April 1, 2021

Happy Plastover to one and all! As we reach the halfway mark, I thought I’d comment briefly on my own Plastover experience.

Until yesterday, my family had done pretty well subsisting off our larder and not generating new single-use plastic, with the exception of a few prescription pill bottles my son needed for some minor oral surgery. We were even able to obtain fruit smoothies in paper cups with no lids from an accommodating local business. But the supplies finally dwindled, so today I headed to the grocery store (the Park Slope Food Coop) to see what I could bring home without creating future plastic waste. The answer: Lots of fruits and vegetables, and not much else. Literally two-thirds of the store was off limits. No meat, almost no dairy (I was able to find a couple of unsalted butter chunks wrapped in waxed paper, and I allowed myself to purchase milk in a carton with a plastic screw-top — the top will go in my “Box of Guilt” for the holiday’s end.) No berries, bean sprouts or cauliflower (wrapped in plastic). No frozen food. No packaged food. Even items boxed in cardboard almost universally had a plastic window to view the merch. Glass-jarred foods like peanut butter mostly had plastic seal-strips around the tops, rendering them “hametz.” No paper towels, sponges, TP — paper is wrapped in plastic (we have a bidet and a stash of rolls, so we’ll make it, thanks for asking). There wasn’t much in cans that I wanted (kippers!). Bulk nuts went in an old plastic bag I brought with me (reuse of existing stock is permitted), but due to COVID-related accommodations, the bulk beans, rice, quinoa, etc. had all been prepackaged in convenient…plastic bags. I broke down and purchased coconut for my kid to make macaroons (more fodder for the Guilt Box). Flour was packaged in paper, but that was no help during Pesach. In the end, I left with about 1/3 of my usual haul, and felt grateful for that much.

After the grocery, I went to Fleischer’s Craft Meats and purchased sausage and a chicken wrapped in butcher paper, and felt the pleasure of interacting with people who really cared about their work and their product — the middlemen we’ve all cut out for convenience sake. Same with the Ample Hills hand-packed ice cream pints. I was reminded of the French, going from market to boulangerie to epicerie with their baskets. I recognize that these choices reflect my immense privilege in having the resources to avail myself of them. But I couldn’t help but think that with a few more middlewomen and middlemen and a lot less plastic (and an economic system that distributed wealth in a sane way), we might all enjoy a healthier and happier relationship with our food, its suppliers, and its packaging.

My hope in pursuing Plastover was that by attempting to live plastic-free for eight days, we would be forced to confront the impossibility of doing so, our “enslavement” to the plastic economy — and be inspired to demand that our political leaders offer an Exodus and a promise of freedom. That has certainly been my experience to date. I’ve also found that talking about my Plastover commitment has been met with interest and enthusiasm. So I’ll end by encouraging us all to continue to be mindful of our plastic use, ask local businesses for plastic-free alternatives, and support efforts like the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020 And make your own matzo! Now we are slaves, next year may we be free of the Ten Plagues of Plastic and living in the promised land of plastic-free milk and honey in jars without plastic seals!

Oh, and if you’re in Detroit, don’t miss Olivia’s amazing Plastover-themed piece, “At Our Table.”