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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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)


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… Read more »


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.


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.


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… Read more »


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… Read more »

Chris Kelly

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


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?… Read more »


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

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

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

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

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… Read more »

Rebecca The Greeniac

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…… Read more »


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… Read more »


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.


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… Read more »


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

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.