Paper or plastic? Ugh!

People in my household call me Eco Annie. (You know who you are.) The sobriquet comes my way because I take recycling and caring for our planet very seriously.

I was fifteen when the first Earth Day was celebrated, an event coordinated to bring attention to the sorry state of our natural world. Rivers were burning because of the irresponsible dumping of flammable waste, litter clogged our highways, acid rain poured down, damaging forests and water ways and even corroding the steel and concrete on buildings and bridges.

As a kid who grew up at home in the woods, the thought of the massive destruction of the trees and other living creatures upset me. I remember well the day I felt the need to clean the trash from a small stream near my home, and I reveled when the water began to flow free and clear again.

Like this Girl Scout, I too spent an afternoon cleaning the trash from a stream near my home when I was a kid.

The point is, I worry about our world and what we’re doing to it. The fact that fifty years have passed and we have barely moved forward in protecting our planet is just plain depressing. I mention this so you understand why I feel so strongly about recycling and composting and making Earth-friendly choices in regard to the products I buy.

Which brings me to my current gripe. Why, please tell me, do I have to pay more to be the good guy? Case in point: The other day I went to FedEx to ship a package. The man behind the counter immediately sized up the book I was mailing and pulled out a plastic envelope.

“Oh, wait,” I said politely. “Could I have cardboard instead?” He stared at me for a moment, which prompted me to explain. “I’m trying to quit plastic.”

Americans use hundreds of billions of plastic bags each year and they end up everywhere.

Now, before you jump on me, I have done my homework. I do understand that both plastic and paper products have their ecological downsides. But, after much thought, I settled on the idea that paper is the lesser of two evils, since it’s much more likely to decompose, taking only two-to-six weeks in a landfill, while plastic bags need 10 to 20 years to degrade, and they release toxic chemicals in the process. When you consider that Americans alone go through hundreds of billions of them every year, you can see why I worry.

Without comment, the man switched the plastic mailing bag with one made of cardboard. I smiled and felt rather virtuous. Then, I paid and got my receipt. I stared at it for a moment and quickly realized that while plastic bags are free, paper mailers are extra. I stared at the row of numbers and noted the tacked-on cost of just under three bucks.

Doesn’t seem right, does it?

Now, I will admit that producing paper products is more costly than plastic. Still, when doing something for the greater good, should we not get a small nod of appreciation from the universe and not an extra fee?

The little robot Wall-E, in the movie of the same name, spent his time cleaning up the mess Earthlings left behind.

That said, let’s face it. The choice between paper and plastic is fraught with all kinds of costs, both financial and environmental. The best answer, of course, is to carry only reusable bags, which I do at places like the grocery store. But that was not an option when I popped my book in the mail that day. (I will give the grocery stores credit, here, as you can recycle your plastic bags at many of them, but I sense few people take advantage of the offer. Perhaps, we can do better.)

I couldn’t help thinking about Wall-E, the sweet little robot trash collector who spent his days trying to clean up an abandoned Earth, the human inhabitants having fled the biological destruction they caused. Maybe, if we were all a little more like Wall-E, we could get the planet back in order. And perhaps somebody brilliant—I know you’re out there—can come up with a product that is sustainable and Earth friendly and…free.

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The past and present collide when a tenacious reporter seeks information on an eleventh century magician…and uncovers more than she bargained for.


Anne Montgomery

Historical Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

February 2, 2022

In 1939, archeologists uncovered a tomb at the Northern Arizona site called Ridge Ruin. The man, bedecked in fine turquoise jewelry and intricate bead work, was surrounded by wooden swords with handles carved into animal hooves and human hands. The Hopi workers stepped back from the grave, knowing what the Moochiwimi sticks meant. This man, buried nine hundred years earlier, was a magician.

Former television journalist Kate Butler hangs on to her investigative reporting career by writing freelance magazine articles. Her research on The Magician shows he bore some European facial characteristics and physical qualities that made him different from the people who buried him. Her quest to discover The Magician’s origin carries her back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano and into the present-day dangers of archeological looting where black market sales of antiquities can lead to murder.


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4 thoughts on “Paper or plastic? Ugh!

  1. says:

    I just took a big bag of blister packs to our local win on waste monthly collection. They had sacks full of blister packs. Our local Co Op shops now collect soft plastic of all sorts- bread bags, cheese wrappers etc. Our council collects a good range of recyclables, but it is of course up to every individual to be obsessive about recycling. Of course even better if every manufacturer and producer could be really careful with what they use and not put all the responsibility on the customer!

    Liked by 1 person

    • annemontgomeryauthor2013 says:

      Agreed, TS! Why can’t companies make compostable containers and packing that is as cheap as plastic? Some restaurants and retailers try to utilize what’s available, but the expenses are tough. Here’s hoping more people actually start to care. Sounds like the folks in your area do.


  2. Jeff Leaf says:

    Ahh, the idealism of youth. Synicism will eventually engulf you. The concept “money rules” applies here, and its corollary, “those with the money make the rules.” The problem to be answered is, How do we make doing the right thing the way that the moneyed people can make the most profit? If you can answer that one, you will rate up there with Mother Theresa.


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