The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
August 25, 2010

Say No To Singles

My vision of a plastic-free, zero-waste world is not a singles club.  No, I’m not discriminating against uncoupled people.  But I am a bigot when it comes to the three categories of Singles products, all of which have been featured on the new Facebook Plastic Crap Wall of Shame lately.  The first two, I’ve written about extensively, and the third might surprise you.

1) Single-use Disposables

Think plastic drink cups and cup lids, plastic food containers, plastic straws, plastic packing materials and blister packs and clamshells.  Or other ridiculous disposable items, like plastic bags for umbrellas (Can you say “mold?”)

umbrella bagPhoto by Jennifer Lawlor.

or hefty bags for shoes.

shoe slickers

These are items that are used once and thrown away, or recycled in rare cases.

Several zero-waste bloggers have campaigns to reduce our consumption of single-use disposables. Lisa Borden’s Take Out Without Campaign urges people to bring their own reusble utensils, containers, mugs, and water bottles to take out and fast food restaurant and cafes.

Take Out Without

And Taina Uitto’s ReFuse challenge asks participants to upload photos of single-use plastic items they refused for inclusion in her ongoing slideshow.

ReFuse Challenge

2) Single-serving sizes

The smaller the size, the higher the packaging to product ratio. Examples include wine in individually packaged glasses, single-serve juice boxes, yogurt cups,

Le Froglet wine-in-glass

and some of the worst offenders: Individually-wrapped prunes, jelly beans…

Sunsweet individually wrapped prunes

Individually-wrapped jelly beans

and even individually packaged ice cubes! No kidding.

Ice Rocks

But how many of us think of the third category of singles?

3) Single-Purpose Items.

Across America, kitchen drawers are stuffed full of gadgets that serve one purpose and one purpose only, like saving a single piece of fruit or vegetable, for example. Linda Anderson, who writes the blog Citizen Green nominated these plastic produce savers for her monthly Stupid Plastic Crap post. Examples she cites are the tomato saver (holds one tomato) or the onion saver (holding one onion.)

tomato saver

This category also includes the avocado saver,

Avocado saver

the banana saver,

banana saver

and products like the plastic lettuce knife, which is unnecessary since lettuce can simply be torn with the hands, and the Butter Boy, a plastic gadget meant solely for buttering corn!

Butter BoyPhoto by Lisa Sharp, Retro Housewife Goes Green

Unclutter

Erin Dooland from the web site Unclutter writes a weekly segment called Unitasker Wednesday, in which she highlights the worst of single-purpose gadgets that not only waste resources but simply clutter up our lives. Among the gems she has found are the mayo knife spreader, the potato chip finger, the watermelon cooler, and my personal favorite, the Krustbuster: a hunk of plastic created specifically for taking the crust off slices of bread.  ARE. YOU. KIDDING. ME?  If you must waste perfectly good food, at least do it with a KNIFE!

Krustbuster

BlogHer’s Melissa Ford has just posted a list of the Unitasking appliances in her home and how she decided which machines would stay and which would go.  While her list doesn’t include the cheap plastic crap I’ve described above, it does provide a process for deciding what items are truly useful and which ones are simply clutter.

What examples of unnecessary single-use, single-serving, or single-purpose items have you found? And is there another Singles category I’m missing? Now’s your turn to rant. Posting to the Plastic Crap Wall can make you feel better in the short-term, but following up with calls or letters to the companies that produce the stuff is even more important.

50 comments
Piper
Piper

Yeah, I thought a bottle was a single serving. (kidding) I love my single-purpose avocado slicer. But I also have eight 40-foot avocado trees and slice a lot of avocados. The best way to protect your banana is to safely store it inside a peanut butter sandwich.

Robbie
Robbie

Who buys single servings of wine???

Amanda P.
Amanda P.

Ok so I want to go more eco friendly and not buy this crap but that do I do with the crap I already own? It is pointless to throw it away and have it take up more landfill space. So you just committ to not buying any more? I purchased stainless steel water/juice bottles for my sons for school to stop needing to buy single serve juice boxes/pouches but they have already lost them and now I will have to purchase again. I also have gagdets I use occasionally that have accumlated over the years but again I see it pointless to toss them just to appear "greener" I think I will just committ to hang on to them and not purchase any more. On another note - what do you all think the grocers do with the plastic bags they collect to "recycle" - I was under the impression you cannot recycle plastic grocery bags.

Lara S.
Lara S.

I thought the umbrella and the shoe bags were too much, but then I saw the Crustbuster. It's a good thing that I've decided that in these situations where you don't know whether to laugh or cry, I'll laugh!

claire
claire

pat, are you comparing individual cheese slices to the blocks of pre-sliced cheese you get? because they last a very long time. also, you could get your cheese sliced at the deli (and bring your own container if plausible) and dramatically reduce the amount of packaging waste, while having superior control over how much you get.

Pat
Pat

In this house we use very little cheese. If it weren't for the individual wrapped cheese slices, we would waste much of the cheese brought in to the house and I refuse to waste food.

Michelle
Michelle

This is an awesome post, and I honestly never thought about a lot of this stuff! The only thing I have is the onion saver, which I bought a looong time ago. It's true though, this stuff is totally unnecessary and just clutters up our kitchens! As for the individually wrapped jelly beans...Wha...?

Ben F
Ben F

While having items that are unnecessary is a bad thing from a plastic and clutter standpoint, I'm not sure that being "single-purpose" is in-and-of-itself a bad thing. Having it be made out of plastic is another issue. But as we're hearing, certain people love their banana keepers/protectors. And for example I have a lunch bag that is largely plastic (it was a hand-me-down) and single-purpose - it carries food to work and really has no other use; does that mean I should not have kept it? What about the ice cube trays in my freezer? They're unavoidably (nearly) plastic and they only freeze ice. But their single-purpose existence doesn't seem like a reason to exclude them from my kitchen items. A lawn mower only cuts grass, etc, etc, etc. The issue seems more about reducing plastic use (and clutter) by avoiding items that don't serve a valid purpose and/or duplicate a task that can already be performed by thing already existing in your kitchen/home/yard/car/office. Just standing up for the "little guy" (i.e., #25. Fandango's banana protector).

Jen
Jen

Ok, I'm with you on this, except that I LOVE my avocado keeper. I mean, if previously I was using plastic wrap to save my avocado from the brown death, then what's wrong with the avocado keeper? Should I throw out half an avocado every time I use half, or use an awesome gadget?

claire
claire

(I read this after just putting a slice of pizza into a "pizza keeper" tupperware container, which I bought secondhand because we seem to always have leftover pizza.) as I said on the plastic crap wall, I like the concept of the vegetable savers, since they replace disposable plastic bags, but you can just as easily use a flat plate or flat bottomed glass container. I have to say that I'm pretty sure I hadn't thought of that until I saw these products though. they're also not very useful because vegetables tend to vary greatly in size. and the bread crust cutter is only neat because it pinches the sides of the sandwich together to keep the contents inside (kind of like a panini), which you could accomplish with a square container that's the right size for the bread, like a tin or glass jar, but my all means, eat the crust, too! you could use it to make bread crumbs or croutons, or mix into meatloaf. I have to admit I also bought one of those green lettuce knives (at a yard sale), we do "taco night" a lot and it seemed useful (not that the chopped lettuce ever lasts long enough in the fridge to brown, and you can rip off only the leaves you need from the head of lettuce instead of cutting it). I have this horrible attraction to green plastic kitchenware, especially if it's vintage. I think if you cook or bake a lot there are some single purpose items that are just wonderful timesavers or much more functional than other methods, like egg yolk/white separators (made from stainless steel), which I would get behind all the way. you just have to balance out the concept of usefulness with the likelihood of actual use. "useful" extraneous crap that doesn't get used is pretty much the opposite of useful. oh and I'm sure you've mentioned individually wrapped toothpicks at some point. twyla, I know kids are stubborn, but if you expose her to (and get her used to) some real fruit juice, she might realize that kool aid tastes like garbage and not really be too upset if you told her she'd never have it again. I see what you're saying about the packaging (is it lined with plastic or is it only made of paper?), is making your own fruit juice out of the question? you could get an electric fruit/vegetable juicer (another single purpose item to take up space!), and a manual orange juicer with a lever arm works wonderfully (if you peel the orange first, you can eat the leftover orange. and you could peel it with a single purpose orange peeler!).

Condo Blues
Condo Blues

The Krustbuster brings back the childhood trauma my mom put me through by making me eat my bread crusts. She told me they would make my hair curly because I wanted curly hair like my best friend. It was a LIE. I feel cheated. If she wanted me to eat my bread crusts then she should have smeared the peanut butter and jelly to the end of the slice of bread! No Krustbuster needed. I want to add the EZ Egg Cracker. My husband hates it. You need a tool to crack an egg open?

Rob
Rob

Single folks of the world unite against this discrimination! - What??? Oh. Never mind. Just a few comments from the king of kitchen gadgets- the bread crust remover--- R U Kidding me? Takes too much energy to use your knife??? And that Watermelon Cooler- probably the most ridiculous thing I have seen in some time. As far as the avocado holder or tomato holder- we have this thing called a half pint jelly jar if your fruit needs a cozy. And the Banana Holder--- well I am sorry but that thing looks like obscene fun. I could think of a couple of nasty things to do with it. But that is me.

arduous
arduous

Were the single-use toothbrushes (for travel!) on your facebook page or did I see them somewhere else? Because your regular toothbrush is too burdensome to carry with you....

dinesh
dinesh

Did anyone see that article on greenbiz or inhabitant recently highlighting 10 examples of excessive packaging? Almost all of them were centered around individually packed / single use items...

Stacie
Stacie

Great post Beth! Drives me nuts that so many gorgeous, organically grown produce items are then wrapped in plastic or stored in plastic. We must rethink this and vote NO with our dollars. Thanks!

Pheas
Pheas

@Billie, I do exactly the same with my egg slicer! It's also good for olives.

Eve
Eve

The only item I'd attempt o defend is the umbrella bag. Coming inside with a dripping umbrella just adds to the #1 cause of injury at work or shopping - slips/trips/falls. (Yeah, we don't know how to walk). The umbrella keeps those tricky drips from getting on the floor and sending us into a literal tailspin. BUT - I reuse mine - after it's dried out and I'm safe at home, of course. I simply tie it in a knot around the umbrella handle and have it with me for another soggy day. I think I've had the same bag for a year now!

Gaming Girl
Gaming Girl

The only item I'm going to defend on your plastic list is the plastic lettuce knife, but *not* for lettuce. It's *the best* for cutting brownies, pizza, and flatbreads. Anything sticky in other words. But what corporate idiot at Jelly Belly decided that individually wrapped jelly beans were a good idea.

Billie
Billie

I am not a big user of single use plastics. I am not sure I even have any. But in terms of gadgets? I have a bread maker and I use it once a week usually. I don't have time to actually knead bread and have yet to have a loaf turn out. My bread maker turns out a perfect loaf of bread and I love it. This unitasker is well used in my house. I have an egg slicer but I use it for mushrooms and strawberries and never for eggs :) I have gadgets that I don't use often but I find they are indispensable when I need them. My blender doesn't get used often but when I need it... I need it. So much easier to blend something than attempt to do it by hand. There is a gadget or two that I have lying around that I have never used. At least one of them (my cookie press), I would love to figure out how to use it well. I have not been able to but WANT to. Others have been gifts that had the good intentions of the gift-givers so I keep them around. I think I would give up my blender to get an immersion blender. They look absolutely indispensable and seriously more convenient than a blender.

Penny Basket
Penny Basket

I've seen plastic holders for ice cream cones being used, what's wrong with wrapping a piece of tissue paper which can be used later on to wipe our fingers!

Brenna
Brenna

Um, wow. I have never heard of most of these things. Individually packaged ice cubes! What in the world?!? We really need to get away from single use items. There is no good reason for it and lots of good reasons to avoid them.

Fandango
Fandango

Okay - I have to speak up in defense of the banana carrier. It isn't a banana saver, it is to protect your banana in your lunch bag/box. I pack my husband's lunch every day and mine as well. Inside our lunch, the banana gets mashed and bruised. These silly looking banana protectors really help keep your banana nice and ready for you to eat. We have used them for a couple of years and Yes . . . it is still a surprise to see them in the lunch box when they are empty!!!!

knutty knitter
knutty knitter

I think I've finally killed the plastic the butcher hands out - I found an old metal pudding basin with metal lid for free! (couldn't afford a fancy container) Works a treat :) Plastic macs for shoes??? I thought that was what goloshes were for :) viv in nz

Sally Thierer
Sally Thierer

Okay I'm guilty of this myself--I love my Keurig coffeemaker and I love the coffee they make available to use with this. We use the coffee grounds in my garden but it bugs me everytime I throw away a platic container. My husband and drink little coffee and it's such a great cup of coffee in the morning; I don't intend to stop. But if anyone has a suggestion for those cups I'm open to it.

Blessed
Blessed

For anyone wanting to save half a banana, here is the trick: don't slice it in half before peeling. Peel it down half-way, as if you were going to eat it, but then break off the amount of banana you want. Ideally you break it off as close to the untorn peel as possible. Then just lay the banana in the fridge with the peel naturally lying mostly closed. The next day, not only is the banana still good, but the end should only be the teeniest bit darkened. If you wait more than one day, you may have to cut off the smallest sliver of darkened banana at the end, if that kind of thing bothers you. Nowadays I never cover my half of an avodado--I just keep the half with the pit and stick the whole thing in the fridge bare on the shelf (flesh side up, obviously) and the air causes just the very top of the exposed flesh to cure, like the skin on pudding. The next day or day after when I want to use it, I just take a sharp knife and cut away the "skin", and underneath it is perfectly fresh. I don't consider this wasteful, since even when I used to put it in a storage container or--long ago--wrap it in a piece of plastic wrap, the outer edge would still get discolored and I would still end up trimming it. AND the perfect, mess free way to butter corn on the cob: use a stick of butter, and just tear of an inch of paper on one end. You now have the perfect tool for buttering that is much easier than a knife (and probably does not waste as much) and keeps your fingers neat to boot! If it is a hot day, use a frozen stick of butter, and it will go easily on the hot corn but will not soften in your hands as quickly.

Ivy
Ivy

I have to speak up in defense of some of the single purpose items. In certain circumstances, they *can* be useful. I'm a single, and I tend to go on a tear and eat, say, a smoothie every day that uses half a banana. A banana saver may seem silly..but I also know I won't eat that other half a banana before it goes bad, and I don't want to throw it out. Now, for a family of five, might be silly. Or if I rarely used bananas. But if you're regularly using a small amount of something, it can be useful.

twyla
twyla

I am pro single serve items in one respect. just one. you can hate me if you want to. i buy single serving fibre and juice packets. why? because I figure it is less plastic than buying a plastic tub of the stuff that I won't have a use for after. Sure I'd like to phase out the juice, but tell a seven year old she'll never have koolaid again (iced tea or juiced cranberries just isn't the same as coloured sugar water). And the fibre packets ... well guess what it really helps with my 7yo's stomach issues (not food-intake related). but omg .... they make raincoats for your heels? that's so just silly.

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Hey Linda, did you see that I linked to your Monthly Plastic Crap? From your comment, it sounds like maybe you missed that. Your posts are awesome and scary at the same time. Re: disposable underwear. Oh, hell no.

A
A

yea, same "thoughts" on the banana saver! LMAO! ;p what department do they keep THAT in the grocers? is it even ALLOWED?

Margarita
Margarita

I was walking past a health food supplement store the other day – the kind where gym junkies stock up on protein powders and similar body building supplements. In the front window were newly released, single use, plastic drinking bottles with one scoop of protein powder in them. You buy them in packs of six (wrapped in plastic of course) and the idea is you take one bottle to the gym, fill it with water while you’re there, down your protein drink and then throw the whole thing out. Saves you having to measure out the protein power each time and you’ll never have to clean out your drinking bottle again. Gross right?

Chelsea
Chelsea

I was recently at a travel store and they were selling single use disposable travel underwear. Apparently just washing your underwear while traveling is too much hassle these days! I can't imagine they would even be remotely comfortable either.

Caelidh
Caelidh

I was in my local grocery store and came across PLASTIC WRAPPED ORGANIC BANANAS!.. Not the regular bananas.. but the ORGANIC ones.. I asked about it and I was told that essentially their cashiers were apparently too stupid to tell which were the regular and which were the organic (reg price)..... Uh.. Stickers don't do it???sigh.. and then of course there is the Plastic Wrapped firewood!... Under a shelter.. at a gas station.... Not like it is going to get rained on... it is under a awning.. sigh

LInda Anderson
LInda Anderson

Each month I feature an item as Stupid Plastic Crap of the Month. I have feature a lot of these stupid items, like the prunes, the banana keeper, tomato keeper. I hope to get people to think before they buy. 99.99% of this type of plastic crap is just not necessary and there are greener ways to do what they do. Great blog posting, Beth.

Linda Driscoll
Linda Driscoll

Greetings!! Reenie! A local natural foods store independent chain in CO and NM just STOPPED giving out bags all-together. They collect all the corrugated boxes that the food comes in and give those out to customers. Its a genius idea really.... Here is the link to their press on the matter: http://www.naturalgrocers.com/natural_grocers_by_vitamin_cottage_to_go_completely_bag_free-health_article-58.html ~Linda Driscoll Education and Sales Manager Pangea Organics ~ EcoCentric Skin and Body Care

Leanne
Leanne

I have to admit, I have one of those plastic lettuce knives, bought in a moment of sheer stupidity. It's going out the door, as I gradually de-plastic my home. All of the plastic is being sold off to people less discerning than me, who have not yet wised up. All I can say is, I promise not to buy any more single-use crap again! Other garbage I have include a plastic gadget you whack in with boiling eggs to time them, and plastic spatulas, which are no use now as we've moved to cast iron cookware. They'd melt. And they're probably toxic anyway. All going. BTW, this stuff can all be sold secondhand. Tupperware especially gets a good price on the secondhand market.

Nick Palmer
Nick Palmer

OMG. Apart from the wine, prunes and jelly beans, I didn't know these "products" even existed. The situation is worse than it seemed.

indoor kitty
indoor kitty

For those in the market for a tomato/onion/lemon saver, try to find a tall glass storage container. I have several Frigovere containers that I've gathered from Homegoods. They have the platic lids like the pyrex refrigerator containers, but unless you have an unusually tall tomato, there's no touching. Place the cut side of the fruit/veg down against the bottom of the container. The moisture sort of suctions it to the glass. I've kept an onion for a crazy length of time. I think the key is the smooth flat bottom of the container. When not protecting a piece of produce, these are great leftover containers. They are also quite handy as defrosting baths for frozen pint jars. Place jar in container, fill space with water, set on counter. In a couple of hours your jar of tomato sauce is defrosted.

Pheas
Pheas

Agree, agree, agree ... but I will play devil's advocate just a teeny bit. Sometimes the right tool for the job is priceless. I won't give up my tomato slicer. I LOVE it. It makes a challenging job so much faster and easire. But "tomato keeper"? What's wrong with a glass storage container? @Reenie, our Publix puts big signs outside along the pavement in front of the store: "Did you bring your bags?" They also sell reusable bags, and I believe they give a discount when you bring your own. Not the be-all, end-all, but something. And as long as we do capitalism, we do have to understand that merchants won't do something if it irritates too many of their paying customers.

DK
DK

I forgot to mention the hotdog toaster a friend recently tried to pawn off on me and my brother. She was given it as a gift (WTH? I assume by someone who doesn't like her as she doesn't eat hotdogs or similar foods oftena t all) We do eat hotdogs and sausages on occasion, but have absolutely no need for something like that to take up space and energy in our kitchen.

DK
DK

Single jelly beans? Are you f'ing kidding me!? I mean, I know you're not. But. *facepalm* Talk about really, unspeakably ridiculous.

Danielle
Danielle

Ice cubes? Individually packaged ice cubes? It's going to take me hours to wrap my mind around this one. I agree with all about the banana saver. That's all kinds of funny.

Ashley
Ashley

And per your facebook request Beth... ...Kraft Singles!!! (and Baby Bell cheeses, even though their taste is far superior to Kraft)

Ashley
Ashley

That banana saver looks...um... rather risque. But a few items do come to mind: The Microwave Egg Poacher. Sold at Wally-world under the brand "Nordic ware" this device poaches two eggs....in the microwave... in a plastic clam-shell like device made of #5 plastic. While this may be tempting for a single person (or someone who is the only person in the house who likes eggs) this is something that falls into the "Are you kidding me?" catagory. Also...it's cousin the Breakfast Sandwhich maker (same deal, different meal item made, same store, same brand). Not to be left out... most of the as seen on tv items like that one that cracks and separates your eggs. There are just a lot of products aimed at singles or those who think cooking is just too much work. Like that egg separator thing... in the time it takes to get the device out of your overstuffed drawer, use it, and clean it, you could have whacked the egg on the side of the skillet or bowl and be done with it. And I say "overstuffed drawer" because if my grams is like anyone else buying this stuff, then there are plenty of these things in cupboards and stored elsewhere too (like the quesadilla maker...used once in three years)

Reenie
Reenie

Hi Beth, When I help people reorganize their living space, we often find a lot of plastic stuff that is simply useless, bad ideas sold. Goodness. I recently saw a lot of folks coming out of Publix, our local grocery store, all carrying plastic bags of food/double bagged. So I wrote them and encouraged them to encourage their customers to bring their own bags. Here's the reply I received, minus the introductory and exit remarks: ?At Publix, we have a team that is working specifically on the issue of bags. Plastic bags are not the only type of bag contributing to environmental impacts. We are working to identify ways that we can reduce, and in some cases, eliminate, these impacts to the environment while preserving options for our customers. While we're working on these initiatives and exploring further solutions, our actions will ultimately be driven by our customers, and their expectations and purchasing decisions. Thank you for shopping with us!" "Our actions will ultimately be driving by our customers, and their expectations..." pretty much says it all.

monkeyjen
monkeyjen

Yeah - about that "banana saver".... oh, nevermind.

Laura
Laura

Who needs a banana saver? They come in their own thick skin for protection and who eats less than a whole banana?

Dryope
Dryope

@Eve Just tossing out this idea- could one not just use a CLOTH bag for sticking the wet umbrella in? Just toss it in the dryer or hang it up when you get home. Carry multiples with you if you need to....

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Hi Eve. I'd have to disagree on the umbrella bag. I think that umbrella bins work just as well and don't require disposable plastic that, unlike you, most people would not reuse. I have never had an umbrella stolen from a store umbrella bin. I'm capable of losing plenty of umbrellas all by myself from sheer forgetfulness.

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Hi Gaming Girl. I guess if you're using the lettuce knife for all those other tasks, it's not really single-purpose anymore, huh?

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Hi Billie. When I say "single-purpose," I mean that it's only good for doing one very specific thing. For example, a tomato storer meant to store a single tomato, when you can use a different kind of container meant to store many different things. Or a gadget to cut the crusts off bread when you can use a knife, which is a multi-purpose tool. So I wouldn't include a blender in the list because you can use it to create a plethora of foods. It's useful in so many different ways, as is a food processor. A bread maker, while it's only used for making bread, can be used to make all different kinds of breads, and often. I'm really focusing on the plastic gadgets that pile up, when one useful gadget could take the place of all of them.

Trackbacks

  1. Plastic Crap Wall of Shame: An anti-trash page to rage and laugh about | green LA girl says:

    [...] Californian’s urging all to say no not just to the bags but to all single-use items. “Say No To Singles,” urges Beth Terry, an anti-disposable plastic crusader who blogs at Fake Plastic [...]