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I’m 24 years old, female, residing in Houston. I’m currently halfway between two living situations — I’ve moved all my stuff into a new apartment of my very own but still live and sleep primarily with my partner at their place a few blocks away. I’ve included in the tally my own plastic waste, as well as plastic waste we share.
I have noticed that some plastic waste has gone into the trashcan without my noticing, so what you see here is plastic for maybe a person and a half.
Total items: 32
Total weight: ??
1 used contact lens solution (#1, although i’m not sure if this type of container is recyclable here. the lid will go in the trash.)
1 bottle of, uhm, adult play lubricant (#1, same problem as above).
2 cans of tomato sauce (included because the lining is probably plastic).
1 can of Dr. Pepper (included because the lining is probably plastic).
1 used lemon juice container (#4, same problem as above).
2 used honey bears (#1, same problem as above).
plastic packaging from sliced turkey (bottom is #7, lid doesn’t have a number).
1 plastic cover from a sour cream tub.
1 shipping label that i used for a shopping list.
1 hairtie that broke. i assume the fabric coating around the rubberband is something synthetic.
1 plastic hangar and tie from a set of new dishtowels.
2 envelope windows. there are some things my bank sends by snail mail, even though i’ve opted for electronic correspondence. i’ve gotten lots of mail from the previous occupant of my apartment, but have sent them back to the sender.
2 beer bottle caps (they have some sort of seal, but i don’t know what it is made of).
1 sticker from a new credit card (okay, this was actually a friend’s).
1 plastic giftcard i used up.
plastic holding the cork from a used bottle of alcohol.
plastic seal from a new bottle of alcohol.
1 bottle of contact lens solution i stopped using because it expired in 2008 and my eyes were starting to hurt.
1 plastic seal from a new bottle of contact lens solution.
1 plastic-backed aluminum seal, probably from the new bottle of contact lens solution.
1 bottle of adult play lubricant that hadn’t been thrown out.
2 plastic packaging items from new cutting boards.
1 plastic cellophane packaging from i know not what.
1 plastic-backed aluminum seal from a new plastic honey container.
1 plastic butter pad.
1 Werther’s packaging.
1 to-go coffee lid (#6)
1 plastic grocery bag (it was the trashcan liner).
2 styrofoam holders and cellophane from salmon bought at the store.
1 styrofoam holder and cellophane from chicken bought at the store.
What items could I easily replace with plastic-free or less plastic alternatives?
Some of the food packaging. The guy at the fish counter in the store today didn’t seem to think it would be a problem to bring my own containers, so maybe I can buy meat like that. Maybe the deli meat can be bought like this too? I’m not sure how I would go about doing that. I do also buy salami wrapped in waxed paper and prefer it to the turkey; the turkey is more my partner’s doing.
I did find new honey in a glass jar, but it seems like it’s only at some stores, so there’s one more honey coming up. Sugar free cough drops are hard/impossible to find not in plastic. I’ve been sick, and although honey has helped the cough more than cough drops, they are indispensable when I need to be away from home.
I could juice my own lemons.
I would also love to have a food mill to make my own tomato sauce, but that is a project that won’t happen for a while.
A few things were generated while out (plastic coffee lid, plastic single-serve butter container, plastic individually-wrapped Werther’s that a friend gave me in pity of the cough). These are all things I don’t normally generate, and were from being treated out to restaurants.
I don’t usually wear contacts either, but my glasses have broken and I can’t afford to buy new ones yet. So there will be lens solution bottles for a while.
What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic-free alternative doesn’t exist?
All of the above!
What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
Oddly, none of the items I didn’t just mention seem truly “essential”, but none of them have an easy plastic alternative that I can think of either.
What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
Looks like if I want to buy meat, I’m going to have to find another way.
What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
Honey (in fact I did find raw honey in a glass jar). Lemon juice (I’ll try to buy real lemons, although I have one more lemon juice container in the fridge before I can do that). I use lemon juice a lot in my cooking, so that would be good. And I’ll investigate Fiesta’s policy on bringing meat home in your own container.
What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
I was surprised that most of the plastic waste I generated was not what I expected it to be. It’s also more than I expected!
One of the things I expected to be prominent was trashbags, because I use plastic grocery bags for that. In fact I’m investigating worms for a vermiculture bin in order to eliminate that plastic trash. But we only had to take the trash out once, so it actually doesn’t figure prominently in my tally. A lot of the other plastic waste was also not expected. The Challenge is quite eye opening in that way!
On the lube subject, coconut oil is the BEST. If, that is, you don't use condoms. But, it's great for your skin & you can put it in smoothies or cook with it.
@Shell: I drop mine off there too! Ayup, I do recycle the cans, but I was so shocked to learn that cans are lined in plastics (?!) that I wanted to make sure I included them in my count. I've pretty much quit my addiction to cokes! I'm pretty stoked about that.
Hey Natalie... I live in Houston too. They recycle #1-5,7 plastics here. I go to the West University drop off recycling center and they take a lot of stuff there. I've never seen a sign saying that they couldn't take aluminum or bi-metal cans that are lined in plastic so I usually deposit them there. I guess they sort them out or don't have a problem recycling them? I don't drink soft drinks but my co-workers do so I recycle the cans for them. Good luck with the challenge! Shell
Beth: I actually had second thoughts upon posting and worried my Challenge post wasn't PG enough for your blog! Latex isn't a problem for us, I don't think... maybe we should try that sometime. The lube we use is basically a bunch of vegetable oils mixed together anyway. Melissa: I'm so excited! I admit I bought new plastic for boxes. Now everything is set up, minus my worms. They will come soon, I hope.
I'm impressed with how thorough you were, Natalie. I would not have thought to include aluminum cans, even though I know about the BPA lining (for that reason, we don't actually buy too many canned goods). Now I'm trying to look back on my Week 1 (which should be posted here soon) to see if I overlooked anything. I started vermicomposting in March, and I really like it (though I must admit that my worm bins are plastic -- maybe one day I'll have cool wooden bins).
Hi Natalie. Collecting your plastic waste and looking at it is really educational, isn't it? I was shocked at how much plastic waste I collected in my first week. You're a lot further along than I was 3 years ago. There is lemon juice in a glass bottle if you can find it. Of course, there is plastic under the metal lid. It depends on how often you use lemon juice and whether you can get lemons all year round that are not shipped from someplace far away. The brand of lemon juice I buy is this one: http://www.lakewoodjuices.com/ The lube is a funny one. We actually use canola oil that comes in a glass bottle. For real. I've had no problems. But it doesn't get along with condoms, so forget it if you have that need. TMI? You started it. And yeah, we bring our own containers to the meat counter. I'm a vegetarian, but my cats aren't. We buy a pot full of ground meat for them once a week.