April 27, 2011

Plastic Challenge: Amanda R, Weeks 17 – 20

Amanda's plastic waste

Name: Amanda

Weeks: 17 – 20

Personal Info:

Read Amanda’s description in her Week 1 post.

Locaction: Tucson, AZ

Total items: 81

Total weight: 15 oz

Items: Recyclable
2 credit / store cards (#5) — have to be mailed off
5 caps from bottles and tubes — Aveda will accept them
1 used Brita filter — has to be mailed off
1 #1 olive oil bottle
1 #2 contact lens cleaner bottle
1 other little bottle that was a free sample that came with something or other

Items: Nonrecyclable
1 trash bag
22 envelope windows
1 meat pkg from CSA
2 bags for greens from CSA
2 milk bottle tops
2 q-tips
1 pkg from brita filter
1 seal from bottle
1 antibiotic pill card
1 dead ziplock bag
15 peppermint candy wrappers
4 clothing tags
1 piece of tape
1 cheese sauce pkt from mac ‘n cheese
1 tea light candle holder
2 membership cards
2 race numbers
1 busted hair clip
1 wrapper from sausage biscuit
2 saran wrap pieces from roadside zucchini bread
1 coffee cup lid
1 ice cream lid
1 pkg from toilet paper
1 oatmeal bag
1 broken lid from stainless steel coffee mug
1 cover from report on mutual funds

What items could I easily replace with plastic-free or less plastic alternatives?
I can explain.
– There are a few things that I shouldn’t’ve bought, like the mac ‘n cheese, and the oatmeal (it sounded like it didn’t have a bag in it, but of course it did).
– And there are a few things that resulted from a road trip for which I was insufficiently prepared — the saran wrap, and sausage biscuit wrapper… I hate to buy junk food on the road, so was happy to find home-made stuff, but the trade-off can be what they’re wrapped up in. And I was totally sucked in by the biscuit, which looked like it was wrapped in paper — plastic-lined, as it turns out.
– No excuse for the coffee cup lid — forgot to take my mug on the road trip. I eventually bought a ceramic mug in a 99-cent store, so made it through with the single disposable.
– A couple of the big items are from before I started tracking plastic — the olive oil, toilet paper pkg, and hair clip are from pre-tracking days. I’ve switched to TP that comes in paper, but the olive oil was a 2-for-1, so working my way through the second plastic liter…
– I’ve found votive candles at wholefoods that aren’t packaged, which can double for the tea light in most situations.
– And, as previously discussed, this is truly the end of the CSA plastic-wrapped meat and veg — no more in the freezer or fridge.
– I’m a little sad about the trash bag — there was a molding spaghetti fiasco at the end of the road trip that would’ve been too much for my worms…

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic-free alternative doesn’t exist?
– Store-bought mac n cheese, and ice cream tubs. It’s kind of cheating to list this here — plastic-free alternatives exist for both — making my own mac n cheese, and baskin robbins cones!
– I’m thinking of giving up the Brita filters, as well — there’s a website where I can theoretically check out the quality of the tap water in my neighborhood; haven’t managed to use it successfully yet, but feel like maybe I’m wasting money for no reason?

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
– Contact lens cleaner
– Race numbers
– Milk bottle tops
– New bank cards, from time to time
– The lid from the stainless steel mug… at least the company will replace just the lid, but it’s frustrating that the mechanism that keeps it closed is so delicate, and that there’s no way to recycle the lid. Maybe I’ll mail it back to the company, anyway

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
I’ve been doing this long enough (this is month #6) that my numbers really should be going down rather than up. On the one hand, it takes a while to purge plastic that has been around for a while. On the other, it’s so easy to make excuses for individual items — but it really adds up!

I’d like to re-evaluate a little as I move into the next 6 months, and both see where else I can cut back, as well as what level of plastic consumption I would be comfortable making peace with.

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
Store-bought ice cream, boxed oatmeal, mac n cheese. And peppermints (they were in the car when I inherited it from my mother, and I’ve been avoiding them for 6 months because of their plastic wrappers, which on some level was absurd since they were already purchased…)

I replaced the hair clip with a nifty barrette from the street fair.

I went through another round of calling people who send mail to try to make the window envelopes stop.

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
I think I’m being too easy on myself. Grocery bags and drink bottles are the easy things. And I haven’t been including cardboard cartons for milk, or in this case ice cream — just the plastic lids.

I went on a spending spree after adding up the March plastic. I know increased consumption isn’t the goal of the exercise, but I think it felt like “doing something”:
– I got a couple of straws from glass dharma, as well as protective cases and a cleaner for them;
– finally got a stainless steel razor and a box of blades (the razor arrived in a box full of Styrofoam peanuts, and the blades in a bubble wrap envelope — I’ve emailed both vendors to suggest alternative packaging, but need to get better at requesting it upfront);
– got a new plastic TSA-compliant bag for toiletries. I know this is acquiring new plastic, but the rules are 1qt. clear plastic, and I’d rather have a re-usable one

Please help…
I could use some advice on how to get companies to write you back — I have posted questions for Whole Foods on line (what’s your butcher paper lined with? Are you kidding me with starting to sell apples 3-to-a–pre-packaged bag? Have you considered adding pasta to your bulk foods section? etc.) but I never get any response. I don’t know if there’s a more direct way, or my tone is too accusatory… what successes have folks had getting responses that contain the information you were after?

Also, in the absence of a family dog and short of going vegetarian, is there a better way to dispose of meat waste than in the trash — I’m discovering this is part of my plastic trash bag issue; I no longer fill up the bag each month, but I can’t let it sit for too long with discarded meat products in it.

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