trash immediately after?

Sadly most of us don’t ever bat an eye at the idea or choose to look the other way. The issue with this mentality is the 100 million pieces of cutlery per day that end up in our landfills, polluting our oceans and contributing to the ever-increasing carbon footprint of today’s society (plasticpollutioncoalition.com). Let’s for a second forget about the 9 billion tons of plastic looming over us, and the fact that there is plastic from the 1950’s still in our landfills, oceans and yes inside our food. Let us even forego the obvious truth that the plastics industry will continue to produce new plastic even though we have NO IDEA what to do with the tons we already have. Instead let us focus on these small pieces of plastic we use everyday.

For starters as much as you may want the opposite to be true, plastic utensils are NOT recyclable. You can throw them into the recycling bin if you’d like and even wash them first, but once they get to the facility they will be sorted out and thrown in the trash. Why? There are only two types of plastics being recycled in the US, PET and PETE or #1 plastic and HDPE or #2 plastic. Plastic utensils are of the #5 or #6 variety along with many plastic containers. Polypropylene (#5) and polystyrene (#6) are both are not recycled by most curbside recycling systems. They do not have enough substance to actually warrant the energy used to recycle them.

Here’s the real kicker, though most polypropylene is fairly safe to use polystyrene is highly toxic especially when it come into contact with heat. So every time you eat a warm–ish meal from some take out restaurant you have a 50% chance of ingesting toxic plastic molecules. Now let’s consider the school lunches we have had as kids coupled with years of eating out, it’s not hard to believe that humans on average consume 5g (the size of a regular credit card) worth of plastic each week.