January 23, 2011

Plastic Challenge: Sabrina L, Week 1

Sabrina's plastic waste

Name: Sabrina Lutes and family, 2 adults and 1 2-year old

Week: 1

Personal Info:

We live in Gainesville Fl, my husband is into finances and programming, I am a stay at home mom whose been into natural living for awhile. Since we have always recycled, plastic usage never came under our radar. I assumed, if it was organic, local etc. that’s what mattered because most was being returned to become something else. Then I started reading, and now I realize I was absolutely mistaken, plastic is not good. It may have some applications that do make it a better choice, but mostly not.

Total items: 89 – all I can say is wow

Total weight: 4.8 oz

Items: Recyclable
1- herb bag (no number but says recyclable?)
1- produce bag (2)
2- yogurt containers (5)
3- deli containers (5)
1- milk container (2)
1- 1 gallon coconut oil container (2)
1- water bottle (1)
1- takeout container (6) (5)
2- compostable spoons (2)
1- coconut milk tin can
1- cupcake cups package (1)
3- meat plastics
1- styrofoam meat container, no

Items: Nonrecyclable
2- deli meat bags
1- sandwich bag
1- produce bag
2- cheese wrappers
2- saran wrap style
1- gauze box, cardboard but glossy and no recyclable information, probably coated in plastic
1- finger splint box, same as above
1- ibuprofen box, same as above
1- noodle
bag2- cracker bag
3- cutlery
1- blister wrap
1- styrofoam wrap
1- chip bag, publix
2- Mochi cups, I think they have plastic coating, the company hasn’t written me back to say either way
1- cereal bag
1- plastic casing for finger splints
2- ziplock bags
1- cracker bag
1- carrot bag
2- seasoning mix bags
1- publix sub package
1- waffle box, looks like it’s coated, but maybe not
1- food processor body, oh why! It got melted by the oven, oh a total waste.
4- frozen vegetable bags
3- mail envelope plastics
1- toothbrush wrapper
3- Saran wrap style
1- produce tie with large tag
3- glass container lids with plastic coating
2- misc lids
6- pieces of misc plastics, small ones
1- styrofoam meat container, no Number
3- meat packages

What items can I easily replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
I want to work on the yogurt cups
We typically don’t buy deli meats
Talked to the meat people about paper wrap
Ziplock was a fluke, we’ve been out of those, but someone gave us bread in them
Coconut oil

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
Bread packages
Take out containers

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
I’m going to try to replace my food processor with a used one, but it’ll be tough without it
Meat is tough, we have been vegetarian and did not fair well. I feel that plastic covered grass fed local meat would be continued maybe in less amounts maybe. I will try to figure it out though.

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
Learning to make yogurt

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
Frozen fruit packages, I’ll only get fresh in season

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
All I can say is wow! What a learning experience.

10 Responses to “Plastic Challenge: Sabrina L, Week 1”

  1. Sabrina says:

    Oh, ward’s is getting a talking to. I’m ready to get a petition together, but I want to find out their reasons first. Then I will ask fellow petitioners for their input on solutions.

  2. Jessica says:

    Well, you inspired me! I went to Ward’s today and bought VERY few plastic-packaged items, despite spending over $90 on food. They said their shopping bags are corn, but I had brought my own. Do you know if the bulk bin bags there are compostable, too? They don’t seem like they are.

    If you talk to Ward’s, please assail them over the fact that nearly all their lettuces come in plastic casings!

    Much love for you for doing this!

  3. Sabrina says:

    Don’t b scared Jessica! I mean, I just wanna hide my head in a paper bag looking at all my trash! We’ve been able to make changes so quickly now because of this. There are still lingering plastics in my home, and since I am not just counting what we have brought in for the week, but anything that was in use or here and then is getting disposed of it feels like a plastic exile at my home! Since it’s happening so quick, and I haven’t gotten any systems in place, my fridge is getting bare and so are my cupboards. But I’m talkingto the store owners, emailing everyone, and refusing/ boycotting things. Getting the materials together to go bulk shopping has been tough. Maybe had I done this slower? But I’m feeling so inspired to make a change now and my family is on board, we just can’t go back…:).

  4. Jessica says:

    Hey, Sabrina! I’m so glad you did this! I have been too scared to do the challenge so far….

    I have some silicon muffin cups you can have. I had a set of 12, but one got thrown out by a guest, so I replaced them with two silicone trays that make 6 muffins each. If you want a set of 11 cups, just let me know, and I can give them to you next time I see ya!


  5. I finally figured out the yogurt thing. I posted my method in the comments here: http://myplasticfreelife.com/showyourplastic/2011/01/danielle-week-4/

    My food processor has cracked plastic around the blade, and I’ve been totally on the fence about replacing it or even just the part. Maybe we could put our two dead ones together and have one working one! :)

    So far I’ve been getting by using a combination of my stand mixer and blender. The only thing is grating veggies… I keep shredding my fingers doing it by hand! Anyhow, I’m currently scouring the thrift stores for one of those blenders made from glass instead of plastic, and I’em even considering getting one of those old meat grinder things (you know the metal kind that attaches to the counter top with the crank handle) and seeing if it would work to grate veggies.

  6. claire says:

    yeah, we only realize how much of it is around us when we want to stop using it… like people still think paper cups are coated with wax (I wonder if anyone out there still makes them that way?) or that glue is made from horse hooves. plastic came into use as a substitute for natural “resources” that were limited/expensive, like ivory or tortoiseshell, and now it’s been silently sneaking into every avenue of manufacturing so that we still think things are made from the material that was originally used.

  7. Sabrina says:

    Thanks Claire for the explanations. Plastic shows up everywhere it seems! It’s kind of funny if it werent so awful…good to know about the shiny coating on paper boxes. I am learning so much. It’s all so interconnected.

  8. claire says:

    make sure the paper deli wrap isn’t plastic coated. usually wrappers that are made for things that are wet or oily are coated with plastic. if it feels like parchment paper, kind of non-stick and slippery, that’s likely coated with plastic. you can always bring your own container for deli meats (just ask them to take off the tare weight of the container or weigh it by itself), but I recently had someone tell me that since there’s more air space in the container than in the bags, it will dry out faster.

    I can’t pick out the gauze box/ibuprofen box in the picture, but sometimes boxes will have a shiny coating on the outside that isn’t actually plastic, like magazine paper they use corn based substances to make it shine. but boxes for things like frozen foods (with no inner wrapper) are usually coated with plastic. it’s used to retain or keep out moisture, so if this was a box around a plastic pill bottle, it’s not likely to be coated. if it’s holographic in any way though, that will have plastic in it. I think the metallic effect can be achieved just by using aluminum, but to get the holographic effect, plastic has to be used.

    a lot of the pliable plastic bags and shrink wrap are #2 or #4 and can sometimes go into plastic bag recycling bins– even unlabeled (new york encourages this but they ask you to check with the store before putting them in, here’s a reference for NY: http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/50063.html). cling wrap is sometimes made of pvc so unless it states what it’s made from it’s probably best to leave it out of the recycling bin.

    when I make muffins and cupcakes, I don’t bother with the liners. I grease the pans and what you end up losing in crumbs stuck to the pan is about the same as the crumbs that would stick to the paper. the only difference is you have to wash it off (this is always how it goes with disposables vs. reusables).

    good luck with reducing your plastic waste, it’s really tough when it comes to food packaging, it’s always either DIY or expensive obscure product. but if you haven’t already, try farmer’s markets and natural foods stores.

    p.s. I love gainesville.

  9. Sabrina says:

    This has been eye opening! This week sort of stinks because while I have brought very little plastic into our house, we have halted buying things until I can figure it out. Which means that we are using up things we already had, but they were wrapped in plastic. Ugh. Next week will be drastic! We have done so much. Getting ready to tally up, and resend tis past one.

  10. Beth Terry says:

    Sabrina, I’m really glad your family is participating in the challenge. I’ll be interested to learn how your yogurt-making goes.

    It sucks when durable plastic items break. I accidentally melted the plastic handle of a pot lid, and it ended up in my plastic stash, and taught me a lesson about being more careful.

    I don’t know how much meat you eat, but I agree that cutting back is probably the best idea, if you don’t do well with giving it up entirely. Can you bring your own container to the butcher? That’s what we do for meat for our cats.

    Looking forward to your progress. :-)