February 9, 2012

Plastic Challenge: Pat Clancy, Week 1

Week-1

I’d like to know what some items are made of – what kind of plastic, and whether it can be recycled. Food and medicine packaging are everywhere every day, and much of it goes in the trash because I can’t identify it.

Location:Lisle, Illinois, United States

Name: Pat Clancy

Week: 1

Personal Info:

I am female, age 70, and my 45-yr-old son shares my house. I am retired from freelance court reporting, now use my home office to pursue personal interests. I am an organic gardener and native plant landscaper. I’ve been recycling as much as possible since the ’70s and compost my kitchen waste.

Pat Clancy’s personal blog:

List of plastic items REFUSED this week. (Yay!)
Plastic grocery bags

Total items collected: 32

Total weight: 4 oz.

Items: Recyclable
1- Plastic bag from potatoes – recycled with grocery bags (not sure)
2- Clamshell from small tomatoes – #1 plastic, curbside recycling
3- Plastic container & top from grated cheese #1 plastic, curbside recycling
4- Styrofoam packing block from on-line purchase (digital recorder) Recycled at DART Container in Aurora, IL
5- Three small plastic bags, one foamy, all marked #4 – curbside recycling
6 – Two ziplock plastic bags, one from tortillas, one unknown product – reused until shabby and then recycled with grocery bags (not sure)

Items: Nonrecyclable
1- Plastic bag from potatoes – recycled with grocery bags (not sure)
2,3 -Two ziplock plastic bags, one from tortillas, one unknown product – reused until shabby and then recycled with grocery bags (not sure)
4 – Shiny plastic bag from salmon filet, purchased by my son but I loved it
5 – Two-part cap cut from a carton of soup
6 – Unmarked plastic liner from a gift box of fudge
7 – 14 small envelopes from Dr. Weil vitamin program, unmarked
8 – Plastic seal from a bottle of mouthwash
9,10 – Two plastic seals from cartons of cheese or yogurt
11 – Shiny plastic envelope from dog treats
12 – One piece of plastic film (Glad Wrap)

What items can I easily replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
I could buy potatoes in bulk but organic ones are pre-packaged in bags where I shop.
I usually avoid buying tomatoes out of season; my son bought these and I used them.
I could have bought the recorder at a store and avoided the packaging.
Soup in cans instead of Tetra Pak
Vitamins always come in some kind of plastic container; not sure whether the bottles would be less wasteful. (I want to find out if these little packages are recyclable.)
I could grate my own cheese and make my own yogurt.
I could buy dog treats that come in cardboard boxes.
I could buy fish and meat from the butcher to avoid packaging.

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
Vitamins always come in some kind of plastic container
Mouthwash is always in plastic bottles

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
I would have to shop somewhere else to avoid plastic packaging of meat and produce as well as numerous plastic bags, etc. in the grocery items.

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

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
This is hard.

7 comments
Natalie
Natalie

Hi Pat. I love your "conclusion" and just wanted to say so. =) And ugh, I hate it when grocery stores have produce wrapped in plastic. What is the point?

Pat Clancy
Pat Clancy

I'll check out the mouthwash recipes. I do like to swish my mouth out and feel that freshness. Even after brushing and flossing I like the sensation.

Melissa
Melissa

If there is a natural foods store near you they may have vitamins in glass jars. You could look at vitamins.com (?) and ask if they ship plastic free. Do you need mouth wash? I've heard it can kill good bacteria in your mouth. If you really want it you could gargle with baking soda in water or make your own. There are a lot of recipes out there with vodka and herbs or water & herbs. They're pretty easy to make.

Sometimes I make a big batch of soup and freeze portions in ball straight sided freezer safe jars.

Pat Clancy
Pat Clancy

Thanks for your comments. I do shop at the farmer's market in my town during the season, but winter is challenge. I bring my own bags to the store and lately have started bringing plastic produce bags for re-use instead of taking new ones. Whole Foods is the only place I know of where the organic produce is not prepackaged. I'll try shopping there more often but they are expensive. I make some of my own soup, but I buy chicken broth and some cream soups in the TetraPak cartons, which have a plastic spout and thought maybe switching to canned would be an improvement. I'll look for the concentrate in jars. The little tiny packages that Dr. Weil uses for daily doses of vitamins are so convenient, easier than opening 6 or 8 different bottles (plastic, also) but they are not recyclable that I know of. I think I heard Beth on the radio once talking about contacting a manufacturer to ask what the teabag wrapper was made of and getting good results. How does one go about doing that?

Mary Katherine
Mary Katherine

Making stuff from scratch cuts down on plastic waste a lot. I make yogurt, crackers, granola, vegetable broth, burger buns, bread, etc. Do you have a farmer's market near you? There's hardly any packaging at farmer's markets, and a lot of it is organic too. Maybe check here and see if there's one close to you: http://www.localharvest.org/

For the soup, you could try making some. Besides avoiding plastic waste, it's healthier because you can control the sodium, fat, etc. If you don't have time during the week you could make a big batch on the weekend. I do that with a lot of stuff since I'm busy with school during the week.

Another thing that helps cut down is using reusable cloth shopping bags and produce bags. Good luck!

Holly
Holly

If you have a local organic grocery store or vitamin store, you can often find some vitamins/supplements in glass bottles. Might be worth a look. Plus, you can reduce your use of plastic by buying the largest plastic container you can find. Not a great solution but perhaps better than buying them in individual doses or in small bottles.

Beth might have a recipe for mouthwash on her site, or perhaps a reader can provide one. Then you could store it in a glass container you already own.

You should be commended for your efforts. I wish you continued success!

Holly

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Hi Pat. Welcome to the challenge!

To address your main question about knowing what kinds of plastic things are and whether they can be recycled -- many plastics actually can't be recycled. It's important to contact your local recycler and find out exactly what items they accept. Sometimes the shape of the item is more important than the type of plastic. For example, some recyclers will only accept narrow-necked bottles and wide-mouth tubs, but not any other kinds of items. So, that's the first step.

Is there a particular kind of packaging that you want to know about?

One other comment -- I avoid food in cans because virtually all food and beverage cans are lined with a plastic that contains BPA. For broth, if I don't make my own, I buy Better Than Bouillon, which is a concentrate that comes in a glass jar. What kinds of soups are you looking to buy plastic-free?