December 7, 2010

November 2010 Plastic Waste Tally

1.6 oz Plastic Waste [1.6 oz new/0 oz acquired prior to June 2007]

November brought new clothes (see below), a TEDx presentation, and all kinds of nutty experiments that I’ll be writing about in December. It also means 2010 is almost over. I had hoped to keep my plastic waste under 2 pounds this year (last year’s was 3.7 pounds) but sadly, that’s not going to happen. I’m already up to 1.99, and ironically, part of November’s plastic waste is the indirect result of the TEDxGreatPacificGarbagePatch conference early this month.

Not really. I’m making excuses, as you’ll see.

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

Beth’s November plastic waste collection

Plastic purchased before June 15 2007 and used up in the last month (.5 oz):

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

New plastic waste (1.6 oz):

  • Plastic packing tape from package ordered from I am aware of the stereotype that women love to shop for clothes and will do it for sport. I am not one of those women. I hate analyzing myself in the fitting room mirror. I hate trying to understand the latest styles (just give me something comfortable with lots of pockets. I’d live in cargo pants if I could.) And nowadays, shopping is even more of a drag because I’m trying to avoid synthetic (read: plastic) fabrics. Plus, I’ve gained weight in the last three years, so shopping is even more of a drag.

    All this adds up to the dilemma I faced trying to figure out what to wear for my TEDxGreatPacificGarbagePatch presentation. I looked in my closet 15 times hoping I’d discover some new outfit I’d forgotten about, which is silly because my closet is not that big. I went to the mall. I went to boutique stores. Anything that looked good was made from acrylic or polyester or some other plastic fabric. Anything made from natural fibers was too expensive or too small. (As I and my friends discovered, eco-friendly clothing tends to be made for skinny bodies — unless you’re just looking for hoodies and sweat pants.)

    So anyway, I finally discovered a cool online shop called, which sells cute clothing made from organic cotton, hemp, and other natural fibers. At my wits end, I took a chance and ordered a few tops in large and extra large and prayed they would fit, requesting no plastic packaging in the box. The tops fit. The box contained no plastic on the inside but was covered with plastic tape on the outside. It’s still the rare vendor that will switch to paper tape, but I’m working on it.

  • One big fat cheese wrapper. What can I say? The cheese got the better of me. Some nameless person bought it and let it sit in the refrigerator for weeks and weeks, unopened and unloved, taunting me. I mean, who buys cheese and doesn’t eat it? So, one night, stressed out about the TEDx conference and what I was going to wear, I broke into it. The comfort was momentary. The wrapper will last forever. Desperation gets the best of us sometimes.
  • One square of plastic wrap. After arriving in L.A. on Friday, I thought I would treat myself to room service lunch at the hotel — something I never do. When asked what I wanted to drink, I said, “Nothing. I don’t want anything to drink.” So naturally my meal arrived accompanied by a glass of water with a piece of plastic wrap on top. I didn’t want the water in the first place, but I accepted it and drank it because it would have been tossed out anyway and because I was too tired to get into an argument. The irony of coming to a conference devoted to plastic waste and ending up with another piece of plastic to add to my stash was not lost on me.
  • Two plastic-tipped toothpicks. From the same room service meal. These were holding my sandwich together — for all of 5 minutes, or however long it took to bring it up to my room from the kitchen.
  • 2 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. Lung disease vs cancerous tumors? *Sigh*
  • 4 plastic envelope windows from bank notices, Social Security, & IRS.Learn about what plastic envelope windows are made from. And yes, I’ve requested online access, but this particular account doesn’t offer it yet.
  • One prescription bottle and cap. Preserve’s Gimme5 program will accept these #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.
  • Hotel key card. From a hotel I stayed in a couple of months ago. I forgot to turn it in when I left.
  • Plastic cap and threads from a tube of Tom’s of Maine toothpaste. The aluminum tube can be returned to Tom’s for recycling. Read more about my less-plastic dental regimen here.

That’s it for November. December is always tricky, what with holiday gift giving. Hopefully, I’ve got my friends and family trained not to buy me a bunch of stuff I don’t need and that will inevitably come packaged in plastic.

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Greenpet have great herbal remedies for animals. These products contain a small amount of synthetic ingredients, however are mostly natural. They use plastic packaging, and do ship international orders.

We used them when our cocker spaniel had ear and eye problems, and saved a fortune as well as having the problems completely healed up. He also thrived on the supplement we gave him to the point that his arthritis seemed to no longer bother him at all. I highly recommend their products.

I use too much plastic, and need to organise myself better so that I can reduce how much I buy.


HI Beth. As terrible as it is to get the plastic key card, I would shred it and dispose of it like a credit card. Thieves can get a lot of information from the card itself. As a military member, I was briefed in TAKING the key card, never turn it back into the hotel. There was a special on identity theft on 20/20 (I believe) on how someone can use a “card machine” and swipe your information from the card and then use it like a credit card. Scary world. I know it will never go away, but identity… Read more »

katie @ ecochic in suburbia

I had NO idea that you could mail the Tom’s tube back to them for recycling. Have you considered the eco-impact it might have?? I’m guessing that I could save a few tubes and do it all at once to save on the mailing products. I just stumbled across your blog from Tiny choices and I LOVE it – what a challenge! I have been working to reduce my plastic use but now I am inspired! I am working on getting my own blog together – it’s very new right now and very much a “work in progress.” It’s focused… Read more »


Try for really cool hemp/organic cotton clothing. Mel makes super-styley clothes in all sizes (her designs fit me wonderfully. I’m a size 10-12 w. a big rack) I know Mel recycles all of her packaging. I bet she would or already uses paper tape if you ask her. None of her hemp comes from China and her designs are sewn here in the US. A lot of hemp stuff is just greenwashed. MotM is a woman owned business. Also, do you go to Buffalo Exchange in SF? Amazing used clothing store! Devil’s Advocate Question: What about the petroleum involved… Read more »

Nubby Tongue

Have you tried Cowgirl Creamery’s cheeses at the Ferry Building in SF? They have ricotta, fromage blanc*, fresh goat cheese, and a bunch of others in bulk. Then all along the counters they have harder cheeses out for sampling and buying. I’m not 100% positive, but my brain is telling me that some of the hard cheeses aren’t wrapped. And since they’re local you could always special order a small wheel of something unwrapped.
*So friggen good with honey on bread! NOM!


I would send the key back to the hotel. I used to work at a hotel and we re-used them until they became unusable (the magnetic strip got too worn down, etc). I’m not sure why any other hotel would throw away a perfectly good card, that seems so unreasonable! When I worked there (before I was conscious of plastic waste) I always thought it was silly when people would mail cards back, rather than just throw them away, but that was mainly because most of the time people were doing this because they thought their credit card information was… Read more »


what is with those plastic envelope windows? even Mother Earth News uses them–gah! I’ll definitely be reading more you’ve had to say on those. thx for another great post.

Denise Yribarren

Hi Beth,

I’m not sure what I am doing wrong to watch the talk you gave at the conference.
I clicked on the lifestream icon but all that come up was a series of short videos on avoiding plastic. Any ideas for me?

Thanks for all the inspiration,



technically the wood part of the toothpick doesn’t need to be counted in your tally, so that would knock a slight amount of weight of your total.


I discovered while on a caravan protesting the School of the Americas in Georgia that in America, when you say your kid doesn’t want a drink, and you ask for a pitcher of water for your table, they bring you a styrofoam cup with a coffee cover and a straw! MORE than ONCE this strange thing occurred and all I could say was “Oh! No!” and put my stainless steel straw away sadly.


Hotel key card: First try would be to return it to the hotel. If that doesn’t work then next step of research would be on how to have the card recycled. I’ve heard of at least one company accepting gift cards (and perhaps hotel cards) for recycling. Otherwise I’m sure you could make some earings or a nice Christmas ornament out of it. ;-)


about the flea treatment.. I went to whole foods today and got flea & tick powder (in a plastic bottle, but..) that you can rub onto your cat. haven’t tried it yet, but should work well. it’s from the brand that was recommended in the comments, sergeant’s green natural or something.


Just curious – did you consider mailing the key card back to the hotel? It seems it ought to still be usable.


Wow, that is dumb! I had no idea. Maybe this hotel will be sensible.

I have had similar frustrations with clothing. Etsy might be worth a try. They’re usually small sellers and would probably be willing to package per request (and smaller folks seem to appreciate it if I say sending it in an old, ugly, almost-used-up box). I got the organic cotton gloves I’m wearing now from an Etsy seller (fingerless gloves, so I can type when it’s cold!).


Why don’t you send your key card back to the hotel? I bet they would re-use it! They re-use all those cards normally. You could put it in a small envelope and it would only cost you a postage stamp as well :)