Copyright 2002 Linda Marcas - All Rights Reserved
I Can't Contain Myself
We have a friend from Toledo staying with us for a few days, someone who ran afoul of the Findlay traffic courts
and was sentenced to 40 hours of community service working at the recycling center. This morning, he was
checking the bottom of our milk jug, looking to see if it was a "1" or a "2." It turns out that a yellow milk jug is a "2",
and, if it doesn't become an impromptu doggie chew toy, we'll rinse it out and toss it into the recycle bin once it's
empty. I wish all of my interactions with plastic food containers could be this simple.
Unfortunately, not all of the plastic containers that come into our house are recyclable, at least not around here.
Deli foods, sour cream, yogurt, cookies, and a host of other things come in containers that are marked "5" or "6" or
"9", which are numbers that, while theoretically recylable, are not accepted by most community recycling programs.
I can't bring myself to just throw these containers out without trying to re-use them at least once, and so I end up
with a kitchen full of stacks of plastic containers. I can't find uses for them all, at least not before I need more of
whatever originally came in them; if hubby didn't ocasionally take a fit and throw out a stack or two, I'd be totally
In addition to the containers that come from the grocery store, I have containers that belong to other people, that
contained gifts of party food or leftovers. I'm pretty good about returning the heavy duty, expensive
Tupperware-type containers to their owners, if only because they don't look like anything I own, so I can remember
to whom they belong. Lately, however, the plastic-wrap companies have come out with inexpensive containers
whose major selling point is that they are cheap enough to lose. I know that people don't expect them back;
nevertheless, I try to return them. I write the owner's name on the bottom in indelible marker, so I can use them to
take food to the next party they throw.
In theory, this is a simple plan, but it inevitably breaks down when I try to put it into practice. I either forget that
I have a container to return, or else said container is hiding in my refrigerator because I've used it in the meantime,
and I don't have time to find another dish for whatever is in it and to wash the original container so I can return it. I
guess I'll switch to Plan B, my Cosmic Theory of Plastic Parity, and use these "recieved" containers as I need them,
passing them along to other people whenever I can, in the hope that everyone will eventually end up with as many
containers as they gave out, or need, or want.
Then there are all the oddball plastic containers that have come my way, ones that came filled with Lite Brite
pegs or buttons or beads or other small objects. I don't want to use these containers for food, but I think they might
come in handy for curtain hooks, nails, screws, polishing cloths, string, and all that other stuff that gets lost in the
bottom of "the junk drawer" (you know the one I mean; you have one, too.) The trouble with most of these
containers is that I can't see through them to see what's inside, and so I usually leave them sitting around empty and
put the hardware and other junk into heavy plastic ZipLoc bags, instead. Don't ask me why I don't throw them
away; if I knew that, I wouldn't be writing this.
To top it all off, from time to time my dear mother buys complete sets of plastic containers, usually because she
thinks she'd like all of hers to match and look nice. The sets are always larger than she needs, so she gives the extra
containers to me. Thanks, Mom; these are just what I needed! Of course, it always turns out that I do need a
couple of the larger ones, and I don't pitch the smaller ones that I don't need, because they match the big ones, and I
hate to break up the set.
The really funny part about all my container confusion is that I don't really use plastic food storage containers all
that much. I prefer plastic bags, because they cram into the fridge better, or I leave things in whatever bowl they
happen to be in in the first place and cover them with those cool little plastic shower caps that work better for me
than plastic wrap. (I'm so glad they started making these things again; my aunt had a set of them forty years ago, and
I used to wonder why they ever stopped making them.) If I'm storing something that I plan on heating in the
microwave, I use Corning Ware, or one of my vintage Pyrex containers that has a glass cover. But, in spite of my
preferences, when it comes to collecting plastic containers, I just can't seem to contain myself.