April 3, 2011

Plastic Challenge: Benne’ Rockett, Weeks 6 & 7

Name: Benne’ Rockett

Week: 5

Personal Info:
After 27 years of raising children, I am now living alone in my home in Austin, TX. I might have been freed from my human children, but I now have 5 baby chicks that have proven small things will imprint on any larger thing.

Read more about Benne’ in her Week 1 Post.

Total items: 8

Total weight: 59 grams

Items: Recyclable
1-Coke bottle
1-and lid
1-Liquid Dish Soap
1-Portable bottle water lid
1-Razor shield
1-Plastic spoon for Coconut pie
1-Plastic wrap around Portable water lid
1-Unknown

Items: Nonrecyclable
Zero in this part of Mexico. Packed in luggage and am able to recycle 6:8 items.

What items can I easily replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
I found a tienda (convenience store) in my Mexico hood that carries Coke in glass bottles. I also found out that the water from the sink tap is safe to drink but requires some boiling. Still, not really sure if I want to take the risk on a brief trip.

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
I hadn’t bought the liquid dish soap. It was in the house I stayed in, but when I went shopping, I did look for alternatives. Limited by not having a car, I didn’t find a replacement. I’m certain there is one.

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
Zero

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
Several huge issue exist in Mexico regarding plastic waste. 1.) Everywhere, from traditional markets, such as Walmart, to tiendas, plastic bags are used. I had a few looks when I requested my purchases be placed in my chico bags. 2.) Lack of overall education regarding plastic impact. I worked with Merida Verde, the foundation responsible for hosting Earth Day events in the Yucatan. 3.) Lack of recycling services. There are places to take your items, but no pick-up. Many families are too poor and taxed with other issues to spend the gas money on taking their plastic to the centers. 4.) Ex-pats – they expect trash service to be put in place. That isn’t going to happen.

BTW, I didn’t bring my scale with me so I took items of similar size and weighed them. I’ve saved every item since I began this process. I hope that my kids in an art class will use some of the items for puppets we are creating.

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
I placed paper and food waste in a compost “bin” on the property. Once I was acclimated, I was able to avoid creating plastic waste. I know that I made my friends in the area rethink their choices but I don’t believe that without a constant reminder, anyone will actually change their habits. Like many things in life, and fitting with my personality, flowers draw the bees.

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
If I ever choose to live in the area on any significant level, I will be the person in the ex-pat community to drive the plastic consumption down.

Please help me with the following question/problem:
Well, I’ve been thinking that collection stations in this particular area of Mexico would be an incentive for some change. However, when I asked around, ex-pats that had tried this, found that the cans were being filled with garbage. I noticed that these cans did not specify plastic waste only. The other issue is that it was up to one person, an ex-pat, to dispose of the waste. He lost interest quickly and when he was moving the waste, he was only taking it to the local garbage dump. I would hire a local and put signs on the cans. What would you do?

2 comments
Benne'
Benne'

Beth, the Summer program I have mentioned before, where we will use the awareness of plastic waste as a metaphor for awareness of teen dating violence, has a component that requires the students to tally and observe the garbage v recycling habits at my work place. I've seen the same habitual issues as your husband.

As an aside, I posted my Mexico experience on my FB page in a Note. Here is a little dialogue between myself and two ex-pats, one US and the other Canadian:

US: "Can't be plastic free here....we love plastic down here Benne..."

ME: I was in contact with Merida Verde before I arrived in Mexico a few weeks ago. They are responsible for the Earth Day events held in April. They are also working with the mayor to make Merida a plastic bag free zone. I suspect you are right... Nancy, as I see plastic everywhere in Mexico. But maybe, fishermen who are seeing how the plastic waste in the Pacific Gyre is interfering in their catch counts in the Gulf, and the people of Merida who are seeing landfill issues, are reconsidering their lifestyle choices. There are always small ways of reducing a problem twice the size of the United States (Plastic Wasteland: Pacific Gyre). My Note is simply about the choices that are influenced through my own awareness."

Canadian: "I totally agree with you Benne if everybody would start making small changes and be more aware...it is a very scary thing"

US: "No No I agree with you on the disposal of trash, plastic especially that won't degrade over time...I was talking about things that won't RUST..... sorry I didn't read on..."

At least a dialogue has begun!

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Benne, about those recycling cans filled with garbage -- my husband deals with that on a regular basis. He spearheads the recycling at his office, and even after a ton of education and signage, there are still people who toss garbage into the recycling bins. Before people will act, they have to give a crap.

Kudos for keeping your plastic waste down so much while traveling. You rock.