The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

February 13, 2009

Gimme5, Brita, Preserve, and You!

Beth Terry delivers BRITA filters to Whole Foods OaklandCan you believe that the day this photo was taken I was so sick I could barely stand up?

I wrote all about the culmination of the Take Back The Filter campaign in a post on the Take Back The Filter web site, but I forgot to write about it here… until today. Michael woke me up from a sound sleep this morning with the news that I and the campaign had made the front page of a very important newspaper. Better than the NY Times, I made our local East Bay Express.

Seriously, the article “The Blogger and the Bleach Company” is very well-written and balanced, describing the reasons behind the campaign as well as its results. And reading it, I realize how important it is now that the recycling program has been created that we support it and make sure Brita users know it exists. If no one actually returns their filters for recycling, the program could fail and be discontinued.

Here’s the deal: Preserve has created a recycling program called Gimme5, collecting not only Brita pitcher filters but all #5 plastic containers (like yogurt containers and prescription bottles) as well as all Preserve products. Preserve is a U.S. company that manufactures toothbrushes, razors, and housewares from #5 (polypropylene) recycled plastic. The recycling happens here in the U.S., creating much-needed jobs domestically rather than exporting the plastic overseas, as is the case with most of our plastic recycling.

There are two ways to return #5 plastics to Preserve. Drop items into Gimme5 bins at select Whole Foods Markets or ship them back via U.S. mail to:

Preserve Gimme 5
823 NYS Rte 13
Cortland, NY 13045

The Gimme5 web site has complete instructions for how items should be packaged. And here is the official Brita recycling web page.

I’ve been collecting my used Preserve toothbrushes to mail back en masse, saving postage and fuel. I’m happy that I can instead drop them off in the Gimme5 bin at Whole Foods (using my feet or bike pedals for transit.)

So what about recycling #5 plastic? Haven’t I been arguing that we should find alternatives to plastic rather than relying on recycling as the answer? I sure have. And I still feel that way. But I also feel that this program provides a way to deal responsibly with certain plastics that might be unavoidable for many people.

I personally don’t use any water filter these days. We had our water tested and found it to be perfectly fine as is. But unfortunately there are people whose tap water is not great or who have lead pipes or who just don’t like the taste and would otherwise purchase bottled water. For these people, filters like Brita are a fact of life, and having a way to recycle them is important.

While I may not use Brita filters anymore, I do end up with the ocassional prescription bottle. In California, they cannot be refilled by the pharmacy. Knowing that they will be recycled responsibly by Preserve, a company that happens to be a member of Co-op America’s Green Business Network, rather than shipped to China is reassuring.

The Gimme5 program is not a free pass to go crazy buying disposable #5 plastics. But it is an important player in the field of Extended Producer Responsibility, the philosophy that companies that release their products into the world should provide for the full life-cycle of those products, providing cradle to cradle systems for extending the useful life of the materials, reducing waste, and conserving energy and resources.

Here in Oakland, we’ve just been informed that we can now drop wide-mouthed containers into our curbside recycling bins. Previously, we could only recycle narrow-necked bottles. So we have a choice. We can recycle #5 containers at the curb or take them to Whole Foods. Which method is better?

Right now, I’m thinking Gimme5 beats the curb because we know where the materials are going and who is responsible for them. The plastic left in our curbside bins will most likely be shipped to various companies in Asia. We don’t know what products will be created from the materials, what safeguards will be used in the process, what toxins will be released, or even if the plastic will be recycled at all.

Finally, AND MOST IMPORTANT, if we want the Gimme5 program to succeed, it’s up to us to promote it. Let your friends and family know. If you have a blog, let your readers know. And the idea that came to me this morning as I read about the campaign in my local paper: write a letter to the editor!

How about this for a sample?


Plastic waste is a serious environmental problem. It is made from fossil fuels and does not biodegrade, lasting virtually forever and wreaking havoc in the natural world.

Fortunately, a new program called Gimme5 is attempting to deal responsibly with some of our plastic waste. Customers can return used #5 (polypropylene) plastic containers as well as Brita pitcher water filters and used Preserve products to select Whole Foods markets or mail them back to Preserve for recycling. Full details of the program are at

I am not personally associated with Preserve, Whole Foods, or Brita, but as an individual attempting to live responsibly on the planet, I highly recommend this program.



I came up with that letter off the top of my head. I’m sure you could do even better. Or just copy mine. Most newspapers these days have ways to send letters to the editor through their web site. You don’t even need a stamp! Whatever you do, please come back here and leave a comment. Let us know what paper(s) you contacted and what you wrote.

Yes, I know Preserve is a for-profit company, and this is like free advertising for them. So?

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Martin at Plasticless
14 years ago

I bought a Brita despite their unavailability in Tunisia. Now I have to consider saving up the used filters and taking them with me whenever I end up moving to/visiting a country that has an available recycling option. Oh well, I have gone through customs and security with weirder stuff before. It helps to have a print out of a labeled patent illustration.

14 years ago

YEA! Congrats! I love that you were able to get this program off the ground! I will blog about it and proudly take all my #5’s to my local Whole Foods!


Green Bean
14 years ago

How totally wonderful Beth!! You look great for being so sick and you are so right. First step, create a program. Second step, for those of us who can, support the program. Third step, watch the program flourish and grow.

Rachel Whitman
14 years ago

Congratulations, Beth! I read about the Brita Recycling on & saw you were the source of this great news – you are an environmental hero!

14 years ago

Man, you have been blogging like a mo fo! Hope you’re having a nice time NOT having dinner with us, I mean @ Wicked. I don’t have too much else to say; I gotta run, I just got a free pass to go crazy buying disposable #5 plastics! yay!

14 years ago

I will shave a little more proudly with my Preserve razor. Way to go Beth and everyone!

14 years ago

Thanks for posting a sample letter. I love writing letters to companies, but I usually don’t have the inclination unless someone posts their own or uses a good phrase that describes just how I’m feeling.

This is great news! We just switched to Brita from PUR for this reason.

14 years ago

Dadly, Whole Foods doesn’t participate in Virginia. I did find a company called Aveda that is in our local mall that will take #5 recycling because our county does not.

14 years ago

Congratulations Beth and thank you! It’s wonderful to see that you were highlighted in the paper. You’ve showed us again that with a little legwork we citizens can make a big difference.

14 years ago

Beth – That is awesome, but I have a question…

What is the capacity that Gimme5 has? If this program was greatly expanded, would they be able to handle the giant influx of additional materials, or would they just use some and others would end up in the landfill?

14 years ago

Beth that’s wonderful. You’ve done such a great job. Huge respect. Karen x

14 years ago

This is great! Thank you!!!

Chiot's Run
14 years ago

I’ll have to start a #5 recycling box in my recycling area.

14 years ago

Hi Beth,
I’m glad these great news came so soon after this stupid incident with the Fark-webpage. Congratulations to this huge succes!
You are a great inspiration to me, I always thought I already live very green, but you prove me wrong and I’ll try my best to follow your example.
And you know, some decades ago, everybody was making fun of the few people who tried to live green and now it’s a huge movement. I kind of get the feeling that it’s going to be the same way with a movement against plastic and you can be very proud of being one of it’s initiators.
Keep on going and inspiring people!
Many greetings from Denmark!

14 years ago

Congrats! Especially good on the heals of that horrific bologna. Your hard work is absolutely inspiring, please do not ever forget that.

The success of the Gimme5 program is extremely important and I am thinking about its necessity as the catalyst for a chain reaction of take-back programs that could one day reach further into our society, beyond the reaches of cities big and small. I am from a rural town in Maine where the nearest Whole Foods is some 3 hrs away. To imagine people mailing all of their #5s is seemingly far-fetched.

I really hope we can fan the flames of advocacy for more of such programs around the US.

Thanks for all of your diligent efforts, Beth.

Bianca in Berlin (from Maine)

John Costigane
14 years ago

Hi Beth,

Cradle to cradle is the future. We need to ditch the throwaway mentality and think sustainable.

Great to see your fine work acknowledged in the media.

Judy N.
14 years ago

Beth, That is so-o cool that you made the local press – and, yes, I will hightail it over to Whole Foods and drop off my prescription bottles, too! Thanks for all your great advocacy – the world is a greener place because of you! (smile) Judy