December 2, 2012

Plastic Challenge: Cynthia p.w., Week 1


I’ve seen suggestions to use reusable bags at groceries and not to use plastic bags and/or paper bags. Yet, when I ask on a blog or on fb, what do people use for their garbage, there is usually not an answer or the answer is that they purchase plastic bags. I’ve used reusable bags in the 90s b/c I walked and biked to the grocery but even then I used the plastic bags for garbage. I don’t see paying for garbage bags when they are free.

So I continue to wonder what those cities that ban the use of plastic bags require for garbage disposal. And the answer needs to address not just those who live in homes where there is garbage pickup but what about for apartment dwellers?


Location:Baton Rouge, Louisiana, United States

Name: Cynthia p.w.

Week: 1

Personal Info:

My husband & I have been together since 1998. I started reducing my use of plastics in the 90s. After marriage, I began using more for convenience. My husband will eat left-overs so we’ve purchased plastic containers that are microwavable. Now we’ve added the glass containers with rubber/plastic lids to the mix. I also started using ziplocs to carry items on planes & for other purposes. I travel more now that I’m married. And there are times that we choose plastic containers b/c of cost savings. Olive oil comes in metal, glass, and plastic containers. There are times due to budget considerations that we choose to buy the oil in the plastic container. So even though we make efforts to reduce plastic use and waste, we have room for improvement.

List of plastic items REFUSED this week. (Yay!)

This week we attempted not to take home left-overs from restaurants. That’s difficult since it is an easy source of quick lunches for my husband. Also, I normally refuse to use straws when I eat out at restaurants. Also for small purchases of one or two items, we usually refuse the bags. It’s small but saves a little. I bought olive oil in a glass jar this time but it’s $1 or $2 more than the same size in a plastic jar. So again for those on a budget, it’s a balance between how much one can save and use for other groceries and reducing plastic use.

Total items collected: 43

Total weight: Unknown

Items: Recyclable
#1–2 water bottles, 1 herb bottle, 3 beverage cups + lids + straws
#2–1 lid to nuts container, litter container
#5–1 to go container from a restaurant
#?–prescription container; over the counter medicine container (Unable to read the number).

Our local government has a web section devoted to recycling: They recycle #1-#7.

Items: Nonrecyclable
5 styrofoam cups with plastic lids & straws. ( I throw the lids & straws in the recycle bag.)
1 styrofoam container from restaurant.
11 grocery bags. (I reuse these for garbage disposal & for taking other recyclables to a recycling dumpster. I live in an apt. complex so it takes a little more effort to recycle.)
1 plastic non-grocery bag. (I give these to an independent, resale shop which reuses them for their customers packaging.)
Plastic packaging from toilet paper, candy bars, & other small plastic containers that are unmarked. (The toilet paper packaging along with paper towel packaging are reused as garbage can liners before being thrown away.)

Note: I noticed a couple of years ago that Wal-mart puts plastic hangers and plastic covers in with their grocery bags recyclables. I now recycle my dry-cleaners bags and other plastic packaging at the local college which has recycling dumpsters. Their signs just changed stating that they no longer take plastic bags. I will have to change to taking these to the grocery store.

What items can I easily replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
There are some grocery items such as the olive oil that I purchased this week that can be found in packaging with less or no plastic. It’s a balance between cost, convenience, and reducing plastic use.

Reducing styrofoam generally means that we need to reduce the amount of food we order at a restaurant and/or to reduce the number of times we dine out. Also, we try to reduce the styrofoam purchased at the grocery store by purchasing loose mushrooms (placing them in a plastic bag instead) and by buying meat from the grocery store butcher since he/she will wrap it up in paper.

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
I’m uncertain.

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
Medicines and some grocery items are only contained in plastic.

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
We would need to reduce the amount of time that we dine out. Also when dining out, we’d need to order smaller portions and not ask for a to go cup of beverage.

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
Styrofoam. I make a greater effort to reduce our use of styrofoam than any other kind of plastic containers.

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
This has been an interesting task. Our plastic consumption since the 90s is probably about the same. The opportunities for recycling have improved since then. The most common and frequent purchases of plastic occurs at the grocery store. Over time companies have switched from glass containers to plastic. This exercise helped me to review my purchasing decisions and to realize that I need to be a little more diligent in making choices between plastic and non-plastic containers.

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