The “say no” in this tip speaks to the fact that plastic utensils are often items we are provided with and not ones we buy. This can happen in a variety of scenarios but is generally down to takeout food.
During and post lockdown I did a pretty good job of avoiding takeout, not ordering any for a year. But I am not perfect and have since fallen into this trap again. When I succumb, I always leave out the plastic utensils and serviettes. I have these at home, so what’s the point in getting more and creating more trash? And don’t yell “recycle”, because plastic utensils and paper serviettes cannot be recycled. They’re too small and too contaminated. Should the restaurant forget and add them to my order anyway, I don’t throw them away but save them for a future or alternative use – like making an existential toy.
Something that’s often overlooked is chopsticks. The sets you get at restaurants and with takeout might be made of wood, but they’re wrapped in plastic and the whole thing is single-use and gets chucked out afterwards. My solution is to bring or use my own. My aunt brought me a set from Japan thirty years ago, which I still have and use to this day; and a couple years ago my friend brought me a set from South Korea.
I am being very strict with myself about takeout again, so that I can do more than say no. Because even without the plastic utensils there’s a barrage of plastic containers and greasy paper to deal with, never mind the junk I’m likely eating. Saying no to takeout means saying no to waste.
Zero waste tip: Avoid takeout.
Zero plastic tip: Use your own utensils (including chopsticks) or buy a reusable set.