Zero-Waste Journey: Alphonse’s Cup

One of the goals I’ve set for my family this year is to transition to a zero-waste lifestyle. I joined a couple of groups on Facebook that teach beginners how to do it, and they all suggest starting with little steps at first till it becomes a completely doable lifestyle. It seems easy and simple enough, that is, until I consider some of the challenges that come in a household with autism. I don’t want to give up on this easily so I’ve been hard pressed to look for solutions.

Case in point:

My son Alphonse, a young man with autism, is a ripper, shredder, and smasher. He has been all his life. Over the years, we’ve tried to redirect his destructive interests into other areas, with little success.

Aside from ripping (paper and clothing), shredding (paper, clothing, and plastic), and smashing (everything else), he also loves to bite and chew into things. As he grew in strength and size, we’ve had to abandon the use of glass in our home as even dinnerware touted to be “unbreakable” have been shattered to smithereens. We have used stainless steel, melamine, and plastic dinner and service ware to keep him safe but he has started biting into them too. Last year, he ended up with several cuts on his lips and tongue. Today, he nurses a recurring wound on the bridge of his nose, the result of pressing deeply the roughened rims of our drinking glasses on his face as he drinks.

There’s that wound on his face, see it?

Recently, we’ve had to limit and/or abandon the use of these materials because of his tendency for self-injury. While we looked for replacements, we used disposable paper and plastic cups for him but I felt really guilty each time he shredded them after a single use. We wanted to keep Alphonse safe but we were creating more trash to do it, and this thought nagged at me constantly. Sadly, our local malls didn’t have much to offer by way of alternatives but the through the Internet, I discovered silicone drinking glasses. Finally!

Yes, I love silicone! It’s handy, flexible, and Alphonse-proof. It’s also soft enough not to cause injury to Alphonse’s face and mouth. Moreover, silicone doesn’t make alarming clanging noises when dropped accidentally or thrown intentionally, which is what usually happens with Alphonse around.

Still, not all silicone drinking glasses are made equal. The first set we bought was a set of four Brovino wine glasses purchased from Amazon. We loved that these glasses could withstand Alphonse’s constant biting and throwing. They weren’t quite stable enough, though, tipping quite readily when bumped accidentally. Then too, learning to hold them properly was a process as the contents spilled easily if our grip was too hard. So even as we used these, we kept looking for other glasses to replace them.

A few weeks ago, I discovered a different kind of silicone glass. Supported by an embedded stainless steel frame inside, the cups were said to be kid-friendly, microwaveable, dishwasher safe, plus they didn’t collapse when gripped. The Silikids Siliskin silicone cups were available locally through an official distributor so we didn’t have to worry about international shipping and taxes. Their prices were also very reasonable; a two-pack goes for PhP700 when it retails USD12.95 in the Silikids.com website. At the time of purchase, only 8-oz kid-sized cups were available. We loved the cups instantly despite their size (we like big drinks so we needed refills right away) because true to their word, they were very easy to use. Unlike our first set of silicone glasses, these were quite firm and stable and didn’t tip over when bumped. However, less than three weeks from purchase, Alphonse’s constant biting created cracks in the rim. A few days later, he peeled off a piece of silicone from the stainless steel ring with his teeth, almost swallowing it in the process.

Even with this outcome, I still like the Silikids cups and will probably get the larger 16-oz ones for myself. The brand is just not a good fit for Alphonse or for any individual who chews and bite things avidly.

The “strongest silicone cup” was no match for Alphonse’s teeth. Oh well.

A few weeks ago, my sister-in-law (A’s sister and the kids’ godmother, J) gifted Alphonse with a two silicone cups she purchased in the US. Of the two, Alphonse took to the bigger one immediately, a foldable soup cup from Smart Planet. It’s large enough that it doesn’t need constant refilling and the plastic rim has stayed smooth despite being gnawed on. This is Alphonse’s cup for now.

See Alphonse enjoying his new cup? He always steals it from the kitchen. It multitasks as his drinking glass, ice cream bowl, and bubbles bowl too!

We’ve done away with paper cups since we shifted to silicone glasses. We’re also reusing the last of our plastic cups, a lot of which came from food deliveries, and we won’t be buying more. While we already segregate, recycle, and compost, I truly feel that we could do a lot more to reduce our impact on the environment. This may be a small step but one that’s the beginning of our journey to limit the amount of waste we generate.

In the meantime, the search for the perfect silicone cup for Alphonse continues.

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