July 6, 2010

Leanne Daharja, Week 1

Leanne Daharja's plastic waste

Name: Leanne Daharja

Week: 1

Personal Info:
I’m a married mum of two kids, living in Dunedin, New Zealand.  The plastic rubbish tallying I’ve decided to do is just for me – for now. I’ve been separating out my personal rubbish, plus anything I participated in the use of.  If I even had one slice of bread, the bread bag went in my tally, for example.

Total items: 21 items. I’m horrified. I didn’t know I used that much plastic in a week for just me!

Total weight: Didn’t weigh. Sorry!

Items: Recyclable
Bottles – diet coke, diet coke, orange juice, lemon juice.
Container – multivitamins (says it can be recycled).

Items: Nonrecyclable
Food packaging (11 items):
2 bread bags
carrot bag
onion bag
plastic cellophane wrap from bulk noodles
plastic bag from chinese horse bean snack
plastic cover wrap from plum sauce jar
plastic cover wrap from soy sauce bottle
plastic ring from lid of new jar of peanut butter
2 bread tags (little plastic gizmo)
yoghurt enzyme bag (we make our own yoghurt from this).

Consumer goods packaging (2 items):
plastic packaging from command hook package
plastic packaging from oven mitt package.

Bags (3 items):
Three produce bags (the light plastic bags you put apples or whatever in supermarkets before getting them weighed at the counter).

What items can I replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
I really need to get off the Diet Coke!
Produce bags at the supermarket – we’re gradually setting our property up to grow our own food, so these are reducing. I’ll look online to find some re-usable replacements for them.

Plastic wrap covers for bottle lids etc – a hard one though. We’ve already shifted to as many glass bottle products as possible in the main, but even so they are often sealed with plastic over the top of the lid. I feel like I’m fighting a great wall of plastic!

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
I’ll try to reduce what I can by shifting to glass and alternatives, because I see plastic as a real problem. I’d be willing to quit the Diet Coke, or at least go to small glass bottles while I wean myself from the caffeine!

I’m happy to quit the chinese snacks, although they remind me of home and are comfort foods :-(

What Items are essential and do not have a plastic alternative?
Juice is an issue.

We buy it for the kids to sneak in their supplements (olive leaf extract, acidophilus etc) but I can’t resist drinking a bit too.

My son’s autism has improved dramatically with our regime of biomedical intervention, so the juice is a non-negotiable. I had about 2 glasses of it, but even if I stop drinking it, they still will.

There is one glass-bottled juice available – we might try that to see if the kids will drink it. But it is vegetable juice instead of orange. I’ll try to hunt out an affordable orange or apple juice not packaged in plastic.

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
We’ve already made the big one – moving to a property where we can grow a lot of our own food. This was done for peak oil and organic food reasons, rather than plastic, but we’re finding our plastic consumption dropping as well.

More fresh food, if I find reusable produce bags, and less packaged stuff, as well as more bulk foods, should reduce the plastic load.

We already eat a lot of bulk and fresh stuff, with very few processed foods, but we probably need to cut out processed and pre-made stuff entirely. But right now I haven’t the time to learn how to make soy sauce – and I haven’t the inclination either!

We’re also buying bulk more.

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
Multivitamins. I’m shifting to a glass bottled brand with a metal lid. That’s easy! :-)

Are there any other conclusions I can draw?
I’m horrified at the amount of plastic I produced – for just me! – in one week. I didn’t think it would be that much. I thought I was pretty green.

This has been an eye opener that I really needed to do. Now I need to find ways to reduce it.

I also became more aware when shopping, because I was REALLY thinking about my plastic rubbish for the first time. Everything is in plastic! It’s nuts!

Things have to change. But they won’t unless we, the consumers, push the issue.

2 comments
Leanne
Leanne

Hi Beth,

I've thought about buying fruits and veggies without plastic bags, but we eat SO MUCH fruit that it would simply look (and feel) really stupid to do. I mean, 15 loose apples on the counter? Along with 12 mandarins and 15 plums? You get the picture.

I think sourcing some re-usable home-made or shop-bought produce bags is really the answer.

Also, it's more like to look "cool" and inspire others. I think produce bags are the obvious next step after plastic carry bags.

That, and plastic dog poo bags - an issue which fortunately doesn't affect us!

Yes, I've thought about squeezing fruit for juice, and in the summer and when fruit is in season I do. But we're right in the middle of winter at the moment, and the cost would be prohibitive.

So I'm writing to the juice companies, and asking for glass returnable bottles to be brought back.

In the meanwhile, we're extending the size of our own orchard here at the farm, which will give us free juice - no packaging or carbon miles at all! - when the trees are mature. It'll be a while yet, but we're planning ahead :-)

Now I need to see if I can bring my tally down!

Thanks for helping me to open my eyes, Beth!

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Leanne, I'm so glad you took the challenge. (And so sorry it took this long to post it for you.) It is eye-opening, isn't it? I think it's easy for us to underestimate the amount of plastic waste we generate when we're not keeping track. But it seems like you are really reducing a lot, and you know what steps you need to take.

Have you considered buying produce naked without any produce bag at all? That's how I buy apples, oranges, sturdy vegetables, etc. At first I worried about what the cashier would think, but I got over it pretty fast.

Also, don't know if this is an option for you, but have you considered squeezing oranges for juice instead of buying bottled juice? Just a thought.