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Mama’s Coke bottle - It wasn’t plastic

on Tuesday, 24 July 2018. Posted in Articles, Columns

by Tom Poland 

The year was 1958. On a cutting board beside a white enamel sink, Mom pounded fresh red cube steak with a green Coca Cola bottle, tenderizing a tough cut of meat. On other days she used that bottle capped with a perforated top to sprinkle water across white cotton shirts. As she ironed, the crisp fragrance of steaming cotton filled the kitchen. And you can bet your bottom dollar that Coke bottle wasn’t going to end up in a stream, lake, or the sea.

I am weary of plastic. It has been a good thing in many ways. Today’s plastic-lightened cars get better gas mileage, but plastic, the double-edged sword, cuts two ways. I am weary of plastic grocery bags, plastic water bottles, and plastic soft drink bottles. Enough is enough.
I would love to see glass resurgent. Those Coke bottles like Mom’s? They carried a deposit. Seems it ran from 2¢ a bottle to a nickel. We boys would scour the roadsides picking up bottles. Entrepreneurs we were. You didn’t see soft drink bottles along the roads when I was a boy. That would have been like seeing money out by the highways.

Back then we drank from thick, strong glass bottles that we found uses for. I hammered a nail into a board with a Coke bottle once.

Back before steam irons and plastic bottles, Coca Cola bottles had a place in the laundry room. You could even buy an aluminum sprinkler with a cork that fit snugly in the bottle. Those days are gone with the wind, the winds of change.
I am plain worn out by plastic. I go into swamps and even there I can’t escape it. In blackwater swamps I see plastic water bottles floating along. I was about to photograph a whitewater river a few years back. Looking through the viewfinder there it was: one of those bright orange water cooler jugs lodged against a rock. The only wild places where I escape plastic bags and bottles are Carolina bays.

How many times do you see a red gas can along the road where it flew out of a pickup. If they were made of heavy gauge metal like they once were that would not happen. Bring back metal, too. I see plastic grocery bags up in trees all the time. Enough is enough.
You probably recycle. I faithfully recycle plastic, aluminum, anything I can, but as my friend, Lee Brockington of Hobcaw Barony, observed. “Recycling is no longer enough.”
We need to get rid of the stuff, but until that happens just quit buying the junk. I keep a permanent water bottle handy. I fill it up whenever I go afield or do yard work.

I don’t care what the plastic association folks and lobbyists say, our own two eyes tell us plastic is a menace. Sea turtles swathed in plastic netting ... pelicans ensnared in plastic bags ... all that has created the need to police beaches and waterways. All roads led to Rome and all waterways lead to the sea and that’s where plastic ends up.

The year is 2018. Sixty years later we’re encased in plastic. I am fine with plastic in phones, computers, and car interiors. But when you give people plastic bags, forks, spoons, and plastic drink straws, too many people toss them away. Man has yet to develop a pesticide that kills litterbugs.

We got rid of pop-tops on aluminum beverage cans. Now we need to severely lessen our use of plastic. Use a water bottle that is uniquely yours. Buy the permanent grocery bags and use them. (I miss the heavy-duty paper bags ... found a lot of uses for them.)
One more thing. Stand a classic Coca Cola bottle beside one of today’s flimsy plastic water bottles. The difference you see carries a name: art. Art that you, nature, and I will appreciate.
Visit my website at www.
Email me at tompol@

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