January 27, 2011

Natalie, Week 2

Natalie's plastic waste

Name: Natalie

Week: 2

Personal Info:
This is my second week (not consecutively) to take the Challenge. I live in an efficiency apartment in central Houston. You can see my first week’s tally here.

Total items: 40

Total weight: ??

Items: Recyclable
1 milk carton (#2)
1 milk bottle cap (#4)
3 coke cans (aluminum)

Items: Nonrecyclable
lentils plastic packaging
broken spoon handle
toilet paper plastic packaging
pyrex food containers plastic packaging
old toothbrush
plastic packaging around new toothbrush
broken twisty tie
plastic seal (outside) of yogurt starter
plastic seal (inside) of yogurt starter
plastic seal from a quart of yogurt
milk bottle plastic ring
plastic seal from something i can’t remember
peppermint candy wrapper
Nutrigrain wrapper
6 Pocky wrappers
2 granola bar wrappers
plastic envelope window
Lavazza coffee packaging
tape and bubblewrap from a package
tape from a second package
plastic wine cork
plastic carrier from the coke 6-pack
4 bottle caps

Plus these which aren’t pictured:
1 plastic grocery bag (trash can liner)
2 contact lenses

What items could I easily replace with plastic-free or less plastic alternatives?
I am currently trying (and failing) to make yogurt at home. The goal is to be able to do this from yogurt starter in powder form, because I don’t buy yogurt often and don’t always have fresh yogurt on hand. There is a small amount of plastic packaging for a bottle of starter, and I could eliminate the plastic seals and tubs that store-bought yogurt comes in. (Although I would need to find milk in glass if I really wanted to reduce plastic here.) But so far no luck.

The lentils are from a while ago. I’ve found the bulk bins at Whole Foods to be reasonably priced and have been buying bulk dry goods there.

Plastic shipping waste showed up in my tally this week. I have not asked vendors to package goods in less plastic, but maybe I should try that. Can’t hurt!

I am getting a new pair of glasses! **happy dance** Oh, how I have missed my glasses. Contact lenses will go in the trash only rarely now.

I am experimenting this week with using no liner for my trash can. I shelled out and set up a worm bin in the kitchen to compost food scraps. It seems to be working well, so there’s no more wet waste that gets thrown away. No need for a liner.

Two things that I won’t replace immediately but will look into:

1) paper-wrapped toilet paper? I know that Beth found some gigantic bulk quantity of toilet paper like this, but I don’t have the space here to keep so many rolls of toilet paper. I would need to find smaller quantities, still reasonably priced.

2) finding a different way to get coffee. The partner only likes high-quality coffee. Packaged like this, the Lavazza coffee costs a couple of Euros in Italy. I might be able to experiment with bringing home small amounts of fresh ground coffee in paper bags from the store, and maybe some of them will be a win with him.

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic-free alternative doesn’t exist?
All the candy wrappers are not something that I ordinarily buy myself, but I don’t say no to them as gifts either. The hard candy was at a restaurant. The Nutrigrain bar was from a friend. The granola bars and Pocky came from Santa.

I have mostly weaned myself off of Dr. Peppers, and this is largely thanks to the Plastic Challenge and thinking about all the environmental waste caused by soda manufacturing. I bought this six-pack because I needed baby sized coke cans for a project. But then they were sitting there looking at me, so I drank them.

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
That toothbrush was probably a year old and needed to go. I’m pretty sure my floss is plastic but I want to finish it before looking for something new.

I would rather have some dental cleaning routine that didn’t involve plastic toothbrushes, but with all the sugar in today’s foods I feel like brushing is the easiest way to get all the surfaces of your teeth clean. I don’t know much about alternative dental hygiene methods though.

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
All of the other plastic waste that I didn’t cover above is some sort of plastic packaging. The only way to get away from this is to never buy anything new! Unfortunately, that can’t always happen. This sort of plastic is ubiquitous and very hard to avoid.

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
None that I haven’t already.

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
The two main areas of my plastic waste seem to be either due to food packaging, or new-item packaging.

The Challenge really has helped me see where I can cut down my food packaging waste. I’ve made a commitment to buy grains, legumes, and other bulk dry goods from Whole Foods. I did manage to find things like lemon juice and honey in glass jars (this was a big part of my tally from my first week). And I am still experimenting with buying meat from the counter and seeing if they will package it in paper. (I don’t buy meat often, so I haven’t gotten to try this much.)

On the other hand, I feel like I have no control over the non-food plastic packaging. Even most new pairs of socks have a little plastic hangar so that shops can hang them. It’s incredibly hard to get away from. And how annoying! Because most of these things do not need to be packaged in plastic (for hygienic reasons, for instance).

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