The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

October 1, 2007

Of Water and Weirdness

I tabled at Temescal again on Sunday, this time wearing a different shirt. A “Think Outside The Bottle” shirt, to be exact. And instead of tabling as me, an Oakland resident who simply wanted to encourage other Oakland residents to give up plastic bags, I represented an organization. Wow, was that a different experience. It kind of reminded me of my early days canvassing for Clean Water Action. We had an agenda, and a quota, and a “script.” Except this time, we were looking for volunteers rather than monetary contributions.

And while I totally support The World Water Challenge’s goals (encouraging mayors in 7 cities to cancel bottled water contracts and support local tap water), I think that at 42 I’m a little too independent-minded to fit into the organizational mold. So I’ll be going to the “kick-off meeting” on Wednesday. But I’m not sure I’ll table for this group again.

On my way home, I passed along College Avenue where the Rockridge Street Fair was in full-swing. And I happened upon the booth of my city councilperson, Jane Brunner, “manned” by her assistant, Maria. What an opportunity! I spoke to Maria about recycling in Oakland, asking why Oakland can’t recycle wide-mouthed containers, like San Francisco does. And she said, “I thought we did! I always put my yogurt containers in the recycling.”

This is what I’m talking about! How can anyone be expected to get it right when even our city representatives don’t know what the rules are?!?! So I explained to her the ins and outs of Oakland recycling (which she confirmed with her friend who was walking by), gave her my card, and asked her to please get back to me. I’m not going to give up until I get a good explanation. If San Francisco can recycle their yogurt and cottage cheese and pudding containers, why can’t Oakland?

As the day drew to a close, Michael and I BARTed into San Francisco to see his favorite band, They Might Be Giants, at the historic Fillmore Auditorium. Hungry from all my morning and afternoon activism, I looked at the menu in the Fillmore’s upstairs cafe and attempted a plastic-free meal. How could you go wrong with a garden burger? The only plastic-free beverage was bottled beer. I ordered a Guinness.

The garden burger arrived with 3 plastic condiment packets, which I handed back, and an unexpected plastic cup of salsa to go with a handful of unexpected tortilla chips. See, this is what happens when you assume instead of asking ahead of time what comes with a meal. Fortunately, our server was happy to take back the salsa cup, confirming that she would reuse it, and even said, “I love that you’re like this.” An unexpected weird little compliment. I’ll take it!

There were recycling bins throughout the Fillmore for cans and bottles. Unfortunately, most of the drinks come in big plastic cups, which are not accepted in the recycle bins. It boggles the mind to think of just how many plastic cups are tossed out every night. But once the music started, my mind let go of plastic and garbage and recycling issues for a few hours. It was a relief to just be. And fun to see how happy this nerdy band can make people. How often in this crazy world do you find people rocking out to songs about famous painters and historical figures and physics?

I think every crusade needs a little levity. Don’t you agree?

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14 years ago

I’ve always opted for plastic rather than paper bags because plastic bags are waterproof, more durable, and fit easily into my backpack. If I get plastic bags, I keep resusing them until they fall apart and then I recycle them. However, with paper bags I usually end up immediately putting them in the recycling. Is it more eco-friendly to reuse paper bags once or twice before recycling or to reuse plastic bags 10-15 times before recycling?

Beth Terry
15 years ago

Anonymous, who are you? Can you please e-mail me privately? Please oh please? You sound like someone who has answers that I need!

15 years ago

Hi Beth
The thing about wide-mouthed drives me crazy too, but here’s the skinny second hand from someone who knows the system (works in it). Oakland does not have a contract with WasteManagement (the company)for these types of plastics, however, WasteManagement processes them for other cities in the East Bay and does not separate Oakland’s trash from these other cities (like San Leandro) – therefore, if you put them into your recycling bin, they will be recycled. Oakland’s official line, however, is that they haven’t paid for that service.

Beth Terry
15 years ago

I would recommend offering plastic coat hangers to your local Freecycle group. There certainly might be people who could use them.

travelling sheep
15 years ago

Hi Beth,

After reading about all your campaigning and especially after seeing the picture of the box of free old plastic bags for re-use at a farmers market, I started wondering if something similar could be done with plastic coat hangers. Some people could use a few more, and plenty of people have too many, or kids sizes that they don’t use anymore. Does anyone know of schemes to pass them on? I guess they could be recycled, but it seems like a waste of energy.

Good luck with plastic bags and bottled water. Tomorrow I will be taking my tea in a steel bottle when I go out, and a tote just in case I decide to pick something up from a shop.

terrible person
15 years ago

Here is a piece from NPR yesterday on the effects of plastic on wildlife in the Pacific (but nothing Beth hasn’t pointed out before.)
And here is one from the SF Chronicle about a new report about chemicals in the Bay, our old friend PDBE. (Not specifically plastic, but we’ve discussed this here before.)

Oh, and I couldn’t find a review of the TMBG concert the other night, but here is a nice article from a SoCal paper. They don’t really have any songs about plastic, which is odd, since they have songs about pretty much everything else.

15 years ago

YAY for garden burgers!!