Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to
you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Yes trivia buffs, this is from the 1967 movie The Graduate - a
Dustin Hoffman classic. Benjamin has just graduated college and he
is not sure what he wants to do with his life. Hmmm, bet there is
not a Boomer out there who can't relate to that scenario.
Mr. McGuire's advice to Benjamin - plastics. It was the wave of
the future. It was going to save us time and money, make our lives
more convenient, create jobs and make some corporations a boatload
of money. And that it did. Plastics - another one of those things
of which I enjoy, or endure, a love-hate relationship with. The
older I get, the more love-hate relationships I develop. I think it
is a direct correlation to the "older but wiser" theory. But
plastics definitely fall into that category.
As I age, my awareness of the trashing of our beloved planet
earth becomes more acute. Perhaps as I come to grips with my own
mortality, I realize the earth ain't gonna live forever either. I
even sometimes wonder which one of us is going to expire first. The
overabundance of plastics filling our landfills, and refusing to
disintegrate, is certainly not helping the cause.
I remember supermarket visits with my mom. Groceries came home
in a brown paper bag. You took great care ensuring that bag
remained intact because it had a future life as either a trash can
liner or a book cover. If the supermarket logo was imprinted on the
outside, the bag was turned inside out before covering the book.
You then carefully wrote in block letters your name, grade, subject
and the teacher's name - typically Sister Saint Something.
Today I get the urge to thump my head every time I get to the
checkout. As soon as one of those sweet-faced teen-aged baggers
says, "Is plastic ok?" I recall the recyclable shopping satchels
sitting in the trunk of my car. Why is it so hard to remember
Oh yeah, I'm a Boomer, that's why.
I gave up soda two years ago - just went cold turkey on those
little cans of cancer. So no more worries about two-liter plastic
bottles filling up the trash can. I fondly remember the petite,
albeit thick, green glass bottles of Coca Cola I savored when
visiting my grandmother. Those bottles were returned to the place
of purchase without fail so you could collect your deposit. I
believe it was about a half penny back then, thereby forcing you to
make returns in even numbers only.
I do begrudgingly purchase milk in plastic containers because
the milk man no longer services the neighborhood. Back in the day,
milk came in quart bottles with a small cardboard disk holding the
liquid in place. A pleated paper cap went over the top of that.
When the bottle was empty, you put it back in the milk box that sat
on the front stoop. But first you cleaned it - not just rinsed it
out - you used a bottle brush and dish soap. The next day the milk
man took the empties and left you a fresh quart, along with
whatever other dairy products mom checked off the list. Those
empties went back to the dairy and were refilled for a new
delivery. I'm sure the sterilization standards at that time
would be scoffed at today, probably considered quite inferior. Yet
I don't recall any great plagues or grand diseases being spread via
I would like to see limits placed on the amount of plastics that
can be produced. Of course the exception to the rule would be
my beloved Gladware containers that are available in every shape,
size and color imaginable. Each morning I load a variety of
containers into my peace-sign covered canvas bag. They contain my
fruit and yogurt breakfast, salad lunch and raw nut snacks.
Leftovers never go to waste, not even those teensy little portions,
because a Tupperware knock-off exists in just the right size. Waste
not, want not - the motto of our depression-era parents.
Plastics are a big part of our modern-day lives. It is
everywhere in various forms and apparently it is here to stay -
literally. My journalistic research says it takes 10-20 years for a
plastic bag to decompose and 450 years for plastic bottles to do
the same. That's a pretty long shelf life, especially compared to
that of a human. As a Boomer, I've reached the age where I can look
at a plastic bag and know it is probably still going to be around
long after I am gone.
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