Don’t throw away those disposables

Editor’s note: Cole will return next week with a new Burt’s Eye View, until then, enjoy this Classic Cole.


We are diving headlong into another picnic season, and you know what that means: It’s time to stock up on the throwaway goodies that you will just end up washing all summer long.

Or maybe you’re family isn’t like mine. Maybe you actually dispose of things marked disposable. Somebody must. Otherwise, America wouldn’t be labeled a use-it-and-chuck-it nation.

Not me. I still have garden tractor tire chains in a back corner of my garage. They were there when I moved into my house years ago. I was thrilled to discover the prize inside my Cracker Jacks box.

Of course, I’ve never owned a garden tractor. But if one ever shows up, I have the tire chains for winter traction. You just don’t throw away something that can be reused.

I went to the shopping club and bought a big box of plastic knives, forks and spoons, a jumbo bag of plastic Dixie cups and whoppin’ packages of plastic foam plates and bowls. I would have throwaway pots and pans if they didn’t keep melting all over the stove.

I did this to avoid dishes.

But as I write this, my dish rack is full of washed Dixie cups and plasticware. It’s against my thrifty upbringing to throw away throwaways.

At a family wedding a few years back, one of my aunts couldn’t believe people were tossing out the plasticware.

She hurried to the banquet hall kitchen for a tub of soapy water, parked herself beside the trash cans and ordered people to deposit their plastic spoons, forks and knives in her tub. She fished others out of the trash.

She sat back there half the night with her soapy water, meticulously reconditioning hundreds, maybe even a thousand, preowned disposables for future use.

This is my heritage.

In high school, I reused my brown paper lunch bags until they fell apart. If the peanut butter didn’t mess them up too badly, chances are I saved the plastic sandwich bags as well.

After one picnic, Mom made me do dishes. Mom was cruel like that. So being as obstinate as possible in hopes she would come to her senses, I pestered her about what I should do with the dirty paper plates.

”Oh for Pete’s sakes, wash them, for all I care,” Mom snapped.

Shreds of paper peeled off and floated in the water as I tried to use a scrubber as delicately as possible to remove baked bean stains from the paper plates. Soggy plates began shredding.

”What are you doing?” Mom demanded as sopping remnants of paper plates curled in the dish rack.

”You said wash them, so I was just trying to …”

”Burton William, use your common sense! You can’t wash paper plates!”

”But you said … “

”You are just being as obstinate as possible trying to get out of dishes.”

”Oh good. Can I go outside and play now?”

”No! Rewash all those dishes. Those slimy paper pieces are everywhere. And throw those plates away!”

Like I said, it’s picnic season, time to stock up on the throwaways. But I always buy paper plates instead of those plastic ones. I’ve just gotta throw SOMETHING away. And it won’t be the tire chains.

—- Send email to Cole at He’ll print it out, then use the backside of the paper for his shopping list.