The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

Monthly Archives: October 2007

October 11, 2007

Still thinking outside the bottle…

I was there outside Oakland City Hall Wednesday morning to kick off the nationwide “Think Outside The Bottle” campaign. Similar press conferences were being held in other cities around the U.S. at the same time. Here are excerpts from the San Francisco Chronicle article that appeared today, supplemented with photos from my camera:

Bay Area water fight: bottled vs. tap Christopher Heredia, Chronicle Staff Writer

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bottled water, bad. Tap water, good.

That was the message that tap-water advocates delivered on the steps of Oakland City Hall on Wednesday as part of a nationwide campaign to persuade cities, consumers and restaurants to dump bottled water in favor of old-fashioned municipal water.

Not only is bottled water more expensive, said a group of local government leaders and officials for Corporate Accountability International, the nonprofit sponsoring the campaign, but it often comes from the… Read the rest

October 10, 2007

Recycling Part 3 – Further Lessons from Davis Street Transfer Center

My tour of Davis Street Transfer Center continued with a trip to the garbage transfer pit. This is where all of Oakland’s non-recycled garbage is dumped before being transferred in huge trucks to the Altamont Landfill. Just look at it all. You may not be able to tell from the photo how much recyclable material is mixed in with the garbage, but I can assure you that it’s a lot.

LESSON 9: Your hands are the very last human hands that will touch these items before anthropologists dig the stuff up in hundreds of years. That’s pretty much a direct quote from Rebecca Jewell. Contrary to what some people believe, items placed in Oakland garbage bins are never sorted. They are never even touched by human hands once they leave your curb.

Our residential bins are lifted and dumped mechanically into the garbage truck; the truck dumps its load at the transfer station; bulldozers ride over the garbage, compressing it to allow as little air into the… Read the rest

October 9, 2007

First Flush

It’s raining tonight. I know I was going to write more about my trip to the transfer center, but it’s raining tonight. Finally. The water is coming down in sheets and our poor thirsty plants are in shock, as are we. I was going to write about something else, but all I can think about is the rain.

Our first big rain of the season is called “first-flush” because the water washes all the debris and pollutants from the land down the storm drains and into the Bay and finally the sea. I don’t know if tonight is our official first-flush, but walking home I saw rivers of water rushing along the curbs and falling into the drains. And there I was in the dark trying to untangle plastic from the grates before it was swept down.

This is the night of reckoning. During the dry days, plastic bottle caps and lighters and straws and plastic bags are merely theoretical threats to marine life. On a night like this, they become real. Tomorrow our streets… Read the rest

October 8, 2007

Recycling Part 2 – Lessons from the Davis Street Transfer Center

As I mentioned in my first post on the subject of recycling, “Wait! Are you sure that’s recyclable?” I’d scheduled a trip to the Davis Street Transfer Center today, the place where all of Oakland’s garbage and compost and much of its recycling is taken before moving on to its next use or final resting place. My tour guide today was Rebecca Jewell, Davis Street’s recycling program manager. And our first stop was the brand new $9 million MRF (Materials Recovery Facility) which processes up to 400 tons of recyclables per day for 12 difference Bay Area jurisdictions.

Unfortunately, I was not aware before I came that while Davis Street accepts my household garbage and compost, a different recycling company, California Waste Solutions, picks up and processes the recycling for my area of Oakland. According to Rebecca, it’s a smaller facility and may not be able to handle as many different materials as the … Read the rest

October 3, 2007

Glass jars & lids: The Final Word (I hope!)

You may recall the glass jar lid saga in which I recommended cleaning the tomato stains from pasta sauce jar lids with hydrogen peroxide, only to reverse that recommendation a week later after discovering that the peroxide ate away at the coating inside the lids. (And yes, as you will recall, I tried other options such as vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda…)

Used pasta sauce jars are great for storing all kinds of wet and dry foods (as an alternative to plastic containers) except for the tomato smell which is impossible to remove from the lids. Since I can’t clean them out without wreaking all kinds of havoc, I’ve resorted to recycling the lids (yes, my recycling company confirms that they will be processed) and replacing them with new ones. With information provided by Scott at Least Footprint, I’ve been able to find lids for the two main types of pasta sauce jars on the market.

The jar on the left side of the top photo is a regular… Read the rest

October 2, 2007

Magic Stapler – Not magic and not really a stapler

As much as we try to avoid buying new things in order to “step lightly on the planet,” we can still be tempted by shiny, new gadgets. Especially when they are promoted by flashy eco web sites. We shouldn’t let go of our critical thinking skills just because we happen to be browsing a site called But that’s exactly what happened to me when I ordered a free sample of the Magic Stapler based on this Treehugger review. Even though the thing is made out of plastic, my curiosity got the better of me, and I bit.

The “stapler” operates without any staples at all, cutting a hole into the paper, forming a tab which is folded back and through a slit. The idea is similar to the way we used to attach papers in school when we didn’t have a stapler handy by tearing some tabs into the top of the pages and folding them over. Except that method was free and required only our hands, whereas this method requires a jazzy plastic… Read the rest

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.… Read the rest