July 5, 2010

June 2010 Plastic Waste Tally

2.8 oz Plastic Waste [1.7 oz new/1.1 oz acquired prior to June 2007]

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

Happy Summer everybody.

Beth’s June plastic waste collection

Plastic purchased before June 15 2007 and used up in the last month (1.1 oz):

  • Melatonin bottle and cap. I’ve had this bottle since before June of 2007, and it still worked!  I switched to melatonin after my prescription sleeping pills ran out and, wanting to avoid another plastic bottle, I decided not to get them refilled.  Now that the melatonin is gone, I’ve got some other natural sleep remedies to use up (glass bottles with plastic caps) and once those are gone, I’m going to try some teas that were recommended by Facebook friends.  I’ll report back when I figure out what works for me,  and yes, I know all about sleep hygiene, and yes I know that mine sucks, and yes I’m working on it, but also? My problem is more like a sleep phobia, so please don’t tell me I just need to go to bed at the same time every night or exercise or refrain from eating before bedtime because if I don’t stay awake while everyone else is asleep, who will make sure the earth keeps spinning on its axis?
  • Used up ballpoint pen. I mostly use pencils and a Lamy fountain pen, but I still find these around the house.

New plastic waste (1.7 oz):

  • Prescription bottle and cap. This is an ongoing prescription that will continue to be included in the tally, probably forever.
  • Plastic seal from a glass jar of Spectrum organic coconut oil.
  • Plastic seal from a glass jar of Berkeley Bowl organic peanut butter.
  • Plastic seal from around the neck of a new CO2 canister for my Penguin soda maker. It’s summer — pretty much the only time of year I crave fizzy water.  The canister itself gets returned to the manufacturer to be refilled.
  • Plastic wrapper and 2 plastic trays from an HP ink cartridge. This is the last new HP cartridge I have, which I’d bought from Staples quite a while back.  I returned the old plastic ink cartridge itself to Cartridge World for refilling. Now, I’ve switched entirely to refilled cartridges from Cartridge World.  Read my post comparing various ink cartridge options here.
  • Plastic molded package from new pair of (plastic) headphones. A couple of weeks ago, I moaned about buying new headphones after my kitty chewed up my last pair.  I tried to find a new set with the least plastic packaging.  And no, I’m not going to use secondhand ear buds.  Eww.
  • Plastic tape and mailing label from new pillow. I didn’t actually order a pillow through the mail.  A natural mattress company sent it to me to try out.  It’s a plastic-free, vegan, memory foam pillow.  I’ll write about it this week.
  • 2 plastic envelope windows.Learn about what plastic envelope windows are made from.
  • Plastic packing tape from book order. I ordered a used copy of the Uncheese Cookbook from an Amazon seller and asked her to send it without plastic packaging.  The book arrived in a plane brown envelope with a little bit of tape.  I try to remember, whenever ordering anything, to request no plastic ahead of time.

I just want to make one comment here about some of the plastic I end up with.  For example, plastic headphones or plastic ink cartridges.  If I were doing an experiment to see if I could live with zero new plastic for a month or a year, I could eliminate a lot more plastic than I actually do.  I would probably live without printing anything once my print cartridge ran out.  I would quit listening to music or audiobooks through headphones.  I’d avoid any glass jars or bottles with plastic seals.  I could give up these things because I’d know the experiment was temporary.

But Fake Plastic Fish is not a temporary experiment.  It’s been my life for the last 3 years, actually.  Living with as little plastic as possible is something I’m trying to sustain indefinitely.  I don’t intend to never use my printer again or listen to my iPod, for example.  Working to reduce our plastic consumption and to get companies to change their packaging doesn’t mean we have to give up everything we love all at once.  It just means we have to make hard decisions about what things are really important to us and what conveniences are ultimately unnecessary.

Giving up everything made from or packaged in plastic all at once is the road to burnout and resentment and guilt.  You do what you can, you realize you as an individual can’t do it alone, and then you start pushing companies and your government to make it easier for you.  But in the meantime, you have to live in this world and do the best you can.  That’s not to say that everyone is off the hook.  No way.  But it also doesn’t mean we all have to practice what Crunchy Chicken once referred to as “hair shirt environmentalism.”

Okay,  that’s my spiel for today.  I’d love to find out what plastic items you feel are necessary for you and what conveniences you can and are willing to give up, even if it’s kind of a pain.  There’s a difference.

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11 years ago

Very cool that you’re switching over to all refillable cartridges from here forward. I’ve been going to the SOMA based Cartridge World for a while and Rex there is awesome.

(ps – so are the Green Tea waffles next door :-) at Little Saigon Deli)

11 years ago

I’m only at the beginning stages of this. I appreciate that you talk about “hair shirt” environmentalism. I want to make reduced plastic a permanent thing. I also have to accept that I live with someone who will never do this and that preaching to him will fail. So I do my best all by myself. I make the best choices I can, but when I have to take a plastic strip off a glass jar, I try not to scream. And when I stand in my bathroom and kitchen full of plastic items, I try to recognize that they are in use and that throwing them away would be just as wasteful.

By the way, what I did for produce bags was I recently had a sewing project and used the leftover netting and organza to make reusable produce bags. I realize that organza and netting are also plastic (polyester or something), but I can wash them and use them over and over.

11 years ago

I’m sorry for your sleep troubles, I know sleep phobia all too well. Congrats on such a small amount of plastic waste, looking forward to seeing how next month works out for you.

11 years ago

Today when I went grocery shopping, I chose not to use the plastic bags for produce, except for the cherries. If only we could buy those in bulk. I never want too much of it. I also chose a pizza sauce in a jar as I’d like to reuse the jar for other things.

11 years ago

Plastic I am unwilling to give up for now:
My CSA packs veggies/fruits in plastic produce bags ie cherries, leafy greens, etc. I’m eating healthier and the food is good. I save and reuse the bags.
Certain supplements. Can one buy supplements in bulk? I haven’t seen them.

I use plastic pens that others have left behind. I haven’t bought a pen or picked up a company-logoed freebie in years. Should I donate the plastic pens and purchase a refillable metal one? I have a tendency to lose writing tools (hopefully other will pick them up and use them) and I’m feeling okay about using the found ones as i don’t feel like I am creating a demand for plastic pens.
I look around my house and wonder how did I collect so much plastic! It will take me forever to use the plastic I already have and I just need to be really really concientious about new purchases. I admire you Beth for being such a public example of what can be done and I admire all those who have reduced their plastic usage who may not be so much in the public eye.

11 years ago

The uncheese cookbook is great. I borrowed from the library and love the Parmesan recipe, it is a permanent in a mason jar in our fridge. It is full of umami-ness that I can’t describe, so good. Another good cheezy-type dressing is the Duma Dressing in the book Get it Ripe by Jae Steele – yumsters. But there are some duds in the Uncheese cookbook, I made a recipe that called for red lentils in it and yuck had to chuck it all in the greenbin which made me sad.

On sleeping, I had the same sleep control thing when I was traversing the dark depths of post-partum depression and my naturopath gave me a tincture of Valerian-Skullcap-Passionflower. I would take a teaspoon, then slowly feel my body and mind start to shut down and within 20 minutes I was ready for bed. But, I did find that as my mind got back into wanting to sleep, I found the tincture stopped working so that was my sign to stop the tincture. Maybe worth trying for you?

Chris Kelly
11 years ago

LOVE your site, its really making me think. On the laptop front, I just received a new Dell netbook and it too came in totally PAPER packaging, the same type of packaging used for dozen eggs, I guess its called “eggcrate” and a paper box, no plastic EXCEPT the little plastic bag that the instruction book was in….why couldnt they just put that in the box with NO BAG?

Anyhow, I am definately thinking ALOT more about my purchasing and am going to start my one pile of monthly plastic.

Thanks again for opening my eyes

11 years ago

For insomnia, I started using this silk eyemask (yeah like the ladies in old sitcoms) and it has been amazing…I’ve only had a hard time falling asleep about twice since I started using it several months ago (the extra darkness and gentle pressure on the eyelids works wonders)…you could probably make your own (I already had one I bought when I was pregnant and staying in a hotel) out of an old silk scarf from Goodwill and some elastic swiped from something else…and a little padding in between. Cheap, easy, drug-free and worth a try.

Have seen these Thinksound headphones? https://store.thinksound.com/index.php They’re ridiculously expensive, but maybe they would send you a pair to review on your blog.

I still can’t seem to get away from plastic food packaging, though have cut back a lot. And this weekend, at a 4th of July party, they had plastic plates, plastic cups, etc. I usually try to bring my water bottle and my own dishes, but everyone in the family ended up using a plastic plate and I had wine in a plastic cup (made the kids drink water out of their bottles instead of soda).

11 years ago

Speaking of cardboard packaging and earphones…

My last two pairs of earphones are Sennheiser ones from Amazon, I got ones which were labeled as eco-packaging and it’s pretty much entirely cardboard. You can see pictures and a video of a couple of them by googling for Sennheiser and eco packaging.

I did notice one of the Amazon pictures has plastic around the outside of the cardboard, but the ones I bought didn’t have that, so I’m not sure what happened there…

Donna K
11 years ago

Off topic from plastic, but about the sleep difficulty – one over-looked cause of sleep disorders is gluten and/or casein hypersensitivity or allergy. I heard about this on the radio from an MD who treats a lot of celiac disease. Newer testing shows that as many as 1/3 of us may have some sensitivity to gluten. I reported this to my two sisters who couldn’t get to sleep until 3 am and then slept poorly. After 3 days on a gluten-free diet, one sister was sleeping much better. It took the other sister another week to notice an improvement.

Donna K
11 years ago

I’m new here – but totally on board. Just a comment – my HP laptop was stolen last year. I replaced it with a Sony laptop. To my delight, the Sony computer arrived in a cardboard box and the packing was totally cardboard! Not one bit of Styrofoam in the package! They were very clever with bending and folding the cardboard – like origami – and the protection to the computer was perfect and totally recyclable.

Rebecca The Greeniac
11 years ago

OMG – I just looked at my comment and realized that I made the you’re/your faux pas! And just to think of the many times I have thought to myself, what’s wrong with people, don’t they know the difference? Mia culpa!

Rebecca The Greeniac
11 years ago

Oh and on the sleep front… I can totally relate. I am a hopeless night owl and once I fall off the wagon climbing back on is an exercise in pain and suffering. And all of the “sleep routine” stuff just doesn’t help when you’re head won’t shut off. Plus, for me I think it’s sort of a control thing. On some level I fear letting go of enough control to let my body take charge.

The only thing that has ever worked for me is… well… weird. I lay in bed (or is it “lie” in bed?) and try to remember something that I’ve dreamed recently. Then I try to “get back into the dream”. I’m not entirely sure how to describe it, but somehow if I can manage to get my psyche into the space where I can re-experience the dream, the next thing I know, I’m dreaming again!

Rebecca The Greeniac
11 years ago

True confessions… I bought some cherries from Whole Foods last week that came pre-bagged in one of those plastic zip-lock produce bags. I felt guilty about it, but at least they were organic cherries grown in the USA. (That’s my current produce standard – would love to get more local than that, but so far that’s all I can muster.) It’s just that cherries are such a rare treat, and you can’t buy them without the bag! AAAARRRRRGGGGHHHH!!!

However, when I went to the hardware store to get a replacement for the sprinkler that broke, I found the perfect replacement… a cool set of 3 sprinklers with 2 hoses to connect them. But they came wrapped in a huge and un-necessary plastic clam shell! So, I spent more money and bought the equivalent items separately (with only minimal grumbling).

Then I proceeded to the lighting section because I’m eagerly awaiting the day that affordable LED bulbs become available so I can avoid filling the world with any more mercury vapor than is already there. Lo and behold there was an LED bulb that put out the equivalent of a 40-watt incandescent for only $25! I realize that “only $25” sounds sort of ridiculous when talking about a light bulb, but I would have happily shelled out the money… except… the damned thing (which was tiny) came boxed in a huge non-recyclable plastic box! I’m currently formulating my letter to the Phillips company.

Thanks for keeping us all honest!

11 years ago

I’ve still got some plastic in my life, but the plastic I hate is the I Really Could Have Planned Better And Avoided This plastic. You know the type. Oops I forgot the containers for bulk so I have to use plastic bags. Woops I forgot to buy B vitamins last shopping trip so now we have to buy the ones in plastic from the corner store. Yikes I forgot to ask the dry cleaners for no plastic bag. Darn I forgot my pyrex dish at home and my future MIL is packing me extra portions of potato salad to go, with extra saran wrap.

The kind that really test the “guilt is not useful” part. The kind that make me wonder if I’m truly capable of learning from mistakes, or just a modern day Sisyphus pushing on a plastic rock.

11 years ago

wow…sleep phobia. That gave me goosebumps. I totally know what you mean by that! And yes, I get sick of all the advice too.

11 years ago

I am a former hair shirt vegan, but now that I have a household to torture/buy for, I try to limit the limits.

The plastic I live with, without much guilt:

1. Plastic bagged bulk items from my food coop. Some items are pre-bagged because they are super messy and vulnerable to having to be thrown out if they get moths or otherwise infested, and/or they are too expensive to waste. So of course I buy the biggest amount I can get and reuse the plastic and non plastic twist ties to buy bulk foods not pre-packaged.

2. Chips, as needed, in those demonic foil or plastic packages. I buy about a dozen a year, mostly so that my children don’t hate me. I buy the tortilla chips in the paper bag when I can, but my kids disdain corn chips. I reuse the bags to pack broken glass, or for bulk pasta.

3. Some supplements with out glass containered equivalents, although I’ve switched to Floradix liquid multi vitamins for the kids and Solgar in a glass bottle for me.

4. Good things with plastic lids or bags under duress like the Cocoa Camino fair trade cocoa and organic sugar I bought for my friend’s birthday party after the coop had closed.

5. Plastic seals on non plastic packaging = a way of torturing plastic boycotters.

6. Plastic that accompanies my non plastic packaging for my business. I took it to the limit, I feel, and I am just not powerful enough yet to stop my major supplier from packaging my packaging because it comes that way from the manufacturer. I reuse it to pack my parcels (no new plastic, always paper tape) and I pack my bulk items for sale in it, I give the little baggies to Raindance Cosmetics to put samples into, then I pack the rest up for Arts Junktion, which supplies Toronto area teachers with art supplies.

7. Plastic I didn’t buy, or cause to be bought for me, although I may still reject/donate it. Specifically, when revellers at the Pride Parade yesterday showered my youngest with freezies in the midst of a heat alert yesterday, I let her eat all she wanted. In my mind, I am only a bad mother and will burn for eternity for letting my child eat all that sugar, dye and phthalates.

Huge plastic compromises this past year have been:

walkie talkies (just needed the danged things to work)
laser printer (I will use less ink and cartridges now, though!)

Relative triumphs:

~ I needed a calculator, so for Christmas, my eldest bought me one made from recycled photocopiers.

~ After torturing my household with dysfunctional phones for 17 years, I bought a new set of phones that are made without the top 5 bad metals and were packaged ENTIRELY in cardboard!

~ NO new pens for me in a year! Only pencils! (After a slight mis interpretation where a relative thought that I wouldn’t buy pens personally, so she bought me a pack of pens herself. I am donating these and many thousands of markers to a school.

~ I feel very proud of myself for always pre packing and adding up my cheques in reused envelopes to put into bank machines. It’s not an anti plastic thing, but it was the first new anti consumption trick I figured out in a long time. Now if I could only get it together to do ALL of my household’s laundry after 9pm when the electricity rates go down, I’d feel on top of it…

Thanks, Beth, and all, for continuing to inspire me with ways to live better.

Love & RRRevolution, Tracey

11 years ago

You’re doing a great thing here! Your blog is very educational and a big eye-opener. Plastic is something that we have all taken for granted and not think twice about. I’m learning a lot and will try to pay more attention to my choices and habits. They should be put into a book for easy reading. You have a wealth of great articles here. Any plans to publish?

Lianne Lavoie
11 years ago

I’ve been keeping weekly tallies of my plastic for a little over 6 months now, and the biggest thing I’ve learned so far is that there are always things that you only use “once in a while.” I used to think, well this week isn’t a fair measure, I mean, how often do I buy such-and-such that comes wrapped in plastic? But after a while I realised that every week has stuff like that. Apparently, there are a lot of things you only use once in a while.