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Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Making use of Pringles tubes

My daughter has a thing about Pringles. Personally I hold them up there amongst some of the worse highly processed food currently on the market. I don't have an issue with crisps per se but these reformed potato snacks with an alarming list of ingredients that you can't find in your food cupboard make me shudder. And to add to their list of crimes against humanity, the tube they come in cannot be recycled!

For a long time I wouldn't buy Pringles because in my mind they had no place in our home. However, my daughter had other ideas. A friend of mine once passed on a piece of advice that she too had had passed on to her from another mum-friend: "Strict parents have sneaky kids." This piece of advise rattles around in my head permanently and comes to the surface whenever I feel like laying down the law to my children. It's not to say that children shouldn't be disciplined or have boundaries but we have to pick our battles carefully and consider whether our child feels so strongly about said conflict that they will simply continue to do it behind our backs.

And so it was in the Pringles War. Unbeknownst to me, my daughter was buying packs of Pringles and eating them sneakily in her bedroom. This not only brought the hateful Pringles into our house but broke the "no food upstairs" rule and "no snacking between meals" rule too. The only redeeming feature of this was that she was at least using her own money to buy this junk. Fortunately, despite her sneaky snacking, she is not a particularly devious character and hadn't the wit to hide the evidence. Some months later whilst I was in her room trying to track down all the school socks that had gone missing in the past term (laundry baskets are a mystery to her), I discovered an alarmingly vast stash of empty Pringles tubes.

Words were had, negotiations made and in the end it was agreed that I would put Pringles on the household shopping list if it would bring an end to her unsupervised out-of-hours upstairs snacking.

In the meantime, I had a distressingly large volume of Pringles packets to dispose of. I returned to my friend who had offered the sage advise about strict parents to see what could be done. She, you see, is the education officer at the local council recycling factory and she knows all there is to know about the dos and don'ts of recycling in Milton Keynes. Sadly, she confirmed, Pringles tubes can't be recycled because they are a paper outer bonded with an aluminium inner. The best I could do, she told me, was recycle the plastic lid.

At the same time I was wrestling with an annual gardening problem - over enthusiastic seed planting. It is very easy to find enough plant pots in which to sow a whole host of different seeds... but it is another matter entirely to find enough pots and enough space to pot on all the happy seedlings once they have germinated. I had gone particularly overboard with French bean seeds as I had such a pretty selection of seeds at hand and it had looked so nice in the seed tray but now they were all outgrowing that container and it was too early in the season to plant them outside.

It seemed to me that the Pringles tube issue could well solve the French bean issue. Armed with a hacksaw, I sat down to saw the tubes into thirds. Then with a drill I made drainage hole in the bottoms and the lids to make standalone plant pots from each end of the tube.

The middle sections I lined up in a length of old guttering and filled with compost to make another row of bottomless planters. This I suspended from the shelving of my greenhouse through a couple of loops of string, thus increasing my shelving space at the same time.

A few weeks later, of course, I had to throw the improvised Pringles tube flower pots into the black bin bag for landfill but at least I had found one more useful thing to do with them and had saved going out and buying plastic plant pots to do the job.

So should you enjoy the apparently unconnected hobbies of eating Pringles, gardening and saving the planet then might I suggest that you start hoarding your tubes in readiness for the potting on season and making one final useful gesture with that hateful non-recyclable packaging.

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