February 21, 2011

Plastic Challenge: Becca Ryals and Gordon Bennett, Week 3

Becca's & Gordon's plastic waste

Name: Becca Ryals and Gordon Bennett

Week: 3

Personal Info:

Read Becca and Gordon’s full description in their Week 1 Challenge post.

Total items: 54

Total weight: 1.475

Items: Recyclable
shampoo and conditioner bottles (6)
- pet odor and stain remover bottle
- bottle of bathroom cleaner
(all purchased before we started the plastics challenge)

Items: Nonrecyclable
(new)
- straw from Saturn kombucha
- 5 toothpicks with plastic decoration from Saturn
- 4 windows from envelopes (not addressed to us!)
- plastic bubble packaging from Gordon’s new electric razor (to replace disposable razors)
- packaging from Gordon’s new electric razor (to replace disposable razor)
- jolly rancher wrapper (the worst!)
- banana stickers and plastic wrap on top of the bunch

(old)
- disposable razors (4)
- toilet paper wrappers
- soy milk carton
- snack bags – corn nuts, pretzels, trail mix
- Ziploc bags (2)
- Packaging for pocket knife
- Packaging for candles
- Bulk bag with hole in it
- Three individually wrapped toothpicks (have no idea where we got them from)
- A bit of bubble wrap from something long ago
- Two lids from old cans of protein powder
- bag of dried beans
- toothpaste (3)
- wrapping on dry erase board
- package for rice noodles
- ant trap
- tampon wrapper (switched to paper NatraCare instead of plastic wrapped NatraCare)
- plastic bag for cat litter (will switch to biobags or compost when our supply runs out)
- medicine wrapper

What items can I easily replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
- Most of the items are easily replaceable. Some examples are:
- toothpaste can be replaced brands that have metal containers with plastic top
- beans can be bought in bulk. We just got cloth bags from etsy
- jolly rancher. That was just a stupid mistake. I walked past the candy jar at work, and without even thinking grabbed a jolly rancher, popped it in my mouth. It wasn’t until I threw the wrapper away that I realized that, of course, it was wrapped in plastic. I don’t really even like jolly ranchers.
- Corn nuts. We can buy those and other snacks in bulk at Berkeley Bowl.
- Ant trap. we don’t like using them anyway, but we had a really bad ant problem when the rains started earlier in the year.
- Plastic bag – we have been using old plastic bags for our cat litter. Once our stash runs out, we will either switch to biobags or try composting.
- Straw – we’ve been asking for “no straw,” but Gordon forgot one time. We also didn’t think to ask for “no toothpick” in our sandwich.

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
- Many of the plastics we produced this week were purchased before we started the challenge and we can do without or find plastic-free/less alternatives. Soymilk might still be an issue, although we are thinking about springing for a soymilk maker to make our own.
- Of the new plastics we produced this week, we can avoid straws and toothpicks, and we ask the post office to stop giving us other people’s junk mail. We will still get a minimal amount of our own mail with plastic windows, although we have called a few places to request email only correspondences. We were aware that the bananas had a produce sticker when we bought them, but we didn’t even notice that the top of the bunch was wrapped in plastic wrap. We don’t get bananas that often, so it wouldn’t be hard to stop buying them or to buy a different bunch.

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
- We bought an electric razor to replace disposable razors, but it came packaged in a lot of plastic. We are glad about the purchase because it will prevent using ~20 razors per year plus their packaging. For such future purchases though, we can call ahead and request minimal plastic packaging.

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
- Plan ahead!
- Eat out less.

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
shampoo bottles. we plan on buying bulk from now on!

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
This was a bit of a disappointing week with way too much plastic – new and old. We did a major cleaning this weekend, so we ended up disposing of a lot of plastic that we had laying around, like empty bottles of shampoo and spent razors just hanging out in the shower, packaging from stuff we haven’t thrown out yet, and other miscellaneous stuff. We also produced a lot of new plastic, primarily from a lot of packaging with a new electric razor. It’s our hope that the net effect a new electric razor is positive in that we avoid throwing away a lot of disposable razors in the future.
shmellows, I’m responsible for driving the demand for them.

7 comments
Becca Ryals
Becca Ryals

Great idea, Maddie.

I thought about my cat litter today while working in the lab. First, I was feeling overwhelmed by the thought of composting the cat litter without access to a yard and because of the fear of attracting mice to my apartment complex. Then, I was thinking that I might switch to BioBags, but that comes at the cost of the land use and energy impacts associated with producing them. Plus, I wouldn't be able to put them in the curbside compost bin. But, I think I may have a better (although not perfect) solution. When we first started the plastics challenge, I lamented about the plastic waste associated with doing scientific research, much of which is unavoidable in order to do the research well. In my lab, we use small plastic specimen cups a lot, and they come wrapped in a plastic bag about the size and shape of a newspaper bag. These are all just thrown in the garbage after we are done with the specimen cups. Of course! I could rescue some lab plastic, bring it home, and use it for litter. It's still plastic, but it's unavoidable and was headed to the landfill anyway.

Maddie
Maddie

I wrap my cat's sifted litter in newspaper. It is neat and tidy. I only use a plastic bag (usually the empty litter bag) when I change out the whole litter box contents.

Becca Ryals
Becca Ryals

We found the paper rolls of Seventh Generation at the store. My brother got me an amazon.com gift card for Christmas. He'll get a kick out of it when I tell him I'm going to use it to buy toilet paper :)

We still have one more plastic-wrapped package that we're currently using, though. It's amazing how much plastic we have stocked up in our bathroom and kitchen.

That is a bummer about about Tom's toothpaste!

EcoCatLady - I love your jolly rancher story. They are really gross.

EcoCatLady (AKA Rebecca)
EcoCatLady (AKA Rebecca)

OK, this has nothing to do with anything except that you reminded me of it. When I was a kid, my teacher's husband - or maybe it was her brother... anyhow some relative worked for Jolly Rancher and was in charge of developing new flavors. So often, they'd use us as guinea pigs. It was like winning the 8-year old's lottery... you walk into class and there were two pieces of candy on your desk and you had to choose which one you liked the best. I thought I had discovered my career path!

Anyhow, I thought that Jolly Ranchers were the most delicious thing ever invented. So imaging my surprise when I happened upon one not too long ago, popped it in my mouth and was totally shocked and horrified to find that it tasted like sucking on a pile of chemicals! OK... so there's no point to this little story, I just found it amusing how my tastes had changed.

On the kitty litter front. I've been composting it for about a year now. You've gotta use some sort of natural litter (not clay) or else you'll just end up with shitty cement! Also, if you do attempt it, you should compost it separately from your regular stuff and use it only on ornamental plants, not food crops. They say you can use it on food crops if you let it compost for at least 18 months, but I didn't feel like it was a good idea. The only problem I've had is mice! I use SWheat scoop (made from wheat) and apparently mice feel the same way about it as 8-year olds do about Jolly Ranchers! Haven't figured out what to do about that yet, but the neighborhood Tom Cat is having a field day catching them!

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Wow, Laura, that's disappointing. Okay, I'm going to have to try other options that readers have mentioned. Fortunately, we just bought more Tom's and it's still in aluminum. Maybe I'll go stock up.

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

The story with the bananas is that the organic ones have the plastic on the top to protect the stems from rot. The non-organic ones don't have the plastic because they are dipped in toxic chemicals. So pick your poison. :-)

Tom's of Maine toothpaste comes in recyclable aluminum tubes. You can return them to Tom's for recycling. But be aware that all aluminum tubes probably have BPA in them. *Sigh*

http://myplasticfreelife.com/2009/02/bpa-in-your-toothpaste-recycling-tubes/

Have you figured out toilet paper yet? This is what we do:

http://myplasticfreelife.com/2007/08/seventh-generation-amazoncom-solving/