April 17, 2014

Plastic Challenge: Karen, Week 1


Where on earth do you find toothpaste that is not sold in plastic, without resorting to homemade salt and bicard soda paste or the like?

Location:Perth, WA, Australia

Name: Karen

Week: 1

Personal Info:

I’m an enviro scientist house-sharing in the north west suburbs of Perth. For years I have used ecobags for shopping and avoided plastic when buying food…However, after recently reading Plastic Ocean by Captain Charles Moore, I have embarked on a mission to completely rid my life of plastic and make as many other people as possible aware of their plastic footprint and the issues for our health and environment.
My first weekly plastic collection is not really a baseline for me, as I have been working toward avoiding plastics for a few months…including carrying a ‘keep cup’ for my lattes when travelling around Europe for 6 weeks :-) The fact that it was a plastic keep cup is quite ironic…
So my first weekly challenge resulted in a shopping bag FULL of single-use plastic…it’s amazing how embedded in our lives this stuff is…ridding it will be a process…and my approach will be find a non-plastic alternative each time I finish a product and bin (ie. put in recycling) some plastic…

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

Cows milk in cardboard carton (plastic lined)….found a local WA dairy ‘Sunnydale’ that sells milk in glass. Although it is nearly 2.5 times the price of regular ‘plastic’ milk ($5/L), it tastes incredible and I am happy to pay the extra!
Vegetables wrapped in plastic
Plastic shopping bags, including small ‘vege’ plastic bags
Cheese wrapped in plastic…thinking I will buy from a deli counter next time where they can wrap it in paper?
Tried to buy several items in boxes (pasta and rice porridge) but turns out there was a plastic bag inside the box (doh!)
A new coffee machine!! Think I will try and find a second-hand one on Gumtree/Ebay.
Take-away coffee cups and plastic lids (always take my own cup, or at least refuse the lid).
Bread wrapped in plastic…found a supplier at a farmers market where you can buy loaves wrapped in paper.

Total items collected: 36

Total weight:

Items: Recyclable
Yoghurt container (2)
Cream container (2)
Herb container (1)

Items: Nonrecyclable
1L milk carton (plastic lined)
Toothpaste tube
Single-use soft plastic wrappers around the following items (cheese, rice, bread, beans, carrots, fresh coriander, plastic wrapper around packet of tea bags, feminine hygiene products, dishwasher tablets)
Metalized plastic (I believe these are really bad in terms of toxicity in the environment?) wrapper around 10 x coffee bags, and 5 x tea bags…
Rubber/plastic band around spring onions

What items can I easily replace with plastic free or less plastic alternatives?
Stop buying coffee bags and individually wrapped tea bags (these were a bit of a fad) and replace with loose tea and ground coffee beans.
Buy rice, beans and other loose goods at farmers or special markets where you can buy in paper bags…
Refuse to buy any vege’s that come with plastic, go to farmers market if have to…
Buy more enviro friendly dishwasher tablets (without wrappers) or loose powder…

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
Haven’t come across anything I need to give up yet….I’ve never been into heavily processed food or sweets anyway, so not sure there’s anything I couldn’t live without except coffee and wine…so far I’m good.

What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
Feminine hygiene products – or maybe I’m just a bit dumb on this issue?

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
Shop more at farmers markets and stores near my local area that stock alternative products.

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
Individually wrapped tea and coffee bags (as soon as the box is finished)
Milk in plastic bottles/cartons, in place of milk in glass
Cheese wrapped in plastic, in place of cheese from the deli
Bread wrapped in plastic, buy at farmers market or direct from bakery

What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
This is such an educational process…and kind of fascinating. There is so much I can learn about finding alternatives and what can actually be recycled. I’m happy that it is possible to live relatively plastic free by just making more aware and informed choices and making a few small changes to your habits.

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