May 10, 2011

January – April 2011 Plastic Waste Tally

15.4 oz Plastic Waste [11.9 oz new/3.5 oz acquired prior to June 2007]

Beth Terry's January - April 2011 Plastic Trash Collection by Beth Terry, on Flickr

Someone commented a while back that my plastic trash tallies were getting boring because there was so little each month and it all looked the same. After 3-1/2 years of collecting plastic, I was kind of getting bored too. So, here’s 4 month’s worth, all saved up. It might be boring, but at least not as often. :-)

Beth’s January through April 2011 plastic waste collection

Plastic purchased before June 15 2007 and used up in the last month (3.5 oz):

  • 4 plastic spice bottles, 4 plastic lids, 2 plastic shaker tops. Still using up spices in plastic containers and filling glass jars from the bulk bins when I need to restock.
  • Plastic lid from metal spice container.
  • SIM card from old mobile phone. Sold the phone.
  • Venus razor cartridge. As you know, I use a metal safety razor. But I did keep my old plastic Venus razor and a few cartridges for traveling. Double-edged razor blades would not be allowed in my carry-on luggage. I’ve used this cartridge very sparingly, and it’s finally worn out after over 3 years.
  • Cracked credit card holder. I think it came with my gym membership card many years ago. It’s worn out.
  • 4 ripped up foam headphone pads. I already wrote about how excited I was to crochet replacement pads for my headphones.

New plastic waste (11.9 oz):

    wide corks

  • Plastic packing tape and label pouch from corks ordered from The Cork Store. I found some glass pitchers at a thrift store without the plastic tops that go inside them, so I ordered big fat cork stoppers. I did request no plastic packaging, but still the envelope came covered in tape.
  • Two vials of Vectra flea treatment for cats. This is a new one we’re trying. 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.
  • Twenty plastic envelope windows from various sources, including financial institutions that don’t offer online banking yet. Learn about what plastic envelope windows are made from.
  • Five prescription bottles and caps. 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.
  • Plastic bottle, cap, and foam seal from 2 bottles of BalanceIT cat food supplement. Read about our homemade cat food here.
  • “Biodegradable” plastic package from Kaiser prescription order. Biodegradable plastic is baloney. I’ll have even more info on that topic in a future post. I usually pick up my prescriptions from Kaiser, but this was sent while I was out of town.
  • Two “Biodegradable” plastic dry cleaning bags. Argh! This one made me mad because I specifically requested no plastic bags. We took all of our bedding, curtains, futon cover, etc. to be cleaned after dealing with fleas all winter. They wouldn’t fit in the ClothesNik dry cleaning bag we normally use. And for some reason, I used a different cleaner than usual. When I complained the cleaner said, “I know you said you didn’t want plastic bags, but these are biodegradable.”  There’s a new study out about biodegradable polyethylene and what a crock it is. I’ll report back to you after I’ve finished reading it.
  • Toothpaste cap and threads from Tom’s of Maine aluminum toothpaste tube. The aluminum tubes are recyclable, but sadly, Tom’s has switched recently to all plastic tubes. Once I use up my last few aluminum tubes, I’ll be looking for a good alternative recipe that won’t take the enamel off my teeth. Baking soda doesn’t work for me.
  • Five Bandaids. I think I’ve used more Bandaids in the last few months than all year last year. One boo boo after another. Here’s a tip for you: Do not take a very hot glass of liquid out of the microwave and add cold water to it. Oh, you already knew that? Of course you did. I’m just lucky to still have my fingers.
  • Three unwanted plastic straws. Plastic straws do happen to the best of us sometimes when we’re not on our toes.
  • Two tiny plastic liquor bottles. Flying back from Maryland after my mom’s passing in February, I did what I needed to do. No apologies.
  • Wrist band. From a Devo concert at the Warfield. Yeah, you heard me right. I said Devo. I am such a good wife. You should have seen all the plastic hats.
  • Barnes and Noble gift card. Birthday gift. Sadly, it cannot be refilled. But do read about recycling gift cards.
  • Two stickers from cardboard box of EcoDent dental floss. Read about EcoDent here.
  • Plastic condiment cup and lid. I don’t even remember receiving this, but it’s in my collection, so I must have.
  • Plastic seal from a glass bottle of hot sauce. The stopper is wood, but sealed with a little plastic.
  • Two shrink wrappers from Snapfish photo books. I made photo books for my Dad and me to document our cross country trip last year.  The books were cloth bound and delivered in cardboard mailers without tape. The shrink wrap was the only plastic.

Well, that’s 4 month’s worth of plastic. Have you started collecting your own plastic waste? Come on. Take the challenge. Help me fill in the World Map of Challenge participants!

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Beth Terry

I personally think it’s fine. You can also use them for noon-food uses. Or donate to a school for art classes.


Speaking of plastic, I’ve just started looking around at what I can do around my house…is it ok to put my plastic tumblers and Tupperware-type food containers, etc. out on the porch with a big sign on them that says “FREE” ? I don’t want to toss them. Some of them are pretty nice, too.


Hi Beth! I’d mostly come in contact with food grade calcium carbonate behind the scenes at Oakland Museum, where they buy it in bulk, and hadn’t yet looked into how/where to buy it for myself. So a brief look online took me to ebay, where one can get a one-pound package of it for under $10, including shipping. It may also be available over the counter, but I’m not sure where. If you see it over the counter, make sure it’s food-grade, or “precipitated,” which is purified, as opposed to just chowing down on a hunk of limestone. :-) Wanna… Read more »

Petunia GreenBeans

Oh geez. I am sporting some serious plastic-free envy here Beth. You amaze me!! I would love to include your Plastic Trash Challenge in this compilation > if that’s okay with you =D


Any reasons not to use calcium carbonate (instead of baking soda) in homemade toothpaste? I understand it’s the right grit for polishing teeth (and also silver, by the way). And what is in regular white toothpaste.


I look forward to your post on the b.s that it the “biodegradable plastic bag”. As NC Senator Thom Goolsby–the lead sponsor in a bill to repeal the plastic bag ban that is currently in place in the NC Outer Banks– can’t stop bringing up how biodegradable plastic bags could be the best solution (instead of a ban) in all of his responses about why he wants to repeal the ban. Trying to tell someone something is B.S without hard facts is a difficult task!! The toothpaste is such a bummer. I watched a video on the Zero Waste Home…… Read more »


I’ve been using a mixture of mostly of something called “healing earth” (I live in Germany so I’m not sure whether you find it under that name in in America), and a little salt as tooth”paste” for about a month now after my mom reinforced my own fears that baking soda might wear the enamel from my teeth. So far, it seems to work fine and it FEELS less abrasive. Whether it really is… I guess I’ll find out next time I have to see a dentist. At least I’ve found some comments on using “healing earth” (a really fine… Read more »


Sorry about your mom. (L)
You are an inspiration :)
I sure hope you were using those spice bottles for something other than spices. 4 year old spices would be pretty stale/flovourless and have lose most of their nutritional benefits.
I feed my pets raw and it has helped tremendously with plastic and minimized output from them too ;)

Amy Korst

Please keep us updated about the toothpaste hunt. I’ve been making my own after finding out about Tom’s, and I’m simply not impressed (nor am I convinced that the recipes on the web are all healthy for my teeth). I’m talking with some dentists and using the old trial and error method, but I’m not happy with the results so far.

Alyssa Lee

I’ve been meaning to ask you if you’ve ever found a plastic-free solution for band-aids. I’m guessing since those are new that you haven’t but I’m sure you’ve read about using cloth bandages or things like that. I would love to hear what anyone has to say about it!


okay so I got a little excited about the bentonite clay prospects so I whipped up some simple tooth paste: equal parts clay, xylitol, and water. (weird things to have lying around, I know. the clay’s to add to melted soap to make shave soap to make it glide easier and the xylitol was from a previous attempt at making baking soda based toothpaste before I decided it tasted icky and switched to Tom’s). The clay toothpaste just tasted sweet and my teeth feel like I just came from the dentist so as far as functioning, it’s awesome. I’ve just… Read more »


Shoot I didn’t know about Tom’s yet. I’ve heard bentonite clay works as tooth powder.. hm..

Reenie R

I use this toothpaste with neem in it and for me it really works.

Thank you for encouraging us to go plastic free. For me it reminds me of my struggle to stop smoking…that stop-start pattern due to getting overwhelmed with the sheer amount of plastic that get into my hands with nearly every purchase. But I will try again. And thank you for mentioned Smart Mama’s Green Guide….I bought it and it is a great book, well written, and chock full footnotes and first rate advice for mothers to create a healthy home for their families.

Ellen Simpson

Hi Beth, I wanted to recommend a book that might help you eliminate all plastic from the process of feeding your kitties. It’s called Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats by Kymythy R. Schultze. I read it a few years ago when researching diets for our old dog, and followed it for the rest of his life. This book, and the diet she recommends, made the most sense to me, and it doesn’t require any supplements. Okay, she does talk about four extras that you can/should add (kelp, alfalfa, essential fatty acids, and vitamin C) because they “help make up… Read more »


I’m looking forward to hearing more about this ‘biodegradable’ plastic. It seems to me that people are getting photodegradable and biodegradable confused – possibly because companies are giving out false information? Tiny pieces of plastic are probably the scariest of all.


The last time we had to take our duvet in for drycleaning (bunny had an incident) I gave them their biodegradable bag back. They said they would use it for the next person…

As always you’re an inspiration!



Once you finish your toothpaste, you could try brushing your teeth with soap. I know, I know, it sounds gross, but really the taste isn’t all that bad. Especially if you use a soap that’s scented with mint essential oil! Just take a small bar of natural soap (or slice off a chunk, or else your soap will stay in your container for a really long time), wet your toothbrush, run it a few times over the soap to coat the ends, and brush! Don’t forget to rinse, though. I have found that I actually prefer soap over toothpaste now;… Read more »


Hi Beth,
I tried to make my own cat food, but my cats refused to eat it! I have a bottle of BalanceIT that I’m not using – would you like it? I don’t know of anyone else that would be interested, and I hate to waste it. Send me an email if you want it!

Condo Blues

I was surprised to find my tube of Tom’s is plastic! The box said that customers asked for plastic over the metal tubes. I hoped it was only the new flavor I bought and not all of the tubes :(

Uncle Harry’s has a tooth powder in glass bottles with a metal cap


Well I have to say… I love DEVO and always wanted to were a plastic flower pot hat. Michael is so lucky!


I’d love to know what size of corks you bought; I have 4 of those pitchers we use for cold water and iced tea, and the stoppers are becoming brittle. I love the bottles, and want to keep using them.