This past Friday, I attended a planning meeting for Green Sangha’s 2008 Rethinking Plastics campaign. At that meeting, one of the members showed us some video footage of what happens to the plastic recycling that we put into our curbside bins. I knew that most of our plastic was shipped to China, but until seeing this heartbreaking video, I didn’t think much more about it. Please watch this short clip from Britain’s Sky News and then see how you feel about recycling plastic:
(If the embedded video doesn’t play in this window, or all you get is a commercial, try this link instead.)
Yes, this story focuses on Britain’s plastic waste. But in the U.S., we also ship most of our plastic to China, causing health problems and pollution in our attempts to be “green.”
Since I started this project, I have tallied all of my plastic waste, recycling those items that are accepted in Oakland, SF, or Daly City, and holding onto the rest. From now on, I’m going to hold onto ALL of it, recyclable or not. If plastic recycling is such a dirty business, we ought to be taking care of it here at home instead of shipping it off to poorer countries with lower environmental standards.
My new commitment to hold onto all my plastic is similar to that of a new blogger who is collecting and tallying his waste, Dave Chameides at 365daysoftrash.com. He has vowed not to throw ANYTHING away for a year but to tally it all and figure out what it is and what can be done with it. He says, “Any waste that I generate that can be recycled, will also be saved. Recycling is better than ‘throwing away’ but it still takes energy and creates waste so I think accounting for recycling will be an important factor.” Perhaps the video above is another reason to hold onto all of it.
So, that said, here is the tally for this week, the first of 2008:
Non-recyclable items used this week but purchased before the plastic project began:
- 1 Safeway ice bag. This ice was sitting in our freezer for months and months, and we finally used it up chilling a bottle of New Year’s Eve champagne.
- 1 cap from a bottle of Safeway rubbing alcohol. See below.
Recyclable plastic bought before the plastic project began (although as mentioned above, they will not be recycled):
- 1 bottle of Safeway rubbing alcohol (#2 plastic). Is it possible to find rubbing alcohol in glass or is it only available in plastic these days? And do we need it? The only thing I was using it for lately was in a homemade ant spray recipe. I could probably substitute vodka or grain alcohol. I can sterilize a needle for removing splinters with a match. My mom used to clean oral thermometers with alcohol, but I just use soap. Cuts and bruises can be cleaned with soap and water. Alcohol seems like a staple of home medicine cabinets, but do we actually need it?
New plastic waste.
- 2 Refresh Endura single-use eye drop containers (#4 plastic). Are my eyes getting better? I haven’t been using as many containers of drops because I’ve just been lazy about putting them in at night. And so far, no traumatic cornea mornings. I’m just seeing how far I can press my luck, I think.
- 2 plastic ties and 1 plastic tag from a bamboo scratching post purchased for the kitties. More on this item in a post later this week.
- 1 plastic bag from inside a box of crackers. These were brought to our New Year’s Eve party by a friend, and I ate some.
- 1 Wallace & Gromit cheese wrapper. Very cute. Also brought to the party by a friend. Of course I had some.
- 1 plastic cork from a bottle of Boissonneau Chateau Moulin de Ferrand Bordeaux Blanc. This was the last bottle!
- 1 cap from a glass bottle of Straus organic nonfat milk.
I want to welcome the new readers who have found their way over to Fake Plastic Fish from the 365 Days of Trash blog. I have a lot of exciting things to write about this week, including a trip to a landfill on Wednesday.