April 2, 2014

Plastic Challenge: Denise WM, Week 1


Is there a way to get less plastic when ordering from Amazon?

Location:New York, New York, United States

Name: Denise WM

Week: 1

Personal Info:

I’m a 29 year old married woman with no kids living in NYC. I work in the mental health field.

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

Plastic grocery bags, plastic water bottles

Total items collected: 23

Total weight:

Items: Recyclable
NYC accepts all hard plastic regardless of number. They say recyclers generally can recycle 80% of hard plastic, and that they sort it out at the plant (we have single stream recycling, so plastic goes in with glass and metal). I can drop off plastic bags at the grocery store (and I do about once a month). The recyclable items are:
-1 economy sized bottle of dishwashing liquid
-1 milk bottle
-1 container of cashews
-1 broken espresso carafe (has a sharp edge and can’t be repaired)
-1 container of cheese
-sample containers from Costco
-thingy that holds together a 2 pack of agave nectar from Costco
-2 produce bags
-1 bottle cap from maple syrup

Items: Nonrecyclable
-2 bubble mailers (they have plastic bubble wrap inside)
-2 pieces of bubble wrap
-1 tempeh wrapper
-1 cauliflower wrapper
-1 brita pitcher wrapper
-packing tape
-some saran wrap
-1 bag of frozen peas
-1 polystyrene tray from zucchini
-1 straw
-1 coffee stirrer
-1 plastic bag with no number

What items can I easily replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
Ironically, some of this plastic trash was because of purchases I made to REDUCE my waste – a bag and bubble mailer from reusable swiffer pads, a piece of bubble wrap from a jug and bag I bought to make my own almond milk, a brita filter wrapper to eliminate the need for plastic bottles (our tap water tastes funky – old pipes – so I don’t like to drink it unfiltered). The produce bags came from buying in bullk – I have a few reusable bulk bags but I need more because I tend to buy a lot at once so I only need to go once in a while – lugging heavy groceries on the subway is a chore. Certainly I could look for unwrapped veggies, which is easier in the summer when the farmer’s markets are more plentiful. I’ve been using a ceramic ramekin since the espresso carafe broke and it’s fine.

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
Saran wrap, coffee stirrers, straws

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
Frozen peas and tempeh – some of my favorites. Maybe I can buy fresh peas in season and freeze them myself? I love peas. There don’t seem to be any bulk stores in NYC that sell tempeh, tofu, etc. I can only find ones that sell dry goods – pasta, oatmeal, rice, etc.

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
I’ve been wanting to reduce my dairy intake for health reasons anyway, so that’d help with reducing milk cartons and cheese containers. I might need to try to order less online. Packing from online purchases account for a lot of this plastic – tape, bags, bubble mailers, bubble wrap… I can ask sellers to reduce packaging, which is easier on etsy and harder on Amazon.

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
The cashews – I can get those in bulk. Produce bags – I’ll pick up a few more reusable cloth ones. The milk bottle – I’m making almond milk at home now.

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
I was sort of sad at how much of this isn’t even recyclable. I know recycling isn’t the end-all be-all, but at least that stuff doesn’t go to the landfill/ocean. Definitely an eye-opener, as I always thought I put more stuff in the recycling and compost than regular trash.

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