Today I went out for lunch to the local food court with two people from work. As we walked up, I started to think about my lunch garbage. Looking up at the various neon signs starting back at me, I realized that if I wanted to avoid Styrofoam (polystyrene foam), then my choices would be severely limited.
Of the 9 food outlets, 5 of them required the use of a Styrofoam container, 2 of them gave you Styrofoam for about half their meals and 2 of them were Styrofoam free. So if you do the math, out of the hundreds of lunches that were pumped out each day, approximately 2/3s generate a Styrofoam container. How many containers is that per lunch hour? This is just one food court, out of many downtown, and many more throughout the city. How many containers are thrown out per day, just in my city? Then multiply that by 251 working days per year, then by the number of cities in North America, then by the number of years we have using Styrofoam…
Stop! My head is spinning.
So on this day, I did not order a lunch with Styrofoam. Normally I would have. Today I did not. What difference will my choice make? How will my choosing to not use Styrofoam, among the mountains of Styrofoam produced each day, make a difference? This is where I start to get weary. Why even try if it doesn’t even make a difference?
Well I am voting with my dollars, by shopping at those establishments that have Earth-friendlier packaging. If everyone did what I do, I am sure that these establishments would quickly get the message.
There are alternatives to Styrofoam. There is a high density cardboard, which I have seen around town. Why can’t food stores switch out?
I carried my non-Styrofoam lunch to a food court table to eat with my coworkers. Looking down at my meal, I realized that even without the Styrofoam, I still had a napkin, a plastic fork, a paper plate and paper tray liner all to throw away. It was the first time I had ever thought about this.
So much of our waste in landfills is due to single use items. Napkins, drink cups, straws, coffee cups, hamburger wrappers, fry containers, Styrofoam containers… We just use ‘em then lose ‘em without a second thought. Have you ever brought your family to McDonalds and looked at the tide of garbage on the tray afterwards? We just open the shoot, dump ‘er in and away we go.
In grade eight there was a girl at school whose parents would go to McDonald’s and bring all their own dishes. I am sure the McDonald’s workers were very confused. How do you make a burger without putting it on the wrapper first? How to you serve fries without the container that fits the fry dispenser? How do you put a regular cup in the pop dispenser where paper cups should go? Everyone at school talked about it. I thought it was cool. How brazen and defiant!
But this was back in 1988, people. It is not a new idea.
Today’s resolution – refuse napkins, forks/spoons/knives in stores (carry my own in my purse) and avoid Styrofoam.