Movement calling for people to carry their own reusable cutlery gains steam

The world has an addiction to single-use plastic cutlery that is burying us in waste that won’t decay for hundreds of years, which is why a new movement is calling upon people to carry reusable cutlery with them and start rejecting plastic spoons, forks and knives.

Every year, Americans use over 100 million pieces of plastic cutlery that are tossed in the trash after a single use. What many Americans don’t know is that the environment pays the price for that convenience as the plastic waste slowly breaks down and poisons ecosystems and food chains.

You see, animals such as birds, turtles, fish and whales end up swallowing the cutlery mistaking it for prey. Instead of getting a meal, the animal has swallowed a death sentence, and a gruesome one at that.

Single-use plastic cutlery also breaks down into microplastics which are now being found inside our own bodies, negatively impacting our health.

This is a worldwide catastrophe that is caused by a greedy plastics manufacturing industry that care more about profits than people and the environment.

But a new movement could be turning the tide.

The “Bring Your Own Cutlery” (BYOC) movement, as the name makes pretty clear, calls for people to start carrying their own reusable utensils with them everywhere they go similar to how we all carry our smart phones. After all, most of us have metal utensils at home so that we can designate a few pieces as travel cutlery placed in a satchel or case that we can bring with us to any restaurant. We can then bring it back home, wash it, and get them ready for the next time we eat out.

It really is that simple because history shows that people used to carry their own cutlery all the time.

“You would come with a little carry case, and it would be your own personal knife and spoon,” cutlery expert Sarah Coffin told National Geographic. “If you come with your own, you don’t have to worry about someone else’s germs in your soup. It was a little like a pocket watch.”

The movement is not only just for using reusable forks, knives and spoons, but also chopsticks.

In a prominent example of people protesting for change, environmentalists in China launched a BYOC campaign to ban wooden chopsticks because of how many trees are being wiped out to produce them.

According to Mother Jones:

[E]nvironmental protesters publicized how the roughly 80 billion pairs of disposable wooden chopsticks produced each year eat up 20 million trees in the process. Greenpeace China launched a BYOC (Bring Your Own Chopsticks) campaign and worked with pop stars to promote reusable chopsticks as a trendy fashion accessory. As a result, disposable chopsticks were banned from use at many venues hosting events at Beijing’s 2008 Olympics.

Considering that deforestation is a top contributor to climate change and more and more trees are being cut down every year to make way for corporate agriculture, our remaining forests do not need any more stress.

Change is even coming to the United States as restaurants are reducing their own waste by switching to metal cutlery.

A few years ago, Clean Water Action ran a test case with restaurant owner Francisco Hernandez of El Metate in San Francisco. The restaurant staff used to include plastic utensils with every order. Now, sit-down diners get metal forks, and disposables are in a countertop container for to-go customers who need them. Hernandez saved money that year—now he buys just one case of disposable forks each week instead of three—and he decreased his restaurant’s waste by more than 3,600 pounds. The change means El Metate has more to wash, but it’s likely that the water used to run his dishwasher (one gallon for every one-minute cycle) is dwarfed by the amount needed to make those plastic forks.

For too long, the plastics industry has held a grip on our society, but we are only killing ourselves by using the products they manufacture. It’s time to make sweeping change to reduce the amount of single-use plastics in our world. And carrying our own reusable cutlery is a good start.

Featured Image: Wikimedia

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Stephen D. Foster Jr.
 

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