January 4, 2011

December 2010 Plastic Waste Tally

3.1 oz Plastic Waste [3.1 oz new/0 oz acquired prior to June 2007]

Beth Terry's December 2010 Plastic Trash Collection by Beth Terry, on Flickr

2010 is over! It’s a new year, a new blog name, a new My Plastic-free Life Facebook page (Yes, if you are a fan of the previous Fake Plastic Fish Facebook page, please click the “Like” button on the new My Plastic-free Life page to continue seeing updates and just to show your support. You can “Unlike” the Fake Plastic Fish page to avoid duplicate updates for the next week or so.)

I’ll have a final tally for the year as well as summary of the successes and challenges of 2010 and big plans for 2011 in my next post. For now, here is the tally for December:

Beth’s December plastic waste collection

Plastic purchased before June 15 2007 and used up in the last month (0 oz):

    Nothing. This month, it’s all new plastic.

New plastic waste (3.1 oz):

  • Plastic packing tape from package ordered from Etsy.com. Sometimes when I try to avoid a little bit of plastic, I end up with more than I would have. Before the TEDxGreatPacificGarbagePatch event in November, I worried that my face would be shiny on camera and that I had no powder since I got rid of all my old toxic cosmetics way back and have never been able to find face powder without any plastic packaging. So, after a failure trying to make my own face powder using cornstarch and cocoa (more on that in a future post), I turned to Etsy and found a seller offering vintage metal compacts with the powder still in them. Never used! So I bit.Unfortunately, the powder arrived after I left for the conference and with so much plastic tape (I forgot to ask about the tape!), I would have probably been better off going for the Physician’s Formula Organic Wear face powder which comes in a compostable cardboard compact. I didn’t buy it because as I recall there was a little plastic window in the box.

    Packing tape is my nemesis. You can read about plastic-free packing tape alternatives here. A commenter this week criticized me for advocating paper tape over plastic. Of course, I think it’s best to avoid all disposable packaging when possible! But given the choice, I choose paper because it’s biodegradable and you can find brands made from recycled content.

  • Plastic packing tape a Christmas gift. I think this is the only holiday-related plastic I ended up with! But my birthday is next weekend. We’ll see if I get off scott free.
  • Plastic packing tape from a book on plastic pollution. This year, I’m going to insist that if someone wants to send me something to review on this blog, they HAVE to use plastic-free tape to send it to me.
  • Another big fat cheese wrapper. Like last month, I ended up breaking down once and opening a package of cheese that someone brought home, just like I did the previous month. It happens.  I blame stress.
  • Two vials of Frontline flea treatment for cats. Read about our flea dilemma here. I’ve gotten suggestions to try rubbing diatomaceous earth directly on the cats’ fur, but honestly, I don’t want to breathe that stuff, or allow my cats to breathe it.
  • Four plastic envelope windows from financial institutions that don’t offer online banking yet. Learn about what plastic envelope windows are made from.
  • Three prescription bottles and caps. One of the these was a prescription strength bottle of Ibuprofen I’d had for years and finally used up. Preserve’s Gimme5 program will accept the #5 bottles for recycling. But sadly, the state of California will not allow pharmacies to refill them, which would be the ideal solution to me.

That’s it for December. Don’t forget to change your subscriptions and links for this blog and “Like” the new Facebook page. Cheers!

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12 years ago

On face powder! I don’t wear make-up at all, except for special functions. But as I read this post I flashed back to something I must have received as a gift from someone many years ago — face powder sheets. I just googled them and found some at: https://www.beautyhabit.com/collections/face/products/papier-poudre-rachel
Forgive me if perhaps you have already looked into this and found them wanting. But my recollection of them is that they come in a sort of paper/cardboard little booklet, and are sheets of paper with face powder on one side. You just take a sheet and blot it onto your skin. As far as I can tell they are plastic free. Thought I’d add this in for your future reference!

12 years ago

Good point – i use the Oregon State University pharmacy primarily since I’m a student. I guess I haven’t tried to do it anywhere else, but it would seem that it is at least not illegal in Oregon, whether the chain pharmacies will refill or not. Another reason to check out independent shops!

12 years ago

For folks in other states, check out the prescription reuse policies. My pharmacy in Oregon refills my maintenance prescription bottle.

12 years ago

Hi Beth, I have been following your blog for the last year now and I just wanted to comment on your cats and the flea dilemma. I work at a veterianry hospital and we have been noticing lately that the clients using Frontline on their cats have been having a flea resistance to that product. Have you considered trying another type of flea control? We tell people to try advantage or revolution. Just a thought! I know that it would still be using some sort of plastic but at least it would be using something that works!

12 years ago

I had a similar flea problem and the same reluctance to use pesticides on my furry friend. The problem with fleas is that they can live in a state of rest and that this resting state is not killed by pesticides. What was recommended to me was use the Advantage for 3-4 months as that is longer then the fleas can rest so ideally the problem should be taken care of by then. It worked for me and my small dog. However if fleas are being continuously introduced thats a different problem altogether. Here in Canada we have the “relief” of winter so that also helps keep them away.

12 years ago

Are you sure you need to treat for fleas in the winter? When I had cats I found that treating in warm weather was enough (and I also found that sadly none of the “natural” treatments worked).

Jilly Carver
12 years ago

I was interested in the cutting board dilemma. Since the one you got is a dark color how will you know if it also has the dark stains on it like the white one you showed in your photo? It isn’t the look I’m concerned with, it’s more what’s healthy. Is all that dark stuff on the cutting board a mold of some kind? Anyway, it might be on your new one too.

12 years ago


-cellophane, like rayon, is made from cellulose (derived from plant material), read about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cellophane
-masking tape is typically made of paper (this mentions that some is made from plastic, but they’re probably specialty tapes, not the kind you would normally buy: , plus whatever its glue happens to be made from
-duct tape is made of plastic-coated fabric (likely synthetic), plus the adhesive (wikipedia is apparently my answer to everything: .

I’ve been wondering what happens to the plastic windows and plastic tape myself… they float in the mixture so they’re sorted out in the recycling process, I guess it’s possible some chemicals might leach from them, we know receipt paper leaches BPA into the mix. I think you’d have to talk to individual recycling plants to find out about what happens to the plastic waste, it could theoretically be recycled, but since it’s probably so mixed I doubt it actually is. I wonder the same thing about plastic in aluminum recycling.

as far as wrapping paper goes, it’s just the foil kind that’s not recyclable. if it’s holographic in any way it has plastic in it, or if it’s glittery it’s most likely plastic (some glitter is made from mica or metal, but not much). if it’s shiny it probably has a corn based coatings to give it shine, but it’s always possible that it is a plastic coating. as far as I know, shiny paper is ok to recycle, except for things like plastic-coated cups. I’ve been wondering about plastic coated frozen food packages, like frozen vegetable boxes (pretty much anything frozen that doesn’t have a bag inside). if you’re not sure about swheat scoop, send them an email and ask them what the coating is made from and whether the paper is recyclable. if the bag is several layers like cat food bags, you can separate the recyclable part from the non-recyclable part with a little bit of effort.

cream cheese wrappers, like foil yogurt covers, have that white paint on the inside. I think they’re likely coated with plastic because most food-contact foil is (except for the foil you buy on a roll because this isn’t intended for long term storage). the white paint itself might be the moisture barrier and theoretically could be a non-plastic based paint, but I doubt it. I can’t find anything about what this is actually made of. I did find a page once about those little cheese wedge wrappers (like laughing cow) which specifically mentioned plastic, but they have a clear coating, not a white one.

hope this helps! and questioning what things are made from is a good thing, it’s crazy for us to blindly accept that products just “are” and not to consider how they came to be.

12 years ago

OK… now you’ve got me thinking… and my brain is reeling

So cellophane isn’t plastic? What is it then? Is masking tape plastic? What about duct tape? And what happens to all of the plastic tape and envelope windows when they go through the recycling? Do all of those chemicals end up in our recycled paper?

And… now that my brain is going… are those foil packages that cream cheese comes in really foil… or are they plastic? And does anybody know if Swheat Scoop bags are recyclable? The outside looks an awful lot like wrapping paper which is not…

Sorry to pummel you with questions… it seems this post set off some sort of plastic switch in my brain. You even got me to buy a bar of unpackaged soap yesterday and now I’m considering buying a cheese share at our local CSA.

And on the cat front… I totally hear you in regards to garlic, because I panicked when I saw it on the ingredient list… which is why I asked my vet about it. I can only say that the amount of garlic contained in the supplement is extremely tiny, and my 13 year old cat has had it at every meal since we adopted him at age 3, and he’s currently running around the house like a kitten. I’m not pushing, because I totally think everyone should make their own decisions about what’s in their pet’s best interest… just giving you info. I pray my cats never get fleas!

12 years ago

I do have to say that your plastic waste tally is becoming boring! Congratulations!

12 years ago

this page talks about packing tape in paper recycling and mentions that the self-adhesive paper kind (usually synthetic adhesives) can jam up the equipment, but the water activated kind isn’t a problem. there’s also self-adhesive cellophane tape, which will break up in the recycling process, but might have the same issue with the adhesive. (here’s a page about how cellophane tape and its adhesives are made: http://www.madehow.com/Volume-1/Cellophane-Tape.html I had a company send me a package after I’d requested “no plastic packing materials” with what appeared to be plastic tape on it. when I mentioned it, they told me it was cellophane tape, but how can you tell? I keep wondering if there is a way to differentiate them, like looking at them under a microscope. the only thing I can think of is that cellophane tears more readily than plastic.

and the person complaining about using paper products over plastic ones appears not to have noticed that this is a running theme in going plastic free, which is why we try to support recycled paper products and zero waste in general, and that the biodegradable option for a single-use item is typically the better one.

12 years ago

Have you tried using “Missing Link” supplements for the fleas? It’s a feline supplement made mostly of ground flax seeds, but it has a bunch of other stuff as well. One of the ingredients is garlic, which originally concerned me because in large doses it can be toxic to cats. So I asked my vet and wrote to the company and it turns out that in very small doses garlic is a natural flea repellant.

It does come in a plastic bag though…. UG! It’s a thought anyhow…

Condo Blues
12 years ago

My husband wrapped all of my Christmas gifts plastic free – he used our paper gift bags stash. To make my gift wrapping job easier, greener, and a little cheaper I’m dipping into my costuming fabric stash and making fabric gift bags. Finally, a use for all of those velvet scraps!

The plastic packing tape from a book on plastic pollution is ironic.

Reenie R
12 years ago

What an inspiration you’ve been, Today I took my first step. I will be putting my plastic trash into one bag, and then in a week look at it. see where I can make changes. No more on sale bags of organic potatoes and apples, two staples that help my budget. And that organic frozen fruit in plastic, I wondered, while dropping a few cherries into some stoneyfield yogurt. And I’ll have to make my own yogurt. What a whirl my mind was in. So calm down, let’s just gather the plastic first, and see how quickly it piles up, and where are the easiest places to Switch. By the way, Beth, have you read the book Switch, by the Heath brothers. It’s all about creating change in your life or in society. Clear, practical, simple. I loved the book. Thank you for all your inspiration, and Happy New Year!

Passion Purveyors
12 years ago

We use masking tape on all our shipments. I thought we were doing good. Then I realized that after I leave FedEx – they cover the box in plastic tape! They say it’s because masking tape doesn’t hold. The only paper tape they don’t cover over in plastic tape is the reinforced paper kind that has a gummed back (like and envelope) and needs a special dispenser. So that is our next task…

12 years ago

Scot-free, or Scotch (tape)-free? :) Happy new year!

Kate E.
12 years ago

Wow, Beth! You are very inspirational!!! You have encouraged me to try tallying my plastic finally this year! Thank you!