The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

March 26, 2009

The Sweet Smell of Burning Plastic: Mindfulness Fail

I thought the smell was coming from my computer. I even turned the machine off and opened it up to make sure the fans were working properly. Then I remembered… Oh crap! I’d put water for pasta on the stove probably an hour before! Here’s what happened when I attempted to remove the lid:

The whole house smells toxic. My poor kitties. This is why I shouldn’t multi-task when one of the tasks involves fire. It’s not like this was the first time I’d ever put something on the stove and forgotten about it.

Sad. The melted knob will go into this week’s plastic collection… once it cools down and solidifies again. The metal lid? I’ll have to find a metal recycler to take it to. Either that, or maybe handy RobJ can figure out how to make a new knob for it. Preferably out of wood this time.

It’s a small amount of waste, certainly, but nevertheless avoidable if I had paid attention to what I was doing. Which is what this plastic-reduction project has been about, really. Paying attention to the materials that pass through my hands. Taking care of them, and thereby taking care of the planet.

And my inattention is perhaps symbolic of what goes on every day on a much larger scale. This month a plastics recycling plant in West Palm Beach, Fla caught on fire. Wonder what that smell was like.

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13 years ago

that is a good reminder to people who are in need of getting new pots and other kitchenware to get the ones that are made from only stainless steel , w/o any plastic stuff on them.
i also appreciate the reminder as i also tend to forget stuff on fire and that could have happened to me – it actually happened once :(

The Minimalist
13 years ago

Burning plastic is so scary. I read this article awhile back about our high tech waste being burned in third world countries. It’s beyond sad, but I think you’ll want to check it out.

13 years ago

Ditto martin on the stainless steel- If you have an ace hardware somewhere nearby they should have Stainless steel bolts and washers in their bins- Ask the helpful hardware guy!

13 years ago

Knobs don’t have to be fancy. I just used a 1×1 scrap of hardwood from a previous project the last time I broke the knob on a pot lid. And Jennifer is right about the washers. You could use a series of them to span the hole. I would suggest that you try to get stainless steel screw and washers if possible to avoid rust.

Martin at plasticless
13 years ago

I used to burn a lot of stuff because I got distracted online. My solution was to get a virtual egg timer on my desktop. I used a really irritating song for the alarm (the theme from SuperGran).

13 years ago

If there is a hole in the middle of the lid your in business- no hole to drill! Just make sure you have a washer big enough to hold the knob and bolt on- it will no longer be a pressure lid but should work- Get big klumze guy to do it! My other suggestion is to go to thrift store and buy a lid the same size.

13 years ago

This is exactly the sort of thing I do all the time. I start something, then get distracted. This is why my dogs could practically survive off of all the toast etc. that I burn.

Condo Blues
13 years ago

I was about to suggest the same thing as Rob and Jennifer. Buy a kitchen door knob and a washer. Put the washer on the screw and stick the screw through the hole inside of the lid,then screw the new knob on the threaded screw. The little vent hole may not work for you anymore but you still can cook with the pot for other things.

Lisa Sharp
13 years ago

That’s not good. I hate the smell of burning plastic!! Hope you had better weather than us and could air out the house. We are about to get storms (with a chance for tornadoes) and then snow! Gotta love Oklahoma weather.

13 years ago

Beth, maybe your quiet inner mind was saying “I really want to release this bit of plastic from my life”! If you are like me, you thought about plastic every time you used it and you had this inner monologue that goes something like this: “I don’t like this plastic lid. I’d rather not use it. Don’t even want to touch it. But there it is, I already have it and it works and is useful and if I get rid of it it’ll prolly go to a landfill, and then were will we be?” etc.

Are there any cooking or restaurant supply stores in your area? You can purchase a new lid that fits your pot. Or, look for a used lid (or whole pot for that matter) at a second hand store– one not made with plastic!

13 years ago

That’s what washers are for! My local hardware store sells bulk and individual screws/nuts/bolts without plastic. Get a washer wider than the hole, a bolt to fit it, and a knob to go on the top of the pot (washer and top of bolt go on the bottom of the pot).

Beth Terry
13 years ago

Oh Rob. There is nothing to screw it to. There is just a big fat hole in the middle of the metal lid. See, it was a special kind that had a steam vent that could open and close. That part was made of plastic too. The whole plastic thing melted, and now there’s nothing left but a big hole — about an inch in diameter. Any other ideas?

13 years ago

Beth asks and I deliver! No more Fake- plastic cooking for you!
Go to Home Depot or lowes or your local hardware (or make michael do it) and purchase a wooden drawer pull knob and simply take the old knob of (I assume it is a single screw knob and put the wooden knob on. If the bolt is too long, just purchase another bolt porbably 1/2 inch shorter, you might want to add a washer on the backside of the lid as well. Should be good!

13 years ago

You were mindful…of something else! It’s great that you have so many interesting things going on – don’t be too hard on yourself.


13 years ago

I’m just happy to hear I’m not the only one who does this kind of thing!

13 years ago

That’s crazy – even if you did leave it boiling for a while. So I guess it’s a sleepover at my house on Sunday. See you then.

13 years ago

I hope it was a stainless steel pot, and not an aluminum one.

13 years ago

Itz OK we not 2 skared or skard. at least u dont drop thingz like Big Klumze Guy.

Christy B.
13 years ago

I was heating up some pizza from Costco leftover from a neighborhood party.

My friend walked in the house and I told him he smelled like burning plastic. He told me I was crazy. We were chatting and then I told him again. He reiterated that I was nuts.

I turned around and my toaster over was full of flames. Turns out the “cheese” was fully aflame. It looked and smelled just like burnt plastic. I wonder what was in it?

No more Costco pizza for me (which I now call “plastic pizza”) – even when it is free!!

13 years ago

Is there enough of the original knob left that it can be put back to its original purpose? (Perhaps after a bit of re-melting and re-shaping at the hands of your talented friend?)