Saturday, August 29, 2009

Is it Worth it to Recycle Plastic Baggies?

Recycling Ziploc baggies is supposed to be green, because you are not throwing away Ziploc baggies. It is supposed to be frugal, because you are not buying more Ziploc baggies. But does it actually make any sense?
Washing Ziploc baggies was popularized by Amy Dacyczyn in the mid 1990's. She was an avid baggie recycler. When asked about Tupperware as an alternative, she explained "I couldn't fit three plastic (Tupperware) containers and a thermos in one lunch box." (p. 48, The Complete Tightwad Gazette) She had six kids and packed somewhat elaborate lunches for them all to take to school. She included pudding, cooked or raw veggies, fruit, muffins. I send my husband to work, and now school, with dinner leftovers. He gets one Tupperware. That's it. He doesn't get muffins or pudding. And if he did, he would only get one, in a Tupperware.
So why has the question of a Tupperware alternative not been raised again?
The number one reason that I don't recycle Ziploc baggies is that I don't use Ziploc baggies.
When I buy meat in bulk, I divide it into one pound sections and put it in cheapo sandwich baggies. Because the meat is frozen, it doesn't come out so neatly and the bag often rips. I do the same thing when I cook my dry beans. Amy Dacyczyn does advise that a ripped seam can be repaired with an iron, but even she does not recycle sandwich baggies. Using sandwich baggies saves over wrapping in plastic wrap because I would have to use much more plastic wrap to get a snug fit with no holes.
All leftovers get put into Tupperware. When I cook food in bulk, I put the food into small entree and snack size Tupperware for easy consumption. Seriously, what are people using so many Ziploc baggies for that they are now saving small fortunes by washing them out and reusing them? If they are so important, why does my family not have a need for them?

Why is that when someone questions this practice, they are questioning it because it seems like a dumb waste of time, not just a dumb thing to do?
I don't really consider it "bucking the system" to buy a disposable product and then not throw it away. Instead, to counter this disposable society, I buy durable products and don't throw them away.


alison said...

Hmm, I use and re-use Ziploc baggies for my boys school lunches, but re-use disposable containers to keep my beans and browned ground beef in the freezer. I tried using containers in their lunch boxes and it just didn't work well, though fruit doesn't have the mushing effect on sandwiches in containers the way it does on a sandwich in a baggie.

Emily said...

Yeah, that makes sense for the hard kids lunch bozes, just like Any Dacyczyn said. But I know a lot of homeschooling families and childless couples that do it too. It just doesn't seem necessary beyond lunch boxes.

I'm glad you're not trowing away anything with your freezer storage. We buy a LOT of meat on sale, so I don't brown any before freezing, just separate it.

Terri said...

When I buy food comes in a jar, I save the jar when the food is gone. These can be washed and used like you would tupperware to pack things for lunch. I tend to pack things that don't need to be microwaved in them, like fruit or chips, but I think I've even used them for microwavable food in a pinch. I wouldn't send them with kids because of the breakage issue, but they're perfectly fine in an adult's lunch bag. I also feel like it's healthier to use glass containers than plastic containers to store food in because I've read a lot of stuff about plastic leaching cancer causing chemicals into food.

Emily said...

I reuse my jars as well, but not for tupperware. I don't have any that would nicely fit a chicken leg quarter, but they might do for other leftover. I don't like using plastic either. When I get new tupperware, I microwave it with water in so that most of the chemicals leech out then. Then I wash it thoroughly and hope for the best.

Eliza said...

Hi, someone mentioned your blog on the Mckmama forum so I followed the link over here. I went to the FAQ section and started reading. I just wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog, you write really well and it's funny. I actually laughed out loud at this post. And I totally agree! I can't believe we question why people waste time washing out baggies when we should be questioning why they are washing out baggies!!
Oh and your comment about microwaving the tupperware with water in it is a really interesting thought. I never thought about it but now I will. Thanks for your blog, I will definitely be back.

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