February 10, 2011

Plastic Challenge: Laura in Maine, Week 1

Laura's plastic waste

Name: Laura

Week: 1

Personal Info:
This is a rural 2 person household with 2 dogs and a cat. We have limited recycling facilities and no trash pickup (we drive it to the transfer station in town ourselves). From town it is trucked to another town and burned for energy. The plastic tally is for only one person but includes all the shared items so is higher than it would be otherwise.

Total items: 42

Total weight: 12.75 oz

Items: Recyclable
tofu container #2
agave nectar bottle w/lid #1
Skippy pb with lid #1

Our town pools this plastic with a few other towns sells it to a recycling company but I’m not sure how they use it.

Items: Nonrecyclable
1 lb. carrot bag
celery bag
pepper jack cheese wrapper
ziploc for dog treats
frozen rolls bag
microwave veggies bag
brown sugar bag
cereal insert bag
Craisins bag
Fatwood bag
popcorn bag
steel cut oats bag
window from envelope
peel top from yogurt
seal ring to peanut butter
disposable coffee cup lid
tie from bread
drink mix sleeve
drink mix tub
takeout tub
pie carton
mushroom carton and saran wrap
coffee bag
pecan bag
single use sugar
straw
string cheese wrapper
jelly lid
ice melt crystals bag
wrap for green onions
frozen crab cake saran wrap
peel strip from Netflix envelope
zip tie, origin unknown
granola bar wrapper
soy milk box and lid
plastic cup

What items can I easily replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
Peanut butter can be purchased in glass, fatwood can be found in a box, and coffee can be bought in paper.

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
I didn’t buy celery, cereal, granola bars, pretzels, or frozen rolls this week but I’m not sure I would be willing to give up all of those forever. I am going to try making bread. (eek!)

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
the ice melt crystals
peel strip from Netflix envelope

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
It’s all about food! Buying from bulk bins would help. I have been working towards organic/local/seasonal/sustainable and hadn’t realized that most (almost all) of our plastic comes from food. This is my first full winter in Maine so I’m still trying to figure out food up here but we have a big garden planned for this year which should help a lot. Shopping is tricky in a rural area in the winter. I can get most things but the closest bulk bins I’ve found so far are 45 minutes away. That’s a lot of driving to a place I would otherwise not be visiting to go shopping.

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
peanut butter- I already bought a glass jar (it still has a plastic lid though and came with a plastic seal around the plastic lid)
I chose glass for the new vanilla and the maple syrup this week. I will buy coffee in paper.
The pie container and spoon were not needed- I could have picked a different kind of pie that hadn’t been pre-packaged.

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
This is an embarrassing and unacceptable amount of plastic. It seems to be pervasive and insidious. I look around the house and see the things that we’ll use up next and wonder how far I will be willing to go to get rid of plastic. Money may also end up being a factor- buying fresh organic produce in Maine (especially in the winter) is an expensive proposition.

1 comments
Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Hi Laura. I'm so glad you're taking this challenge. The number one purpose is awareness. It's easy to get overwhelmed, but remember we all have different challenges and resources where we live, and in a rural area where you are, you might not have the resources I have here in California.

Still, I'm curious about why so much produce there comes in plastic. Are there produce items that you can buy "naked" without any plastic bag or wrapper?

My advice about the bulk store would be to gather a whole bunch of reusable bags and containers and then go exploring there. See what they have and when you go, stock up big so that you don't have to do very often. But also, I'm wondering if there might be some plastic-free options closer to home that you might not have noticed until starting this challenge. You might be surprised.

By the way, that Netflix peel strip is silicone, not plastic. (I checked a while back.)