Monthly Archives: December 2009

My Cat Eats Plastic

Many of you have seen Chris Jordan’s recent heartbreaking photos of dead albatross chicks on Midway Atoll with bellies full of plastic.

albatross eats plastic

And perhaps you have seen, or at least heard how sea turtles eat plastic (PDF), mistaking it for the jelly fish upon which they usually dine.  (Photo courtesy of

sea turtle eats plastic

Most recently, beached whales have been found with plastic in their bellies.

People see these images or read these stories, maybe feel sad for a minute, and then go on about their lives. Albatrosses and sea turtles are creatures most of us don’t encounter on a daily basis. Their fate is sad, but it doesn’t directly affect us. Well, I want to show some photos and relate a story from the Terry-Stoler household that brings the issue of harm to animals a little closer to home.

My cat eats plastic.  I’ve said this before.  Arya eats big holes in polyester fleece blankets:

cat eats plastic

cat eats plastic

You should have seen how she went for the polyester Snuggie my dad sent for Christmas last year. No sooner did I open the box, then she was upon it, snarling and hissing and biting. When I couldn’t find anyone to take the Snuggie, it went to Goodwill. Right away.

But while eating plastic fleece meant damage to blankets, thus far, it didn’t seem to harm the kitty. It just came out the other end. Red poop. That’s what we were scooping out of the litter box for a while, confused until we figured out what was going on.

Then, while displaying my plastic collection for a friend, Arya pounced on a plastic wrapper and started chewing away.

cat eats plastic

I managed to get that one away from her. But not this one:

cat eats plastic

It’s a cheese wrapper coughed up in a hair ball.  So why was there a cheese wrapper in our house? Don’t forget, I am not the only one who lives here or comes into our house.  I’m just saying.  And yeah, I know it’s a gross picture. But I think it’s important to show.

Thus far, the incidents with plastic had been minor. The cheese wrapper hair ball was surprising, but apparently not a cause of lasting damage.

But a few months ago, Arya got very sick. She had diarrhea and was vomiting all over the house. We took her to the vet and found she even had a little fever. We spent over $200 on tests and medication for her. But the blood tests were inconclusive and the medicine didn’t seem to help. We were worried as hell. Until one morning, she vomited up the final hairball. It was full of plastic. Plastic from a piece of a disposable dry cleaner bag that had been hanging in a closet.

After the plastic purge, Arya was fine. No more diarrhea. No more vomiting. At all. It was amazing and frightening and ironic that in our household, one in which less plastic waste is generated than probably any other household in America, this could happen. And that we would be the ones with a cat who loved to dine on plastic.

But we are not the only ones whose kitty thinks plastic is nom nom nom. After this incident, I Googled, “Why does my cat eat plastic?” and came up with a whole host of results:

From Cat Eats Plastic Bags and Vomits

From Catster: Why does my cat eat plastic bags?

From the message boards: Topic: Why does my kitty try to eat plastic?

From Askville: My cat tries to eat plastic bags of any kind like its an addiction. Has anyone seen this happen? Why does he do this?”

From Yahoo Answers: My cat eats plastic, what should i do?

The most popular answer to these questions is “Keep plastic away from the cat.”

My question: How much harder would it be to keep plastic away from this cat if our home was actually full of plastic like most are?

Plastic is a problem for animals of all kinds. They eat it; they get tangled up in it; and they get sick from the toxic chemicals associated with it. But humans are the ones who create this plastic. We bring it into our environment, even if the environment is inside the walls of our homes. We allow it to harm animals that don’t understand that plastic is not food.

But unlike other animals, humans have the power to do something about it.

A version of this post appears on

Can a “Buy Nothing New” Pledge Help Reduce Plastic Consumption?

The following is a guest post from Katy Wolk-Stanley, author of The Non-Consumer Advocate blog. In keeping with last week’s posts about clutter and stuff, Katy’s post illustrates the relationship between plastic consumption and consumerism. Enjoy!

Katy Wolk-Stanley and her clotheslineMy name is Katy Wolk-Stanley and I am a die-hard member of The Compact, (a worldwide buy nothing new movement) and have been since I joined up in January of 2007. I buy used gifts; I buy used school supplies; Heck, I even buy used sheets.

It may sound like a source of frustration to not be able to walk into a store and quickly grab life’s necessities, but nothing could be farther from the truth. It turns out that much of what I had been grabbing were not necessities, but lots of stuff that were simply wants.

Not buying new has actually freed my life up. Saving not only untold thousands of dollars, but forcing me to make conscious and deliberate decisions about my purchases and how I live my life.

I already considered myself a thrift store aficionado and my house bulged with clutter to prove it. Sure, it was cool clutter, but clutter nonetheless. Cool dishes, cool vintage linens, cool toys, I had it all. Unfortunately I was also buying all the new stuff as well. Combine the two, and something had to give.

A short wire service piece in the local paper in December of 2006 then caught my eye. A small group of San Francisco hipsters had spent the last year buying nothing new and calling themselves “The Compact.” They were shopping thrift stores, bartering and horror of all horrors — simply not buying at all!

“We’re just rarefied middle-class San Francisco greenies having a conversation about consumption and sustainability.”

I went into The Compact telling myself I would give it a month. What if I needed something? What about family birthdays? A month seemed about right, not too intimidating. I could handle a month.

The first year flew by with very few Compact exceptions. We bought a new glass carafe for our coffee maker as well as gifts for home-stay families that my son and husband would be staying with during a class trip to Japan. Besides that, I really can’t think of much else that needed purchasing.

Not only was I saving money, but I was experiencing a increased awareness of how the buy, buy, buy mindset of society was affecting our lives, our wallets and the environment.

I started to make other changes in my life.

I looked around my house and decided to put a full effort into de-cluttering. I donated to Goodwill a whopping 19 times in 2007, sometimes completely filling the mini-van with the excessive belonging that had been invited into my home.

I slowly began making other changes in my life as well. I began hanging my family’s laundry on a clothesline, turned my thermostat to 63 in the winter, (which nobody seemed to notice) mixed up my own laundry detergent and made a concerted effort to minimize my driving.

So what does this have to do with plastic? My increased awareness about sustainable living made me take a long hard look at how plastics have crept into my family’s life. Plastics were storing our foods, the kid’s school lunches and drinks; and replacing what had once been constructed from glass, wood and metal. When one of our wooden chairs broke, we were able to glue it back together. But when our plastic lawn chair broke it was transformed into a huge hunk of garbage.

I now try my very hardest to minimize the plastics that enter my home. I send the kids’ school lunches in stainless steel tiffins, refuse as much plastic food packaging as possible, bring my own reusable bags to the grocery store, (including lightweight produce bags) and have found a local recycler who accepts almost all forms of plastic.

Most of these changes save my family money, but most importantly we’re decreasing our energy consumption, minimizing our plastics usage and living a healthier life. Because The Compact is not about saving money; it’s about sustainability.

Luckily, frugality and sustainability are often one and the same.

Will I ever stop doing The Compact?

Well . . . I’ve actually started buying some new stuff when the big picture outweighs searching out the used. For example, I no longer want to be storing my food in plastic containers. This has meant that in addition to the couple scores of Goodwill Pyrex leftover containers, I splurged on a brand-spanking-new set. But in concordance with my conscious spending mindset, I noted that Pyrex is manufactured in the U.S. using union labor, plus the cardboard packaging was 100% recyclable!

I don’t think I will ever stop being part of The Compact, as my life has greatly bettered and my bank account has mysteriously plumped. And the plastics? Don’t miss them a whit!

What more could a girl ask for?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Homemade Cough Syrup & Other Meds

Nyquil and Codeine Cough SyrupsDo you have a cough right now or know someone who does? Then I want to talk to you.

Earlier this month, I caught a cold and towards the end of it was hacking pretty badly. Now, I realize that you don’t want to suppress a productive cough. But this cough was bad enough to keep me up at night, robbing me of much needed rest. So I polished off two plastic bottles of cough/cold medicine: the remainder of a bottle of Nyquil that I bought years ago (yeah, it still worked) as well as the last couple of doses of yummy Prometh cough syrup with Codeine. And by yummy, I mean I held my hose and chugged it down, trying to bypass my taste buds as much as possible.

Not only do these two products come in plastic bottles, but they contain nasty ingredients: alcohol (which I am trying to avoid for personal reasons); artificial dyes; high fructose corn syrup; polyethylene glycol and propylene glycol (petroleum derived products also used in anti-freeze); methylparaben and propylparaben (a class of preservatives called parabens which have been linked to various health problems); saccharine sodium (linked to cancer); and sodium benzoate (also linked to cancer). Holy cow! This is not medicine; it’s toxic soup.

So I went in search of a homemade cough suppressant recipe to use at night so I could sleep. And I found one on Except I don’t have a cough anymore, so I can’t really try it out. That’s where you come in. I certainly don’t wish for you to be sick, but if any of you are, why not give this a shot and let me know what you think. Here are the ingredients, all of which I can buy plastic-free except for the vinegar, which comes in a glass bottle with a plastic cap.

Homemade Cough Syrup Ingredients

Here’s the nearly plastic-free recipe:

  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (purchased from Whole Foods bulk bin in my own jar)
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger (purchased from Whole Foods bulk bin in my own jar)
  • 1 T honey (local honey from farmers market)
  • 1 T apple cider vinegar (Trader Joe’s in glass bottle)
  • 2 T water (my tap, of course)
  • small jar (a reused spice jar)

I also contacted Tracey TieF from Anarres Natural Health, whom I profiled on this blog back in March of last year. Tracey is my go-to gal for natural remedies. She suggested that the syrup could be sweetened/thickened with “agave, maple syrup, fair trade demerara or evaporated cane juice.” And Tracey also recommended a combination of ginger, lemon and slippery elm.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite cough remedy?

RolaidsAnd speaking of over the counter medicines, here is another plastic bottle of tablets I’ve emptied this week, purchased long before I began reducing my plastic consumption.  Like the drugs mentioned above, it not only contains the active ingredients calcium and magnesium, but also artificial flavorings and polyethylene glycol.

I’ve been suffering from heartburn a lot lately.  Sometimes I take care of it quickly with Rolaids.  When I remember, I take Zantac before the heartburn starts.  Not sure what’s going on.  There are a number of foods that contribute to heartburn:  alcohol and caffeine, which I’ve cut out; chocolate; spicy foods; tomato sauce; citrus fruits; peppermint; fatty foods; eating too late at night and eating too much; and smoking (I don’t.).  I’m working on changing my diet, but sometimes I need quick relief.  It’s not that I can’t stand pain but that acid reflux is actually damaging to the esophagus, so I want to make it stop as quickly as possible.

Now that this plastic bottle is used up, I’d like to find a natural, plastic-free alternative. suggests:

  • Baking soda (but it’s high in sodium)
  • Bananas
  • Chamomile tea
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Aloe Vera Juice

Others online suggest eating apples.

Reading online forums in which participants discuss their real life experiences using natural heartburn treatments reveals a confusing number of recommendations.  Some say apples or apple cider vinegar work.  Others say they don’t.  Some say vinegar is bad because it adds more acid.  Others say heartburn is not caused by too much acid and that those other people are stupid jerks.  (In so many words.)  Some say raw potato works.  Others say raw potatoes are toxic.  One says to avoid too much meat, carbs, and mushrooms.  And the list goes on.  I find I don’t really believe any of them, and that probably the truth is that everyone’s body is different and the only way to find out what will work for me is to experiment.

Still, I’d like to know if any of you have found a great natural alternative to traditional heartburn medication.  And keep in mind that heartburn, officially know as acid reflux, is not the same as having an upset stomach.  While peppermint is often used to settle the stomach, it actually contributes to heartburn.

Now that I’ve revealed some of my health issues (TMI?) I’d like to also know what kinds of health problems you deal with and what natural remedies you have found, or not found, to relieve them.

This post also appears on

Learning How to Love Christmas

What I Used to Love

The Hours DVD & plastic wrapperWhen I was a child, Christmas really was the best time of the year.  It meant four kinds of treats from Mom Mom:  sand tarts, Mexican tea cookies, seven layer cookies, and chocolate fudge with walnuts.  It meant driving around to see the colored lights.  Singing holiday songs at school and Christmas hymns at church.  Watching the specials on TV: Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, The Little Drummer Boy, Frosty the Snowman.  Decorating the Christmas tree, which was a real one until we discovered my brother’s allergies.  Waiting anxiously upstairs until we were allowed to come down on Christmas morning.  And of course, it meant Santa and presents and toys.  I believed in Santa until I was eight years old, even while getting teased by kids at school.  He’d come down the chimney (that we didn’t have) and land in the fake cardboard fireplace, which also served as a place to hang our stockings.  My dad worked hard to perpetuate the Santa fantasy by climbing up on our sloped roof in the middle of the night and ringing bells.

How I Stopped Loving It

Slowly but surely, Christmas grew to be more of a hassle than a joyful time.  I think my waning enthusiasm for the holiday corresponded to my disillusionment with God and religion and what I saw as an annual greed fest.  Kids ripping open presents and barely looking at them before moving on to the next.  The regular sigh of disappointment when the last gift was opened:  Is that all?  My mom and grandmothers in the kitchen working away while the men sat around doing whatever it is that men did back then.  And I becoming so jaded that I would sneak into the closet where the presents were hidden and carefully open each one to see what was inside, pretending to be surprised on Christmas day.

For years, Christmas has been this burden.  And since I started blogging, the only times I’ve written about it were when assigned by the Green Moms, or BlogHer, or some other bloggy group to which I belong.  I don’t want to have to buy gifts for everyone I know on a specific day, just because our society has decided that December 25 (or December something else for those who don’t celebrate Christmas) is gift day, or gift week, or whatever.  And I don’t want anyone to feel compelled to buy me anything either.  I want to give when motivated by love, or when I happen to find something that I know one of my friends or family would appreciate.    I hate all the waste, the plastic toys, the wrapping paper, the canned music, and the shopping frenzy.

Finding A Way to Love It Again

But this year, I’m enjoying the holiday season.  Because I realized that Michael and I, rather than escaping Christmas as we believed we were doing, have made our own traditions.  For the past two years, we’ve lit the Menorah for each day of Hanukkah (or for as many nights as we remember to do it.)  I’ve even memorized one of the prayers, although I never remember what the words mean.  Regardless, I love the sounds of the language and the simplicity of the ritual.  There are no gifts involved and there don’t need to be.

On Christmas Day we go to the movies.  And then out for Chinese food.  And we enjoy strolling along the empty streets, when for once, the city is relatively quiet with most people inside their homes and most shops closed for the day.  This year, I think I’m going to take another break from the computer, like I did on Buy Nothing Day.  In fact, I’m writing this post on Christmas Eve and will schedule it to post automatically on the 25th.

But you know what I think I love most about Christmas?  The fact that it takes place right after the Winter Solstice, which means that for those of us in the Northern hemisphere, the days are once again getting longer.   As it did to ancient pagans, to pagans still practicing today, and to those of use who just don’t like freezing our buns off, this holiday represents the rebirth of the sun and our connection to the earth from which we came and to which we will return.

Christmas has a different meaning for each of us.  I think the point is to experience it fully.  To feel the emotions that come up for us, whether positive or negative.  And let the day simply be whatever it is.

What’s Clogging Up Your Life? A Story of Unwatched Videos & Other Stuff

The Hours DVD & plastic wrapperThe Hours is one of my favorite movies of all time. My first time seeing it in the theater created such a profound reaction in me that I wept uncontrollably through the entire film. I was still so emotional afterwards, I had to hide in the bathroom stall before facing the world. When people asked me if The Hours was a good movie, I couldn’t even answer. I didn’t know if it was objectively good or merely spoke to me. Spoke? More like reached in and tore my guts out. The second time I saw it, I had almost the same reaction. So when the film came out on DVD, I bought it immediately.

A few nights ago, I thought I would watch The Hours again. I pulled it off the shelf and realized that from the time I purchased it around 2003, I had watched it exactly nonce (which is once minus one.) Zero times. It was still in the plastic packaging! As I pulled off the wrapper, I thought about the idea of possessions, owning things that we put aside and never look at again. I looked at all the books on the shelf I had read exactly once. Or nonce. I looked at the rows of DVDs and video tapes. I looked at the tower of CDs. How often do I ever play these things? Almost never, actually.

DVDs, videotapes and CDs

What use is this stuff?  And what is my relationship to it?  It burdens me, actually.  It fills up our home uselessly.  What’s more, it’s now my responsibility to ensure that it moves on properly.  I have to find other people who might want it.  Or who think they want it and end up cluttering their own lives.  It wastes resources (so much plastic!)  And if no one wants it, what then?  Recycling, which also requires energy.

As I went through the shelf last night, I found even more videos and music CDs still in their plastic wrappers, some of which, like Gorillaz and Tilly & the Wall, I love but already own in mp3 format.

Unopened DVDs, videotapes and CDs

Never opened. Never appreciated. Unvalued, apparently, because the items have been sitting here for years, never watched or played. I’m going to go through and cull this stuff. Try and sell some to second hand stores. Give some away to thrift stores or Freecycle. Because honestly? I only watch three DVDs I’ve purchased: Donnie Darko, Fight Club, and Napoleon Dynamite. And now, maybe The Hours. (I wonder what these movie choices say about me.) Other movies I can rent or borrow, watch once, and give back — keeping the energy of these materials circulating rather than stagnating in my house. (And when I say “energy,” I don’t mean it in any metaphysical way, but simply that energy went into creating this stuff, and that energy ought to move along to stem the consumption of energy for manufacturing new stuff.)

I’m thinking that during the holidays, when gift giving is at its peak, we need to consider the value of the stuff we buy for ourselves and others, and to think realistically about how useful it will be in the long run. Are our gifts of benefit to the recipient or actually burdens to be dealt with? Can we find ways to express our love that don’t involve filling up our lives with more stuff?

Several years go, a friend of mine told me a story about the musician Jane Siberry, of whom she was a big fan. Siberry was holding several salons in various cities where a select number of fans could come and interact with her and each other, discussing philosophical topics, I believe. My friend told me that Siberry had specifically asked them not to bring gifts for her because she considered these objects to be a burden and responsibility. She wanted their company, not their stuff. As I recall, my friend made a mixed tape for Jane, thinking this item would be more personal. And Siberry politely handed it back, asking my friend to enjoy it herself. Or something like that. It heard the story a long time ago, so don’t quote me.

I understand Siberry’s feelings! I don’t want more stuff cluttering up my home any more than she did. The kind of gifts I appreciate are like the gluten-free cookies that my co-worker baked and brought me yesterday. She thought about me and my special needs. And those cookies are not going to end up stashed in a corner of my house! I appreciate dinners with friends. Or hand-made items that remind me of the giver and the time and energy that went into creating them for me, even if it is technically more stuff. I appreciate gifts that can be used up, like soaps or candles or food, as long as they don’t come with packaging that I will have to deal with or chemicals that will stick around in my body after the product is gone.

And of course I appreciate that thought that goes into any gift. I’m not intending to be callous or ungrateful here. But if we spent more time appreciating what we already have than spending energy acquiring more, would our lives be easier and would we feel more free? What do you think?

Year 3, Month 6 Results: 6.9 oz of Plastic Waste

Year 3 Month 6 Results

I’m so happy to be writing this post!  Even with all the plastic in the photo above (ugh!) I am thrilled to be typing these words and seeing them appear on the screen. See, I got hacked this weekend, and Fake Plastic Fish went down.  Let this be a lesson to any WordPress bloggers out there.  I got hacked because I procrastinated on updating to the newest WordPress version.  But at first, I didn’t know I was hacked.  I just knew that all of a sudden my Dashboard (the WordPress interface where you enter posts and change your blog’s appearance) looked like crap and wasn’t working properly.  My plugins were all deactivated.  And, like I said, my site went down.  Bummer.  I was pretty anxious all day Sunday until I found this guy through Twitter (Thank you Twitter!) who was able to diagnose the problem and have me up and running within a few hours.  It would have taken me days to figure out what to do!

So anyway, here’s the monthly plastic tally through 12/15/09.  What a plastic-filled month it was.  But surprisingly, not a single window envelope this time.  How about that?

Plastic purchased before June 2007 and used or damaged this month:

  • One acrylic knitting needle, broken in half. It got stepped on.  And why, you ask, was it lying in the middle of the floor to be stepped on?  Because someone, and I’m not naming names, broke into my knitting stash while I was at Disneyland and dragged yarn, as well as needles attached to said yarn, through the house, insisting it was an abstract art piece.Bad Kitty with Yarn
  • Four Pepto-Bismol tablet wrappers. Still occasionally using these tablets that are over three years old.
  • Trimming from two foam insoles that I cut to fit a different pair of shoes.
  • Plastic “Do Not Disturb” door hanger. Brought home from a hotel a long time ago.  We thought it would be funny to hang on our own bedroom door since at the time, Michael and I were the only ones living in our house.   After the kitties came, we thought we could use it to let them know when we didn’t want to be disturbed, but they preferred chewing on it to reading it.  At this point, it’s cracked and useless and goes in the tally.  I don’t want them chewing on plastic anyway.  More on that in a future post.

New plastic waste:

  • Plastic Packing tape from four packages & two label pouches. Deliveries from BalanceIT (the company that makes our cats’ supplement [keep reading for more info]), (our regular Seventh Generation toilet paper delivery [see link below this post]), Organic Essence (Body cream sample) and Colette for my T-shirt quilt.  Here’s the thing:  I suspect Colette initially used as little tape as possible and then was forced to add a whole lot more USPS tape at the post office.  It’s happened to me.  I understand that in this country, the US Postal Service is generally the greenest delivery option. Since the mail carriers are already coming to our homes everyday, they don’t have to make an extra trip to deliver packages. And USPS packaging has achieved Cradle to Cradle certification. So why do they have to use so much plastic tape?
  • One plastic seal from around a carton of Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Heath Bar Crunch. This is the last pint.  I swear I’m not doing it anymore.
  • Seven plastic clothing tag hangers. From clothing bought during my after Thanksgiving eco-friendly spending spree.
  • Plastic seal from a tube of 100% Pure lip color. I wrote about 100% Pure the week before last.
  • One prescription bottle & cap. Prescription bottles are not refillable by pharmacies where we live. But #5 Rx bottles can be dropped off to Preserve through their Gimme 5 program.
  • Two plastic blister packs from another prescription. I won’t be getting this particular medication in blister packs in the future, so there won’t be as much packaging.
  • Two plastic Straus milk caps. Straus milk comes in returnable glass bottles, but the caps are still plastic. Read about Straus milk below.
  • Molded plastic insert from a new rear bike light. Apparently, whenever I ride my bike at night, I have been breaking the law.  I didn’t have a rear red light.  Now I do.  What’s more, the Blackburn Flea light that I bought is charged via USB.  So I can not only plug it in to my computer, I can also charge it using my Solio solar charger.
  • Two expired music gift cards. I picked them up at Blogher back in 2008 and never used them.  What a waste.
  • One Equal Exchange chocolate bar inner wrapper. Curses!  (Plastic) foiled again!  I thought I was doing a good thing buying Fair Trade chocolate.  Why does the company need to hide a plastic wrapper inside the paper wrapper?  Other companies use actual foil or even just plain paper.  Perhaps an email is in order.
  • Plastic wrapper and molded plastic tray from HP yellow print head. Dealing with all my HP issues last month, I discovered I actually needed to replace the print head, which is sold separately from the ink cartridges for my printer, and Cartridge World doesn’t sell print heads.
  • Mylar pouch from refilled yellow Cartridge World ink cartridge. See link below for info on HP recycling, Cartridge World refilling, and Silo Ink systems.
  • Two vials and two outer packages of Frontline flea treatment for cats. Nothing else works for us.
  • One bottle of BalanceIT homemade cat food supplement powder, cap, two plastic scoops, & foam seal. See link below for info about our homemade cat food.
  • Plastic blister pack from gum stimulator from my dentist. I resisted opening it for quite some time, thinking I’d return it because of the plastic packaging.  But after my last appointment, I was convinced to use it.  And that’s all I’m gonna say.
  • Plastic seal from neck of a glass bottle of Napa Valley Naturals cooking wine. Because I like to cook with wine, but if I buy table wine for cooking, I might drink it.  I haven’t had a drink in nine weeks and I don’t want to start now.
  • Plastic seal from neck of a glass bottle of San-J organic wheat-free soy sauce. Because regular soy sauce (of which we have a whole gallon in a metal container) contains gluten.
  • Plastic cup from unexpected cole slaw in Disneyland. I asked for my meal in a simple paper wrapper.  I didn’t know it would come with cole slaw in plastic.  When I tried to give it back, the server told me he couldn’t take it back and that I should just throw it away if I didn’t want it.  Even when I explained about the plastic situation.

Plastic waste not included in the tally:

Here are the items I refused to accept, but for which I take responsibility nevertheless:

  • Plastic spoon from ice cream at Disneyland. The spoon was in the ice cream before I had a chance to get out my reusable spoon.  Gotta be fast!  I returned the spoon to the server with my usual explanation, but I don’t know what she did with it.
  • Plastic packaging inside HP print head shipping box. Staples did not have the print head in stock, so they had to order it for me from HP.  When I went to the store to pick it up, I was handed a great big box stuffed with plastic air pillows.  Why such a big box for a tiny print head?  And why all the extra plastic, HP?

I’ll have another plastic tally at the end of the year, so I can total up my plastic waste for 2009. Then next year, I’ll tally it up by calendar months. Not that you guys care, right? Is anyone else as obsessed with spreadsheets and tallies and numbers as I am?

Related posts:

PACT: Changing the World through Changing my Underwear

This is what happened. I generally hate shopping for clothes. And I really hate shopping for underwear, which you often can’t try on. (How can I know how it’s going to fit and feel if I can’t try it on first?) And now, with the added conviction that my undies have to not only feel good but be good for the planet, finding the right ones has become a real drag. So I procrastinated on buying new ones, repairing my old panties over and over again until they were just shreds of thread. I had a lot of reasons to hope I never got into an accident!

The motivation to finally take care of business came before my trip to Disneyland. I knew I’d be sharing a hotel room with a co-worker. Holy crap! What if she sees my holey underwear? I jumped on Google and once again started my hunt for the perfect pair of panties.

My discovery: PACT. And here I am modeling them…

PACT women's underwear

Seriously, it’s me. Didn’t you know I was an underwear model in a past life? So was Michael. I bought some for him too:

PACT men's underwear

Wanna see what kind we bought for our kitties?

Okay, all kidding aside (I wouldn’t be caught dead flashing my skivvies on the Internet. I can barely manage to flash myself in my own mirror. And I didn’t actually buy any for Michael either, as much as I’d like to.), here’s what’s good about PACT:

1) They are made from 95% certified organic, non-GMO cotton, produced by the Kadioglu Organic Cotton Project in the Izmir region of Turkey. The company chose organic cotton over bamboo or soy, explaining that bamboo requires toxic chemicals to process into fabric, and soy tends to wear out faster.

2) While the company is still working to innovate more eco-friendly inks and dyes, those that they currently use are free from heavy metals and PVC. And they don’t offer any underwear in white because of the chemical bleaches that would be required.

3) Instead of being packaged in individual plastic bags, each pair of PACT undies comes in its own fabric bag made from remnants of the underwear fabric itself, saving material that otherwise would have been wasted.

4) PACT underwear is shipped in a ASTM-6400 certified compostable bag, which here in the Bay Area (where PACT is headquartered) can be placed in our green compost bins.

PACT underwear

PACT says:

Nothing that is shipped to you – the underwear, fabric bags, or compostable shipping bag and labels – should end up in a landfill. We’re hoping that by the time your PACT underwear is well-worn and you’re ready to get rid of it, we’ll have figured out a way to recycle it. We are constantly searching for innovative ideas about how to best accomplish the cradle-to-cradle goal and move away from the idea of consuming and then discarding.

5) The fabric design of each pair of underwear is inspired by a particular environmental organization, which receives 10% of the sales of that design. I chose the designs supporting Oceana, an ocean conservation organization, and 826 National, the nonprofit founded in SF by Dave Eggers to tutor and develop young writers.

There are other things to like about PACT. Check out the About PACT and Ingredients pages.

While this company is great, there is always room for improvement, right? Here are some things I’d like to see addressed in the future:

1) The panties run small. I bought Large, but I think I might be happier with Extra Large, which is the biggest size available. Those who have met me know that while I’m not skinny, I’m not so very big either. When I asked, PACT told me the company is exploring larger sizes as well as developing an additional style for men. (The current choices for women are: bikini, thong, and boy short; the styles for men are brief, trunk, boxer brief, and boxer.)

2) They are made with 5% Elastane (Lycra) for stretch. While I would prefer a completely plastic-free panty, the company believes that 100% cotton underwear loses its shape quickly and has a shorter life span. I’m not sure I need my underwear to be so stretchy, but your mileage may vary.

3) The compostable shipping bag is manufactured using corn-based PLA. I would love to see PACT develop a compostable bag from a more sustainable crop than corn, since most corn is produced using GMO seeds and requires huge amounts of petrochemical pesticides and fertilizers to grow.

Overall, I feel like PACT is a responsible company that considers its impact on the planet very carefully in every aspect of production and shipping. Like all of us, it’s not perfect. But spending the extra money for underwear like this will help to increase demand for organic fabrics and non-toxic dyes. Buying underwear at Costco or Wal-Mart will not.

PACT has generously offered Fake Plastic Fish readers a 25% discount through January 15. Use coupon code fpf25 when placing your order.

Okay, Dennis, is that the kind of post you were talking about? :-)

No Impact Man Ch 6 – 8: Plastic-Free Cheese, Saving Money, Living in the Dark

As always, the questions raised in my No Impact Man book posts are relevant to everyone whether they have read the book or not. Please join the discussion.

Two days ago I asked: Why are that the majority of Fake Plastic Fish readers female (according to Quantcast)? Reader “underbelly” responded with a theory of gender roles that are still promoted by the culture:

To me, the green-o-sphere seems to be dominated by people in charge of the domestic realm. And since gender disparity still overwhelmingly exists in things like parenting, cleaning, cooking, buying household items, etc., guess who reads more about non-toxic cookware?


Sure, [eco-men] out there, but as long as little girls help mommy cook during Thanksgiving while little boys watch football with daddy, there will always be this disparity.

Colin Beavan, the No Impact Man, happens to be one of those eco-men who defies gender stereotypes. In Chapter 6 of the book, he learns to diaper his daughter after deciding which type of diapering he feels is the most eco-friendly (cloth) and explores the world of local foods how to prepare them for his family. (He does all or most of the cooking.) He learns to purchase foods only from the local farmers market, sticking to what is in season and letting the availability of foods determine what he is going to cook, rather than the other way around?

Here are a few questions:

1) How many of us try to limit our diets to local foods — in whole or in part — and in so-doing, how many have had to learn to cook foods we might not have grown up with?

In our family, we have learned to appreciate cabbages, hardy greens, and various types of fruits we’d previously never bought, like persimmons and pomegranates. Granted, we live in the Bay Area where we have access to a wider variety of local foods all year round than much of the country. And as in Beavan household, Michael does a lot more cooking than I do.

2) What kinds of plastic packaging do you see at your farmers market and have you ever discussed this issue with the vendors?

Beavan is able to buy more types of plastic-free foods at his NY farmers markets than I have been able to. I have to pass up tofu packaged in sealed plastic containers, grains in sealed plastic bags, nuts, dried fruits, and local meats also sealed up in plastic. The hardest thing for me is the cheese. Beavan was able to purchase cheese without plastic:

Before the local eating phase, I hadn’t been able to find acceptable cheese because it all came wrapped in plastic. Not here. They cut the cheese from hunks and wrap it in paper. To do them one better, in front of a cheese-maker who keeps pasture-fed cows, I self-consciously pull out my own muslin cloth, to avoid the paper. ‘That’s what we all used to do,: the vendor says appreciatively.’

Unfortunately, our local cheese vendor, Springhill Cheese Company, sells all of their cheese in heavy plastic shrink wrap. My goal is to find out the name of Beavan’s cheese vendor and contact them to learn how they manage to bring cheese to market in bulk, keeping it fresh, without wasting cheese, so that I can use them as an example when I ask Springhill to do the same thing. I’ve already contacted one who is going to get back to me after the holidays. I’ll keep you posted.

On a positive note, our Temescal Farmers Market is banning plastic bags beginning in January, as I wrote in a post back in September.

3) What benefits have you personally gained from eating locally?

In Chapter 7, the family cuts out all new purchases, except for food, underwear, and socks. Beavan’s wife Michelle learns to “shop her closet” and to find clothing at second-hand stores. She’s also able to give up addictions to material things that she had been using to distract herself from the difficult moments of life. But what the family also discovers is that after the “No Trash,” “No Carbon-Producing Transportation,” and “Local Foods” phases of the project, there was very little they could buy in the first place.

Living the Fake Plastic Fish No Plastic project has had the same effect on me. Plastic is so ubiquitous in our world that it’s very difficult to buy anything not encased in the stuff. Or made out of the it.

4) How has making one lifestyle change indirectly led to other changes in your life, whether additional benefits to the planet or to your own mental and physical well-being?

Giving up plastic means I eat fewer processed foods, for one thing. It also means I have to be much more mindful of the purchases I do make. I can’t live as unconsciously as I did before.

Beavan goes on to question our negative attitude towards materialism, explaining that if we perhaps valued the material world a bit more, we’d be less inclined to create trash, buy and toss, pursue or disposable lifestyles.

In fact, I wrote a post on this very subject two years ago.

5) Has learning to live more sustainably given you a stronger appreciation for the physical objects that pass through your life? In what ways?

In Chapter 8, Colin’s family turns off the electricity. It’s a radical step, and he knows it. In fact, he wonders if he’ll be considered a fringe wacko for doing such a thing and undermine the goals of the environmental movement. After all, everyone’s not going to live in the dark.

But finally, he realizes that the project is an experiment to see just how much we can live without. To find out what works and what doesn’t. And he decides that rather than being someone who simply gives up in the face of immense opposition, he wants to be the type of person who is at least willing to try something new. He tells the story of Zen monk who decides that world peace would be created if he could get all the world’s religious leaders together in a hot tub. And he decides that the best person to approach first is the Pope. He travels to Rome and presents his petition to the ranks of Catholic leaders until be gets to a particular cardinal who finally nixes the whole idea. Beavan writes:

But why this story gets told again and again in the Zen school is because of the sheer “just try” energy of Dae Soen Sa Nim’s approach. It suggests that instead of trying to save the world by sitting around figuring out the best course of action, we should just start trying to save the world. If we all just start trying from where we are, even if some of us fail, one of us or a couple of thousand of us will cross the finish line and get the job done.

6) Have you ever taken on a seemingly insurmountable task simply with the idea of trying to make a difference? How do we feel when we come up against opposition and how many of us are willing to persevere in the face of that?

I believe that all of us are making a difference in the world as it is right now by living our lives out in the open and (to quote what has become a cliche at this point) being the change we want to see in the world. And facing challenges can only make us better humans, even if our objectives are not met. None of our efforts are wasted if we learn from them.


Is Recycling the Answer to Holiday Waste?

A version of this post appears on today.

Actually, no. Recycling is certainly important. We do it in our home. But it’s not enough, and here are a few reasons why.

Recycling is a business.

Like any business, recycling relies on markets to survive. Do you know what happens to the metal, glass, paper and plastic you put into your recycle bin? After sorting at your community’s recycling center, it is sold to companies that do that actual recycling, breaking down the materials and incorporating them into new products. But what happens if no one wants to buy the stuff we toss in the bin?

A NY Times article last year reported that much of our community recycling was piling up in warehouses or ending up in landfills, due to the economic downturn and lack of demand from China, the biggest export market for recyclables from the United States.

Recycling costs communities money.

According to an L.A. Times article last month, recycling centers across California are shutting down in response to tough economic times. The state has been forced to borrow from beverage container recycling funds in an effort to balance the budget. Yet manufacturers of disposable containers continue to produce this wasteful packaging, relying on taxpayers and governments to fund recycling programs instead of taking responsibility themselves.

Our recycling may simply create pollution in other parts of the world.

This heartbreaking video was released by Britain’s Sky News, reveals that recycling workers in China and other Asian countries are subject to toxic conditions due to lack of worker safeguards.

The entire town of Lian Jiao, China had basically become a toxic waste dump, with residents and children exposed to fumes from melting plastics and rivers contaminated with recycling chemicals. Since this expose, the facilities have been shut down. But what about other areas of the world where we send our discards?

A chasing arrows symbol does not mean the material is actually recyclable.

That recycling symbol on the bottom of a container does not necessarily mean the item can be recycled in your area. Some cities collect only narrow-necked bottles. Others collect only #1 or #2. Most do not want plastic bags in the recycling bin because they can seriously interfere with the sorting machines (I’ve witnessed this problem first-hand). Here are a few other items that routinely cause these machines to jam. These photos were taken at the Davis Street Recycling Center in San Leandro, California.

Here is a list of other materials that can wrap around the machine and cause it to jam: chains, Christmas lights, clothing, copper tubing, cords from electronic devices, extension cords, tarps and other plastic film, metal hangers, sheets, string, wading pools (yep, it’s on the list!), wires. Do not put these items in your recycling bin.

What’s more, some cities accept every kind of plastic, but then sort through it and send to the landfill anything for which there is no market.

Do you know what happens to all the materials your city collects?

Plastics are generally downcycled rather than truly recycled.

Plastic containers, for example, are not recycled into new containers but into other products like lumber or outdoor furniture. Even the plastic yogurt containers recycled by responsible companies like Preserve into toothbrushes and cutting boards are actually downcycled, since the manufacturers of the yogurt containers continue to extract virgin materials for their disposable products.

So what’s the solution?

As I mentioned in my Thanksgiving post,

between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, Americans generate 25 percent more waste per week than during the rest of the year. This creates an additional 1.2 million tons per week, or an extra 6 million tons, for the holiday season.

We can stem the tide of holiday waste by following the first two R’s in the zero waste mantra: Reduce and Reuse. Here are a few ideas:

1) Instead of buying new wrapping paper, reuse paper and ribbons from prior years or create cloth gift bags that can easily be reused year after year. Linda Anderson from Citizen Green has made some cute ones this year. And @SproutSoup tweets that she is giving stainless steel lunch containers full of candy this year. Two gifts in one.

2) Choose gifts that are sold in as little disposable packaging as possible. Often, the producers of handmade gifts, like those on, will happily leave off the packaging when requested. Be sure and make that request. Check out Amazon’s frustration-free packaging program. Buy from local holiday craft fairs and refuse the bags and wrapping that might be offered. Bring your own bags while shopping. Yes, you can even bring your own bags to department stores. Last week, I bought a stainless steel pot from Macy’s and carried it out in my reusable bag after checking to make sure there was no plastic or other non-recyclable packaging inside the box.

3) Leave your packaging behind. Send a message to store owners that you don’t want excess packaging. Blogger Anna Cummins of Bring Your Own, has created the Leave Your Packaging Behind Facebook campaign urging consumers remove packaging right there are the store and leave it on the counter, explaining to store personnel why you’d like them to stock merchandise with less packaging. Or send your packaging back to manufacturers with a letter requesting less packaging in the future.

4) Give gifts of experiences rather than objects. A membership to a favorite museum or zoo, for example. A subscription to a theater. Movie tickets. Restaurant gift certificates. The possibilities are endless and virtually waste-free.

5) Purchase fewer, more personal and meaningful gifts. Doing this will not only cut down on packaging waste but will also save the materials used to manufacture so much stuff in the first place.

6) Ask yourself it you really need it. Before buying new holiday decorations and disposable tableware, ask yourself if those things will really make the season more special or just add to the mountains of waste created each year. (How many Santa figurines or snowman decorations does one actually need?) Then, reuse decorations from last year, make new ones with recycled materials, and opt for durable tableware instead of disposable.

7) Support companies that responsibly deal with their own waste. If you must buy electronics, for example, patronize a company with a closed-loop recycling system. Closed-loop means that they are not shipping their “recycling” overseas to be downcycled into other unnecessary products but are recycling the materials themselves into their own similar goods. HP, for example, combines its ink cartridges with used plastic bottles to manufacture new HP computers and cartridges.

Here are a few more bloggers writing about recycling and cutting waste:

Anna from Greentalk asks, “Shouldn’t America Recycles Day Be Called America Reduce or Reuse Day?

Kathryn Robbins from Tainted Green offers more suggestions for wrapping gifts and explains why not all holiday paper is recyclable.

Sheba Wheeler from the Home Girls Blog provides a whole list of holiday waste reduction tips, including sending e-cards, canceling unnecessary catalogs, and reusing shipping materials when gifts are mailed.

Remember, recycling is the last of the 3 R’s. Make reducing waste a new family tradition. What ways are you cutting down on waste this holiday season?

Recycle vs. Refill: Conversations with HP, Cartridge World, & Silo Ink

HP Ink CartridgesAh, plastic ink jet cartridges. It’s an ongoing dilemma for someone trying to live with less plastic. My strategy: keep printing to a minimum to save ink and make the cartridges last longer. But after that… I used to have to buy new ones. New plastic. At $40 a pop. (I bought a monster of an HP printer 5 years ago requiring very expensive cartridges. My fault for not doing the research.)

Back then, when I attempted to take my empties to Cartridge World for refilling, I was told that my particular units could not be refilled due to a proprietary chip embedded in the cartridge itself. I would have to continue paying full price for new plastic cartridges and send my old ones back to HP for recycling.

So you can imagine how irritated I was last month to discover that not only were the cartridges not refillable, but the chips contain an expiration date, after which the cartridges will not work whether they still have ink in them or not.  After my diatribe on this blog regarding the  HP Ink Cartridge Expiration Dates and the hack I had found to get around the problem, two things happened:

First, I discovered that finally Cartridge World has reverse engineered the cartridges I use and figured out how to recondition them by installing a new chip. Hurray. $25 for a refilled cartridge (saving energy and materials) vs. $40 for a new one.  One of the cartridges above is refurbished.  Can you tell which one?

Second, a representative from HP, Thom Brown, left a comment on that post and offered to discuss HP’s printer developments and policies with me.  He spoke with me for about an hour on Friday, filling me in on many environmental measures that HP is taking, and assuring me that the company is not the Evil Empire.  (I didn’t really think it was.)  I followed up our conversation with a call to Ken Wong, long-time owner of the Oakland Cartridge World store, to hear that company’s views of the Recycling vs. Refilling debate.  And finally, I learned about a new cartridge system that might work even better for some people than even these two options.

To Refill or Not to Refill?

1)  Why not refill? HP maintains that the quality of refilled cartridges is not as high as new ones bought from HP.  And the company has resisted developing its own refill program because it can’t guarantee that the refilled cartridges will work dependably.  In fact, on their page, “Is A Printer Ink Refill Really A Bargain?“, HP claims that Independent  research has found that:

  • More than 33% of tested refilled ink cartridges failed during use or right out of the box.
  • More than 41% of the tested cartridges refilled by a refill service failed during use or right out of the box.
  • Only the tested Original HP ink cartridges worked every time with no failures.

Cartridge World, on the other hand, insists that through their own lifespan testing, they have found that their refilled cartridges will last as long, if not longer, than new HP cartridges.  What’s more, Mr. Wong offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee.  He says that if customer’s are not completely satisfied with the cartridge, for any reason, they can return it. Yes, he admits, there is trust involved.  But his business is part of the community and most of his traffic is repeat customers who rely on him to provide reliable ink replacements.

I guess the only way I’ll know for sure is to see for myself how long my Cartridge World refurbished yellow ink cartridge lasts.

2) Why do some HP cartridges expire before they are empty? Thom Brown forwarded me a link to HP’s explanation of ink expiration dates, which states that:

Air ingestion and water evaporation can cause ink to change over time. In printing systems where the printhead and ink supply are separate, older ink can adversely impact the printhead and the ink delivery components within the printer. With ink expiration, however, HP can prevent this from happening.

That said, Thom also let me know that HP’s newer printers all use cartridges that either don’t expire or have expiration dates that can easily be overridden with the push of a button.  The chart on the Ink Expiration Dates page shows which printers have cartridge dates which can be overridden and which ones don’t.  Mine, unfortunately, doesn’t.

3)  Why does my HP printer stop working when only one color has run out? This one really irks me.  Why can’t I print with only black when the yellow has run out?  Thom assured me that all of HP’s new printers will continue to work when one or more cartridges is empty.  And some models are able to create a composite from the remaining colors to approximate the missing color.  For example, if the black runs out, yellow, magenta, and cyan can be combined to replace it.  Of course, the result is probably not perfect, but who cares in a pinch?

Unfortunately, this solution doesn’t help me since I’m stuck with a printer that won’t function if any of the cartridges are empty or missing.

What About Cartridge Recycling?

1)  What happens to HP printer cartridges that are returned for recycling? While I’m still of the mind that cartridges ought to be refilled as many times as possible before recycling in order to save materials and energy, I am impressed with HP’s closed-loop recycling program.  Instead of breaking down the materials and shipping them to 3rd parties for downcycling, HP recovers the material itself, and combining it with disposable plastic water bottles, incorporates the plastic and metals into new HP products.

Check out this interesting video which shows the full process by which the cartridges are collected and recycled.  HP was one of the first American companies to engage in Extended Producer Responsibility before the idea of manufacturer’s taking back their products for recycling had reached public awareness in the U.S.  In fact, during the Take Back The Filter campaign that I spearheaded last year, supporters cited time and again HP’s ink/toner cartridge recycling program as a model that Brita should follow to deal with its water filter cartridges.

2) What about worn out cartridges returned to Cartridge World? Realizing that no ink cartridge has an unlimited life span, and considering HP’s closed-loop recycling program, I asked Cartridge World what happens to cartridges they receive that are too worn or damaged to be refilled and resold.  Shannon from the corporate office explained that the owner of each franchise is responsible for seeing that the materials are recycled properly and that the company does not dictate how it should be done.


Ken Wong in Oakland, at least, seems to be doing it right.  The first step is Reuse.  He keeps old cartridges for the parts that can be reused to refurbish newer cartridges.  Recycling is the very last option after reusing parts.  Materials that can be recycled are removed and taken to appropriate recycling centers.  Any other material is sent back to the original manufacturer.  Finally, Ken declared:

Disposal into the waste stream is not an option.

Since all Cartridge World locations are franchised to individual owners, you might want to call your own local store and ask the question I did:  What exactly do you do with cartridges that are too old or damaged to be refurbished?

A Third Refill Option

At this year’s Green Festival, I met Tik Yip, whose company Silo Ink provides a system for easily refilling our own cartridges for much less money than either HP or Cartridge World, depending on how much we print.  The system provides refillable cartridges for HP, Epson, Canon, and Brother printers with storage reservoirs that automatically refill the cartridges as they run down.  Once the reservoirs are empty, you refill from a bottle that holds approximately 9 cartridges worth of ink.  The ink bottles are plastic, but they come with a pre-paid return label for the Silo Ink Bottle Recycling Program.

I have not tried this option myself.  A complete system plus four bottles of ink would cost me $162.00, which would be a significant savings over ink cartridges, even refurbished ones, if I printed a lot.  The thing is, I really don’t print much at all.  So I’m not keen to shell out that kind of money up front.  Those who do have a large print volume might consider this option.

About HP’s Newest Printers

Planned Obsolescence? Thom Brown told me that my printer is a dinosaur at this point.  But it’s only five years old and works fine.  In the world of computers, it’s obsolete.  But why should this be?  Why is there no way to upgrade the current machine to the newest technology so it uses less energy and ink?

I’ve checked HP’s Buy Back Recycling Program (If your equipment has residual value, you could get paid for it) as well as its Charitable Donation Program.  Both of these calculators tell me my printer has no value.  It works fine, but it has no value.  *Sigh*  So I will continue to use it until it’s worn out.  I print so little at this point, the difference in energy rating between my printer and a more efficient one would not outweigh the environmental cost of replacing it.

However, if I were in the market for a new HP printer, I could compare the Eco Highlights labels on each one to determine which are the most efficient, incorporate recycled materials, or have other eco features like automatic two-sided printing to save paper.  Of course, I’d also compare with other brands to find out if HP printers are actually the best eco choice.  But since I’m not in the market, I’ll leave those comparisons for those who are.

My Conclusion

HP is working on developing greener technologies.  It has improved its printers to use less ink, allow units to function when individual colors run out,  use less energy, allow double-sided printing, incorporate recycled materials, and it has created a closed-loop recycling system so that materials recovered are used in new HP products.  However, while Thom Brown said that the idea of refilling cartridges is always on the table, it sounds like an option that HP will not be pursuing any time soon.

Cartridge World takes the mantra Reduce, Reuse, Recycle seriously, providing a way for us to reuse our printer cartridges as many times as possible before they are recycled.  However, since individual franchisees are responsible for finding ways to deal with the cartridges at the end of their useful lives, there is no standard program for ensuring that the materials are recycled properly.  Calling our local stores to ask is necessary.

Silo Ink provides a system that can be used over and over again and costs less per ml of ink than the other options.  However, the large quantities of ink provided might be overkill for those of us who don’t print much.  And since I haven’t actually tried the system myself, I can’t vouch for its performance.

Right now, I’m going to continue taking my cartridges back to Oakland Cartridge World where I think Ken Wong is truly committed to providing the most environmentally-friendly way to replace my printer cartridges without using any new plastic or other materials.

What’s your opinion?