July 12, 2011

Plastic Challenge: Margaret, Week 1

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How to buy plastic-free vitamins and supplements? There’s one brand at Fred Meyer’s that comes in glass bottles, but it still has a plastic lid, and actually has more plastic wrapped around it than the other brands that come in plastic bottles.

What rules do places like Starbucks or Jamba Juice have for bringing in your own mug/cup? I don’t go their often enough to know what the protocol or guidelines are, but often enough that I feel guilty for the plastic cups I use. If you aren’t using one of the cups they sell, how does Starbucks know what size it is or how to far to fill it for the size you ordered, etc.? I worry too much about things like this. :)

How you write down or otherwise keep track of the item number for the cashier when you’re buying from bulk bins with your own bags or containers, and don’t want to use their twist ties or fasteners to write on?

Can you confirm that all food wrappers that sort of appear to foil, but have color and design all over them, do contain plastic? I’m just trying to find an excuse to not give up my Luna Bars. :(

Lint roller – I use the kind with the sticky sheets. I’ve tried a couple reusable kinds with the velour-type covering that’s supposed to pick up fuzz and pet hair, but have yet to find a great one.

Location:Tualatin, Oregon, United States

Name: Margaret

Week: 1

Personal Info:

I live in an apartment with my cat. We’re in a metropolitan area outside the city, that’s not really suburbia, but not really urban.

Margaret’s personal blog:

Total items: 78

Total weight: 12 ounces

Items: Recyclable
Curbside recyclable (Picked up by a private company hauler, but guidelines for accepted items are mandated by the regional government.)

* #2 bottle from iron supplement used up
* Water bottle – I don’t know where this came from, but it was in my car so I’ll take responsibility for it.

Other recyclable (Can either be mailed in to the company/etc., or dropped off at Far West Fibers, a private recycling company)

* 3 bubble mailers. One of these says “10% recycled plastic”, one says “contains post-industrial recycled plastic”, and one says “recyclable”. I’ll look at the website for the latter (3M) and see what can be done with these.
* 1 Tyvek mailing envelope. Their website says they’ll take them for recycling, so I’ll look into that.
* Plastic lid from new anti-perspirant
* #2 prescription bottle and lid (too small for curbside)
* Lid from iron supplement bottle listed above
* #1 plastic scoop from laundry detergent box used up
* Broken pill box
* Plastic packaging from new pill box to replace the aforementioned broken one.
* #1 berry container
* 2 #5 cat food containers – these are too small for curbside, but I think they can be dropped off, minus the lids

Items: Nonrecyclable
* Anti-perspirant container used up
* Styrofoam cup, plastic lid, and plastic straw from Jamba Juice – I don’t go here often, but occasionally with friends from work
* Plastic-lined pull-tab strip from new cardboard box of laundry detergent
* Top of bag tear-offs (the strip above the ziploc closure) from 2 food packages (dates, flax seeds – I know dates can be bought in bulk, but they don’t taste the same as Dole’s!)
* 2 plastic tab fasteners with writing strips – from bulk bins for writing the UPC number. I was using cloth bags, but had to write the number somewhere.
* “Packing list enclosed” envelope-thing from shipping box
* 6 pack rings
* Paper ream wrapper
* Quart-size ziploc bag with a hole
* Lid and roller-thing from blemish stick container used up
* Plastic eye shadow container used up
* 4 lint roller sheets
* 7 Luna Bar wrappers (part foil, but I’m pretty sure part plastic)
* 8 organic American cheese slice wrappers
* 2 wrappers from frozen spring rolls
* Boca burger wrapper and plastic fork – from a friend’s birthday party. I also benefited from other plastic items (e.g., bags for chips and paper plates), but the fork I used specifically, and the Boca burgers were bought specifically for me and one other guest, so I claimed it as mine. Fortunately the friend and her boyfriend already know I’m strange, so they didn’t question my request to save the wrapper for me.
* 3 plastic container lid rings (is there a more concise term for these? the plastic that’s wrapped around the lid and partway down the container to prevent tampering?) – one from a gelato container, one from a vitamin D bottle, and one I can’t remember.
* 4 Command adhesive velcro strips
* Fruit leather wrapper
* 4 envelope windows – they’re from return envelopes in junk mail or bills, and I reuse them for scratch paper before recycling them, so it’s not entirely my choice to have them, but I do need to see what I can do about minimizing such mail in the first place. I’ve included in my tally the ones for envelopes I used and recycled this week, not the ones I acquired, since those are not “waste” yet.
* 1 size sticker and 3 price tag holders/thingies (on which the paper tag is threaded… again, needing a more concise term)
* 1 theft-deterrent strip, I think from the box the vitamin D bottle came in (I don’t know why the bottle was in a box, but it was a pretty small bottle, so maybe to make it harder to pocket)
* 5 produce stickers
* A plastic-covered wire
* Some plastic tape

What items can I easily replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
I’m experimenting with replacing a conventional anti-perspirant with a crystal stone deodorant.

Laundry detergent – I buy powder in a cardboard box instead of liquid in a plastic bottle, but it still has the plastic pull-tab strip and plastic scoop. I just ordered some soap nuts, so we’ll see how that works.

Fruit leather – I’m learning how to make my own.

Berry container – went to the farmers’ market today and bought some in one of those cardboard-esque containers.

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
Command adhesive velcro and hooks.

Single sliced cheese. I’m trying to go vegan anyways.

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
Lint roller and make up – I work in a professional environment (suits aren’t required, but are a reasonable option), so de-fuzzing and de-cat-hairing my clothes are definitely required, and I don’t feel “put together” without some degree of makeup.

Luna bars!

Iron and vitamin D supplements.

Produce stickers.

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
Going vegan and making more foods from scratch will make a huge difference. The converse is actually true as well – my diet’s noticeably improved this week, since I’ve avoided most of the junk food that’s packaged in plastic.

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
This was way more than I expected! I’ve been making deliberate choices to minimize plastic for months already, but it’s still difficult to avoid.

8 comments
Melissa B
Melissa B

Life without plastic dot com sells a lint brush. Personally, I love the microfiber glove that Petsmart sells for pet hair. (yes, made from plastic).

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

I learn so much from you guys. Surprisingly, it never even occurred to me to write the bin numbers anywhere except on the container or bag. I do have some containers that I reuse constantly for the same products, so for those I just leave the sticker on with the bin # and product description. But for other stuff, I'll just write the number in my little notebook I carry everywhere and tell the cashier when I check out. Putting it in my phone is another great idea. Maybe I'll create a Google doc and store it there. That way, I can keep an ongoing list that's always accessible via phone whether I have my notebook or not.

jennie
jennie

for the bulk bin numbers - i type them into my phone, which has a notepad application. even if you don't have notepad, you could text the numbers to yourself.

as for the makeup and personal care products, that's where a lot of my plastic comes in too. anyone know of a group trying to get makeup companies to "take it back"? would love to mail in my used packages to urge them to change/reduce/recycle/whatever their packaging...

brianna
brianna

Hi Margaret,

I make my own deodorant using 1/4 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup corn starch, and 4-6 tbsp coconut oil. I keep it in a little glass jar in the fridge and just scrape a bit out to rub on when I need it. You can add a tsp of essential oil to the mix if you'd like a scent too.

Rachael
Rachael

Go Margaret!!

i would think for both your Starbucks/Jamba addiction and for the bulk bins, if they don't use more friendly options - speak to the manager and request them. Many companies will offer alternatives if they have customer response - especially companies that want to be seen as "environmentally friendly". And further - for the bulk bins, both of my stores that carry bulk also have paper bags and stickers - again, if your store doesn't - request it! Same thing with Luna - email them! Request better packaging! They don't know unless we tell them how much we care...

Not to be nosey - but were you tested for anemia? Because many women don't need it and can get it thru diet alone if you eat heme and nonheme foods together (and Vit C also helps absorption of iron), so like spinach & beans (since you are going vegan) and an orange - and not necessarily in the same meal, but in the same day...

An easy and free lint roller is a damp hand - just run your damp hand across your clothes and then wash off the fuzz, works for most everything and when it doesn't i bust out the masking tape and make a couple of rounds on my palm and do the same again.

Great job and great thinking! i love this challenge!

Jessie
Jessie

I sometimes use glass jars for my bulk items and write on them with permanent marker (yes, icky-chemically, but it washes off with a little soap and water and works better than China-markers). Other times, I use the twist tie tags they provide, then just reuse them until they fall apart.

I've only once had a problem bringing my reusable mug to a coffee shop, and it wasn't at Starbucks. Most coffee places are happy to fill a reusable cup, it saves the company money.

Pheas
Pheas

Re: bulk bins, if I only buy one or two items, I can usually remember the numbers and just tell the cashier. For more items, or days when I'm really fried, I write it on my shopping list or on something I'm buying that has a box or label. In desperate times, I've written on my hand. Hope that helps.

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Hi Margaret. Welcome to the challenge!

I wish I could tell you that Luna Bar wrappers are not plastic, bad sadly they are. You can tell the difference between plastic and metal usually by the feel. If you fold real foil, it stays folded. If you fold mylar (the kind of plastic that looks like foil), it bounces back. I have never found an energy bar that wasn't wrapped in plastic.

As far as bringing your own cup for coffee or juice, each store has different policies. The only way to know is to try it and find out. But also... go in with the assumption that it's not a big deal and that they are going to have no problem with it. I took a cross country trip with my dad last year and filled up my travel mug at all sorts of places all along the way. I never had anyone tell me I couldn't do it. You can help them by letting them know the size of your container.

As for labeling your bulk bags and containers, if you put a sticker on the bag or container and write lightly with a pencil, you can erase and rewrite over it next time.

Here's info on recycling Tyvek:

http://myplasticfreelife.com/2007/10/recycling-tyvek-another-small-way-to/