The Accidental Polluter

I am a polluter, and I need to correct my ways.

Recently I read the book The World Without Us, where I learned that basically every piece of plastic we have created since about the 1960s ends up either in a landfill, or in the ocean. Much of the plastic floats. Some of it looks like it disintegrates, but it really doesn’t. It just turns into ever smaller globules of plastic that live practically forever.

Sometimes, when I know I will be home alone after work, and I know there is nothing at home to eat, and I don’t want to bother preparing anything, I may stop at Kentucky Fried Chicken for some takeout. I’ll order a two-piece meal, original style, breast and wing, with potato wedges and coleslaw for about $6.75. The attendant hands me a plastic bag that contains my order.

When I get home and when I am done eating, I am left with:

  • One, sometimes two, sometimes even more than two sporks. Those are the plastic spoon/fork combinations they give out. Each of the sporks is wrapped by itself in a little clear plastic sheath along with a napkin.
  • One or several containers of honey in plastic restaurant packets which I don’t use because I eat my biscuits dry.
  • A mini Tupperware-like container with a lid in which my coleslaw came.
  • Five to fifteen extra napkins that the attendant threw into the bag just to be sure I had enough – which I’ll  save in our napkin holder for the future.
  • A cardboard box that contained the food.
  • A cardboard container that held the potato wedges.
  • The big plastic bag the whole thing came in.

Once when I bought a meal for two, I got 17 sporks in the bag:

17 forks

I know I can save the sporks, but for what? I didn’t need them in the first place, and we will never have enough picnics to ever need them. Unless I want to start a KFC spork collection, which I don’t. So they go into the trash, along with the cardboard boxes, the bag, the container, and even the honey packets.

Never to be used again. Never to have been used. In a landfill. A million years from how, some archeologist will dig out a layer of rock and find these 17 sporks, along with my coleslaw container and its lid, in the plastic bag.

If I eat in a fast-food place once every week of my life, and if I become 80 years old, and if I use only one plastic utensil for that meal that gets thrown out, I use up 4160 of them. That’s how many weeks there are in 80 years. Not a lot, huh? If 7 billion people in the world were to use up one plastic utensil a week, that would be 28 trillion of them in the environment. 28 trillion plastic utensils, maybe used once. 28 million million of them.

So now I think about that every time I take a plastic utensil to use for one meal, one piece of cake, one small container of coleslaw, or just to stir my coffee.

What a phenomenal waste!

I am an accidental polluter.

[Edit: the term “trash” here means “recycled trash” in California. However, I am not sure I fully trust the recycling system – I wonder if they give tours so we can follow the sporks through the process….]

3 thoughts on “The Accidental Polluter

  1. Bob Saxton

    Well here at the Olde Tyme Farm we recycle at the local transfer station
    –plastic(all) in the plastic bin-paper in the paper bin-cardboard in the cardboard bin-glass in glass bin-tin cans etc in tin bin–metal in metal bin- by doing so we contribute to recycling of these products and help the environment– Everyone please help by doing the same in your locality.

    1. Thanks! We do the same here. We have a recycle trash container where all this stuff goes. However, I am not so sure I trust the system. I never saw any recycle containers at the strip malls where the fast food places are. They just have those big dumpsters. It definitely opens the eyes, doesn’t it?

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