June 13, 2014

Plastic Challenge: Erin Kurnik, Week 1

week1plasticwaste

I am unclear if certain items count as plastic (those are on the right in the photo) and if they are made from petroleum. Can anyone tell me? See below:

1. Inner candy bard wrapper that looks to be cellulose?
2. Inner candy bar wrapper that is gold on one side?
3. Wine bottle cap (non-corked wine)?
6. The flexible, metalish part of the olive oil bottle cap?
7. Labels that stick to the packing of a product.
8. Plastic wrappers for sponges (cellulose?)
9. Thick paper that is shiny on both sides (the kind that is often used for short product instructions). Wonder if it is coated in plastic?
10. Metallic butter wrappers.

Also, what do you do when your partner brings home tempting, addictive food in plastic?

Does anyone make a lot of food from scratch (or know of any plastic-free versions to purchase) like mayo, veg burgers, chips, crackers, whole grain gluten-free rolls/bread, etc.? Can any of this be cooked/baked/prepared very quickly and easily?

Also, under my list of “non-recyclable items”, I am wondering if items 1 – 5# can be recycled with the plastic shopping bags (that are my boyfriend’s) that take I back to the grocery store to be recycled?

Location:Brooklyn, New York, United States

Name: Erin Kurnik

Week: 1

Personal Info:

Hi, am woman who lives with her boyfriend. I have been on my green journey for quite some time and have a green living blog. I have been seeking to reduce plastic for a while. Now, I am ready to go more hardcore :) One of the big moves I made recently was starting my no-poo journey and thereby eliminating the need for plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles. Another big step is that I started using shaving bars to shave my legs and also started using soap nuts for laundry.

Please note, I have a lot of packaged tea purchased a long time ago or purchased by my boyfriend and then rejected by him. So, not wishing it to go to waste, I am drinking it up– this will be a common waste item for a while, but I promise to never buy packaged tea again in those plastic-coated baggies ;-)

Erin Kurnik’s personal blog: http://inspiredearthconnection.com

List of plastic items REFUSED this week. (Yay!)
1. Almond milk in a carton that is plastic-coated inside.
2. Plastic grocery bags
3. Plastic bags for bulk food items (hemp seeds, veggies, fruits)
4. Plastic packaged protein powder
5.Conventionally packaged frozen fruit (brown paper packaging of frozen fruit I purchased says it bio-degradable, but it is lined with plastic- so it is reduced plastic packaging.)
6. Pre-packaged nuts.
7. Pre-packaged snacks.

Total items collected: 46

Total weight:

Items: Recyclable
*NYC accepts all hard plastic

1. 3 cat food cans
2. 3 coconut milk cans
2. Plastic scoop for protein powder
4. 2 vitamin bottles with caps
5. Vitamin bottle cap
6. Green powder bottle with cap
7. Plastic U-Line air pillows
8. plastic sock hook (packaging)

Items: Nonrecyclable
1. Veggie Burger packaging (can this dropped off with plastic bags at grocery store?)
2. Rice noodle packaging (see above question)
3. Daiya cheese packaging (see question above)
4. Frozen lamb cat food packaging (see above question)
5. Cacao powder bag (same question as above)
6. The spout of the metal can of olive oil
7. The plastic and/or metal cap for olive oil (not sure what material it is made from?)
8. free sample packet
9. tea bag packaging
10. band aide wrapper
11. plastic mail windows
12. worn-out boots made of synthetic materials (may be able to donate to textile recycling)
13. Rice chip bag
14. Styrofoam block
15. Frozen berry bags with plastic lining
16. Packaging for butter
17. Packaging for chocolate
18. Snack packaging.
19. Packaging for sponges
20. Plastic that goes around the neck of the mayo jar
21. Cap to wine bottle of unknown material

What items can I easily replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
1. Packaged tea with bulk tea.
2. Green superfood powder that comes in plastic with green power that comes in glass jar with plastic or metal cap.
3. Immune booster supplement in plastic bottle with tincture in glass, etc.
4. Used boots or boots made with sustainable materials.
5. Chocolate wrapped in paper, foil and possibly cellulose??
6. Possibly sponges??? They may be packaged in cellulose which may be okay?
7. Chips in reduced plastic packaging made by Late July.
8. Olive oil that comes in glass bottle.
9. Buy Cacao powder bulk.
10. Buy rice noodles in reduced plastic packaging where it is mostly cardboard (seek out bulk supply, if any).
11. Plastic window to some envelopes: I can go paperless with my utility company and see if I can get myself off some more mailing lists.

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
1. Daiya vegan cheese
2. Chips in conventional packaging
3. Personal care product samples
4. In the summer I can buy berries in card board packaging and freeze myself.

While I don’t buy the first two items myself (as of very recently), I tend to want to eat some when my boyfriend buys it :(

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
1. Butter
2. Berries in when out of season.
3. Coconut mylk (even the thai coconuts are wrapped in plastic)
4. Canned food and raw cat food for my cat.
5. Supplements or food in glass jars that have the plastic (or cellulose?) ring around the neck.
7. Olive oil bottle caps
8. Wine bottle caps
9. Band aides

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
I may need to learn to make more of my own food like. I am a bit resistant since I really don’t like a lot of food prep, baking and cooking. If I did go that route, I would have to make sure I had the time or could afford to hire someone to make certain items for me.

I would really have to become present to if I feel right, in my heart of hearts, eating the plastic packaged food my boyfriend buys.

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
Green superfood powder that comes in plastic with green power that comes in glass jar with plastic or metal cap.

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
That said, I was stunned at the amount of waste I generated this week in spite of all my efforts. I, honestly, thought I was wasting less. My boyfriend is not as dedicated on going plastic-free, so I found myself tempted to eat things he purchased in plastic packaging and often did. I wouldn’t, however, purchase these items myself.

I feel a bit hung up on food. I could, for example, make my own mayonnaise and veggie burgers due to packaging, but find the whole prospect of doing so much food prep very daunting. So, this is a place where I feel discomfort and resistance.

1 comments
jonnie
jonnie

Hey there! Congratulations on starting the process.

You've some excellent questions, many that I still haven't figured out an answer for, but a few that -perhaps- I CAN help with:

Unfortunately, my default position on wrappers [candy, etc] is that they're either plastic, or a mix of materials that makes them unrecyclable.

A crude method to distinguish plastic from cellulose is that when you hold a match to a questionable material, plastic melts, cellulose burns (not that I recommend doing this!). 

Also, another crude test of paper vs plastic: paper tears, plastic doesn't.

You shouldn't return the harder plastics to the grocer with your plastic bags. They're handled differently. IF you don't have curbside recycling, but do have a Whole Foods, frequently they have a way to accept those harder plastics.

Aveda supposedly accepts (for recycling?) any cap/lid with a thread. I'm not sure how they can recycle though, as most lids are of the mixed materials variety <sigh>

With some effort, you may be able to find butter with a paper wrapper.

There's a way, supposedly, to tell apart the plastics that you can return with your plastic bags to the store and those you can't. It has to do with whether it crumples. I wish I could tell you more about that issue:/ You do know that things like TP plastic wrappers can be returned with the plastic bags…?

I now dump berries into a cloth bag as I go through check out at the grocer's, and hand the basket back to the cashier. Smaller businesses will give these back to suppliers, at the bigger chains, i just figure it's a statement.

The biggest way to avoid "temptation" is to find alternatives, not necessarily substitutes, in the bulk aisles, bakeries, etc., or through researching homemade substitutes. Not always perfect, though!!