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The Recylist: Putting a lid on zipper bag use

February 24, 2010 |  6:00 am

I love food storage containers. I can discuss them with a product passion most women reserve for Christian Louboutin shoes. I have opinions on TupperwareRubbermaid and GladWare, and can go on about  why I pine for, but steer clear of, glass. I have two kitchen drawers  -- one for lids, one for the containers -- dedicated to this obsession, plus a spot in a pantry for the containers that I don't mind leaving at a friend's home. I've been known to ask for for food storage containers for my birthday. Seriously.

So I was shocked to realize they're not the only thing I use.

Since this little experiment -- sorry, life change -- has begun, I try to halt before tossing anything into the garbage can or recycling bin. I take a long hard look at it, and ask myself whether there might be a better way. Can I reuse this? Can I make a better purchase next time? Am I being wasteful?

Here's what I've discovered: While I have been professing my love of food storage containers, apparently I have been having a secret but torrid affair with zip-top bags. I really love the convenience of stowing leftovers in bags, and then throwing them away when I'm finished, smug that I have one less dish to wash.

And, as you can see from my fridge, which appears to be buckling under the weight of my food storage container collection, I'm putting a stop to this profligate plastic bag usage.

I've put a little sticky note in the drawer that holds the zip-top bags that is blunt: Do You Need This?

Now, you may think -- isn't this just trading one plastic for another? Aren't you wasting more water by doing more dishes? And those might be valid points. But if I go down that path ... well, I'd just throw up my hands and do nothing about changing my disposable ways.

If you have better, greener alternatives, I'd love to hear about it.

In the meantime, I'm trying to at least curb the number of plastic bags going into the garbage or recycling bin. I'm also "repurposing" older storage containers -- the ones that  are stained, cracked or have been nuked too often. I'm using them in a desk drawer to wrangle paper clips and thumbtacks, in my sewing kit for pins, in my bathroom to hold barrettes and bobby pins, and in the garage for nails, screws and the like. I'm also giving a second and third life to consumer plastic containers such as these. I'm using them to bring my lunch to work, then rinsing them out and tossing into the recycling bin. (One caveat: Many of these containers are not microwave safe.)

I am not tossing out zip-top bags completely, mind you. I use them as see-through organization for the make-up drawer. I use them for ice cubes (they prevent ice from picking up freezer smells). I love to use them when I travel, to keep toiletries from leaking on my clothes. One happier medium is the new Evolve bags, which use much less plastic. 

Come to think of it, for my upcoming birthday, maybe I should ask for one of these bag drying racks instead.

-- Rene Lynch

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Photo: The refrigerator contains so many food storage containers that some are precariously perched on the door. Credit: Rene Lynch