By Katie Turner Getty
“You know, sea turtles think plastic wrap is a jellyfish and they eat it. Then they get sick.”
I had just removed plastic cling wrap from a dish, and was about to toss it into the garbage can when my friend’s daughter spoke. I looked at the balled-up plastic film in my hand. It was true.
It did kind of look like a jellyfish.
Haltingly, I explained that I’d already used the plastic wrap, and it was dirty now, and I had to throw it away. So I did. Knowing that plastic wrap is not biodegradable and knowing that it poses a threat to marine life, I simply threw it in the trash.
But I haven’t forgotten about it. In fact, every time since then that I’ve thrown plastic wrap in the trash, I’ve recalled the conversation I had with my friend’s daughter—and the definite resemblance plastic wrap bears to jellyfish.
As I embark on the second month of my personal #SingleUsePlasticChallenge, I’ve decided that, in honor of sea turtles everywhere, I will give up plastic wrap.
My new years’ resolution this year is to give up one single-use plastic item every month for twelve months. Last month, I stopped packing my lunch in single-use sandwich bags and instead started placing my lunch in a reusable plastic container. A very small step, to be sure—but my new years’ goal is to implement small changes to my daily routines that are sustainable in the long-term.
Reducing my reliance on plastic wrap will prove to be especially tough for me this month given that I’ve also been trying to minimize the amount of wasted food within my household. In fact, I believe my success in reducing food waste has had the undesirable side of effect of increasing my usage of plastic wrap—I typically preserve leftovers by wrapping them in cling wrap!
The conversation about sea turtles and jellyfish was still fresh in my mind at Christmas, when I had the opportunity to participate in a “Yankee swap.” At the swap, I angled for a set of five glass containers, which I was fortunate to obtain. My plan is to store food in the glass containers rather than wrap dishes in cling wrap. The glass containers will require washing—which will slightly increase water usage. But hopefully this negative will be greatly offset by not adding my used plastic wrap to the plastic pollution that is choking our oceans and waterways and harming animals.
As I continue my personal journey to reduce my consumption of single-use plastics, I still plan to eschew single-use plastic sandwich bags. I’ll also work hard this month to use my new glass containers to store leftover food. I also learned of a more traditional, time-tested method of storing food in the refrigerator—placing a saucer on top of the dish to form a seal. (Added bonus: You can then stack items on top of the saucer!) This method is, of course, much less convenient than simply stretching some plastic wrap over a dish. But the chance to save some sea turtles is definitely worth the added effort!
I’ve been surprised by how many times during my personal #SingleUsePlasticChallenge I’ve been tempted to quit. Negative, defeatist thoughts often crowd into my mind such as, “You are one person—what possible difference can you make?” But then I think of a sign that I saw a climate activist holding that posed a question: “What will you tell the future children of the world that you did?” And, it’s simple: As we face the threat of climate change to ours and future generations, and the relentlessly increasing wave of plastic pollution in our oceans, I do not want my answer to be “nothing.”
I hope others, too, will decide to embark on their own personal challenge and try to reduce reliance on single use plastics. Do you have any pro tips to help others minimize the use of single use plastics? If you do, please help me and others learn by leaving some comments on the Melrose Recycling Committee blog, or by sharing some tips on social media or to the Melrose Free Press or Melrose Weekly News.