While enjoying a leisurely breakfast this past summer with my 10-year-old granddaughter, my husband opened the refrigerator door and removed a bottle of water to take with him to the gym. My granddaughter levitated six inches from her chair while shrieking “Grandpa — don’t even think of using that bottle! Don’t you know that if you throw it away it will take 500 million billion trillion years for it to decompose? Plastic will be in the bodies of fish, turtles, seabirds, otters and whales!” She was becoming increasingly agitated. I calmed her down by showing her the case of boxed water that we had just bought and tossed one at Grandpa.
Back in the day when I was growing up in the ‘40s and ‘50s, I do not recall the overwhelming compulsion to carry around water like we do today. I guess we were all dehydrated. Only Miss Grabenstatter, my second grade teacher, kept a water carafe on her desk. Years later, when remembering this, I had the feeling that the carafe may have contained vodka as she became much happier after a few sips.
My grandmother enjoyed hosting a family dinner. She set her table with flowered patterned china and re-purposed memorial glasses. After the candle in each burnt down, she would then scrape off the waxy residue from the bottom so she could re-use them for water glasses. I once counted that she had 24 memorial glasses in the cabinet. When my grandfather’s Cousin Izzy did not show up for Passover Seder, I had the strong feeling that she would soon have 25!
If my mother was in a spirited mood, she took me and my sister to the local park. She would fill an empty Gefilte Fish jar with water in case we were thirsty. No matter how many times she washed that jar, I still thought the water smelled like it came from an aquarium.
It was a shock to my eight-year-old self to enter our apartment after school on April 22nd, 1953, and discover the entire red Formica kitchen table covered in clear plastic boxes, a turquoise bowl, pastel-colored tumblers, jello molds, ice cube trays, round containers of numerous sizes, plastic coasters in the shape of wagon wheels, and what my mother was most proud of, the “Wonder Bowl.” She filled the bowl with water and pressed on the center of the lid until it made a burping noise. She said that she learned to “burp” the Wonder Bowl at a Tupperware party.
When my father came home from work that evening, she proudly displayed the collection, first having removed from the cabinets anything glass or ceramic. She recited for us, as if her brain had been programmed: “Tupperware has taken this country by storm.”
Soon our refrigerator was filled with countless plastic containers, sometimes holding as little as two green peas and one sliced carrot. It was as if a switch had been thrown. She became a “plastic addict,” accumulating vast amounts of it for over 50 years!
Perhaps the use of Tupperware by the 1950s homemaker wasthe beginning of our dependence on plastic. It was modern in design as well as being functional. Functional appeals to the consumer. Why not use a plastic straw instead of a paper one that could get squishy mid-use? Why not grab a plastic bottle filled with water and toss it out when done? After a concert at Tanglewood, I gasped at the sight of two large garbage containers spilling over with empty single-use water bottles. How are we ever going to dispose of all that plastic? Plastic bottles do not re-cycle into more plastic bottles.
Let’s try and save this planet. If you have not done it already, please consider buying a light-weight re-fillable stainless steel or glass water bottle. It’s one tiny thing we can do for future generations and perhaps, prevent this prophecy from coming true: that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans then fish.
Lorrin Krouss writes with a sense of humor, hoping to make others laugh, especially her husband Andrew. She writes memoir, short stories and essays. She especially enjoys reading her words to a gathered crowd.