We have been traveling over land for fourteen months in our Toyota from New Jersey to Buenos Aires, and tonight I’m making dinner for two once again. I struggle to open my Ziploc bag of rice. This is one of those large, fancy Ziploc bags with the small plastic slide zipper that opens and closes. I slide the zipper back and fourth making several unsuccessful attempts to open the clear plastic bubble. The zipper does not appear to be lined up correctly which forces me to open the bag manually with my fingernails. It has been this way for months, but I’m always optimistic and give it a go anyway. The zipper will still seal the bag closed, but opening it is a different story. As I scoop the rice out, I admire how the bag itself seems to be airtight and still in working condition. However, there are minor cosmetic issues, including faded scratch marks on the white Ziploc logo and a general cloudiness as a result of being used so many times. While pouring precisely one cup of rice in boiling water, I came to the realization that we have had this bag for our entire journey – driving from New Jersey all the way to Buenos Aires. This bag once held our tea; other times it held bouillon cubes. I continued to think more about the bag. We never buy plastic bags, I thought to myself – let alone the fancy ones with a zipper. Where did this come from? Shortly after, I remembered the bag was once full of teabags. They sat in cupboard our kitchen for what might have well over a year. I sit and think about the origin of “old zippy” (the bag.) It’s all coming back to me – it was snatched from my parent’s house sometime around the summer of 2012. Its contents possibly included pita bread with a container of hummus. Today I was close to throwing “old zippy” in the trash (since we will no longer be camping out of the truck and are currently residing in a respectable domicile in a major South American city). But I couldn’t trash it. I know the old girl still has some life in her.
Some might say, “Let it go. The bag had a good run and now it’s time to say goodbye.” Fourteen countries, several years of life, and served multiple owners. It sailed the Caribbean and rode athwart loyally inside the sacred Rubbermaid food bin in the back of the truck. You could say that the bag has led a more productive and adventurous life than most humans in this world. That might be true, but one thing I learned while traveling 20,000 miles overland, and down the Pacific Coast of the Americas, is that there is way too much plastic in this world. Plastic plagues our beaches. It chokes and suffocates innocent sea life. This indeed is a problem that needs to be addressed. There are, however, some proactive folks that refuse plastic bags at the grocery store. Others fill plastic bottles with plastic bags or sand to make plastic bricks that are used for retaining walls for, for example, gardening. But with all this being said, I might hold on to “old zippy” and see how far I can take her in this perplexed world before she sits in a landfill, or at the bottom of the ocean for the next 500 years. Maybe you should try the same thing and help mitigate the disgusting plastic that plagues and threatens nearly all facets of our environment.