Disposing of disposables

31 August 2007

My home made 100% cotton napkins. The ones in the fan are small, the larger ones are at the front.

I'm trying to do without as many "disposable" products as I can. These things have become so entrenched in the way we live our lives now that we see them as normal. They aren't. I looked up the meaning of the word "dispose" and it means: cast aside, chuck out, discard, fling, throw out, throw away, toss out" etc. The trouble with "disposables" is that when we cast them aside or chuck them out, most of the time that means they're in a landfill rubbish dump somewhere taking years to decompose. In the case of disposable nappies/diapers it is believed to take about 200 years. Of course, no one really knows as they haven't been around for 200 years for any to have decomposed completely. Maybe they don't decompose at all, maybe a future earth will be full of slowing rotting but ever present dirty nappies/diapers. Ugh!

There is a huge problem in Australia, and around the world, with marine life eating and being tangled in plastic ropes, bags and sheets. I have seen photos of turtles with plastic embedded in their shells and photos of dead dolphins, strangled with plastic. If you don't know there is a problem using plastic by now, you must be living in a world with no newspapers, TV or computers. Plastic kills.

Polystyrene is another catastrophe. "Each year in the United States (US), approximately “60 billion cups, 20 billion eating utensils and 25 billion plates”, all disposable, are used and sent to landfills and incinerators." Source

There is a big problem with the carbon emissions caused by the manufacture, transport and disposal of paper products.
Products like tissues, paper towels and plates, toilet paper and napkins. These products tend to decompose fairly rapidly, if they aren't coated with plastic, but they are still a concern because of the carbon emissions they cause and the forests that are cut down to create them.

So here at my little homestead, I'm trying to get rid of as many "disposables" as I can. I've already given up plastic shopping bags and have my own shopping totes, I've made little net bags for small items, we've given up paper towels and use old terry cloths and newspaper instead and I always try to buy products with the least amount of packaging. A couple of years ago we gave up paper napkins, but over that time we started using the convenient box of tissues sitting in the kitchen to wipe our mouths while eating. Now that's stopped. I've made a few simple cotton napkins that are suitable for everyday use and that's what we're using instead of tissues. I would love to give up tissues completely, but I can't bear to wash handkerchiefs, but if we can reduce our usage of tissues significantly, I'll be happy enough. We used too many of them as napkins, so I'm pleased we've stopped doing that.



This little basket of homemade napkins now sits on my kitchen bench.

We take drinks with us when we go out so we never have to buy plastic bottles of drink or tea in a polystyrene cup. We've given up buying "disposable" dishcloths as we have our wonderful handmade dishcloths, and I'd love to be able to give up toilet paper but when I spoke with H about this, he gave me THE look. I might leave that one for a while. LOL Strangely I have less of a problem with what comes out of a bottom than with what comes put of a nose. But maybe that's TMI. : - O

If I had babies now I would never put them in disposable nappies/diapers, and if I wasn't post-menopausal, I'd be using a Diva cup or home made pads. I'd like to present some information about reusable nappies/diapers and homemade pads, and I am hoping to get a friend to write about these things so I can post some good info for you.

Have you conducted "disposables" audit in your home?
Have you given up using "disposables"? I'd love to hear your stories in the comments box.