May 3, 2010

Reducing Plastic Waste: April 2010 Collection Results

5.5 oz Plastic Waste [4.7 oz new/0.8 oz acquired prior to June 2007]

Beth's plastic waste - April 2010

Well, while I was away at my meditation retreat, the mice played around with my blog.  The blog hacking mice. A Fake Plastic Fish reader sent an email to let me know that my home page was redirecting to a suspicious phishing site. And isn’t it lucky I was sneaking peeks at my email while I was supposed to be avoiding communication with the outside world? I’m just saying.

The good news is that my WordPress fixer dude guy got on it right away and cleared out the malicious code, so we are back in business. The bad news is that the Discussion Forum had to go. He thinks that is where the security hole might have been since the software used to create that forum had not been updated in a very long time. So I need to find a replacement. Fortunately, all your posts are saved. Unfortunately, it’ll probably take me a while to get through all the other important items on my “To-Do” list and start working on it.

Anyway, that’s one exciting thing that happened for me this weekend, besides the meditating and all. I can’t wait to read the comments you left while I was gone and jump into the discussion you had behind my back. But in the meantime, here is the monthly plastic tally.

Beth’s April plastic waste collection

Plastic purchased before June 15 2007 and used up in the last month (0.8 oz):

    • A handful of plastic half-eaten Venetian blind tassels.

Broken plastic Venetian blind tassels

We’ve discussed how Arya likes to eat plastic, right? (Sigh) Michael and I have done everything to try and keep the ends of the Venetian blind cords from ending up between her teeth, and finally we gave up and replaced them all. I’m trying not to think about where the missing pieces of plastic tassel ended up. Anyway, a little online research revealed wood and metal alternatives to plastic tassels. offers a few.

The wood ones seemed great to us, except they’re a buck a piece, and we have a lot of windows.  Plus, after the mess both cats have made of our wood furniture, we thought it would be a little silly to invest in brand new wood tassels for them to gnaw up. The metal ones are hella expensive and come with a plastic ring to keep them from banging into the window, so those weren’t really an option for us either.

Finally Michael went out and picked up some cheap metal washers to attach to the ends.  They’re heavy enough to keep the cords from flying around and light enough not to pose too much threat to the windows.  The kitties love them, and everyone’s happy. We’ll replace them with wooden ones if/when we ever leave this apartment. It’s the very least we can do after the feline wreckage this apartment has been subjected to. (See? I’m conducting a little test right now to find out if my landlord reads Fake Plastic Fish.)

metal washer attached to end of Venetian blind pull cord

Arya kitty plays with metal washer

  • Plastic paprika container, lid, & sprinkle cap. As I’ve mentioned before, we are still using up spices bought years ago in plastic containers and replacing them with herbs/spices from the bulk jars at Whole Foods in our own containers.

New plastic waste (4.7 oz):

  • World’s Best Cat Litter bag. We used this brand of cat litter all last year because the kitties would just not use anything else. But this year, we have switched them to SwheatScoop [2016 Update: Unfortunately, SwheatScoop has switched to a plastic bag.  We now use Integrity cat litter, which comes in a paper bag.], which is made from wheat and comes in a paper bag. We’ve been using up this last bag of World’s Best slowly while making the transition, mixing it in with the SwheatScoop. This should be the last plastic cat litter bag you see in my tally!
  • Plastic packing tape from delivery of Pura Stainless baby bottle. I’m still trying to educate companies about non-plastic packaging options, and tape is the one sticking point. (Sorry!)
  • Plastic packing tape from an Etsy delivery. See above.
  • Plastic bag from the same Etsy delivery. I wasn’t sure whether to include this item in my tally or not because it’s not a new bag but one that the seller reused. Finally, I decided that I should include it because I have it as a result of an order I placed.
  • Prescription bottle and cap. As I’ve mentioned before, prescription bottles cannot be refilled in California; otherwise, I’d just keep taking the same bottle back to the pharmacy. This particular bottle contained prescription sleeping pills. So I’ve decided to just do without. For now, I’m using up a bottled of Melatonin I already had, and I still have some herbal sleep aids in the house as well. Insomnia has been an issue for me since I was a kid, and yes, I’ve tried everything on the “Sleep Hygiene” list. But now I’m realizing that my inability to sleep has environmental implications (and not just from the plastic pill bottle) that I’ll expound on in a future post.
  • Tom’s of Maine toothpaste cap and threads. See last week’s post about dental hygiene for details.
  • Small plastic bag from Eco-Dent floss container. See last week’s post about dental hygiene for details.
  • Plastic floss pick.See last week’s post about dental hygiene to understand why I had a plastic floss pick in the first place.
  • 3 plastic envelope windows.Learn about what plastic envelope windows are made from.
  • Plastic bag of kitty treats.These were a gift from a friend a long time ago, and we finally used them up. I’m experimenting with homemade cat treats. More on that in a future post.
  • Plastic “grass” from a sushi restaurant.I didn’t think to request “no plastic grass” when I ordered my food. Probably because I don’t go out for sushi very often. So I ended up bringing this little cutie home as a souvenir. But it also prompted me to Google “plastic sushi grass” and find this very interesting article about the purpose and history of plastic sushi grass. It wasn’t always made from plastic.
  • Plastic cap, seal, and tab from glass bottle of Spectrum Canola Oil.We buy all of our olive oil from the bulk container at Whole Foods, but canola oil is not sold in bulk around here. Next time, I could stop at Rainbow Grocery when I happen to be in San Francisco (and have thought to bring a jar with me) for some packaging-free canola oil.
  • glass bottle of maple syrup with natural cork stopperPlastic cap from glass bottle of maple syrup. On the other hand, Whole Foods DOES sell maple syrup from a bulk container. So nowadays, we return our glass syrup bottle to refill at the store. And since the plastic cap actually broke, I created my own little stopper for the bottle, sanding down the sides of a wine cork so it would fit just right.  I knew there was a reason I was saving all those corks, besides the fact that they make excellent cheap cat toys.
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11 years ago

Beth, Thank you so much for all the info.You’ve really encouraged me to cut out the plastic! I’ll be switching cat litters soon. I’m so glad you fixed the site. I too had the lovely experience of spam this weekend. Luckily, I panicked and didn’t click on anything. My real reason for commenting is the canola oil. There has been a lot of research and info posted in the last few years about how unnatural canola is. There is no “canola” plant. We have switched to olive oil for most oil needs. I use EVOO when I’m not cooking it and regular olive oil for cooking, coconut oil for frying or browning.

Nick Palmer
11 years ago

Glad to see people remember about the plastic element in tea bags as it seems to be me who first raised it when I discovered hundreds of “ghosts” in my wormer.

It may not be possible to make definitive statements about teabags because tea bag manufacturers are provided with the paper from third parties.

All you can do is write to your favourite tea’s manufacturer and ask. In some cases I have found that their customer services staff do not know the full truth.

They may say that their bags are compostable but (in the UK at least) they can claim that if a substance is 95% or greater compostable, then it can legally be described as compostable. This does not mean that there will not be a residue which won’t break down. As the plastic in many teabags is about 3% of the fibre then a simple query to the manufacturers may get a misleading answer.

11 years ago

Beth, I haven’t seen you post this song before, but it is the perfect song for you!

11 years ago

about the curvy corners, I haven’t looked at your code, but I have curved corners on my website and they work fine in IE, so it’s doable. I use image backgrounds for the corners (you can use one image that’s a circle), I assume you’re using the “border-radius” property?

about the pill bottles, I was wondering if you could ask your pharmacy to special order you some glass medicine bottles (maybe if you paid the price difference), but it still sucks that they can’t refill them. even glass bottles have to be manufactured and shipped (probably in plastic) and everything.

I love the kitty picture! my cat loves the tassels too but I try to hide them from him. does your cat eat the string too?

11 years ago

No – I didn’t click through – but I was paranoid for a bit…

Ah – curvy corners. No problem then. Technology is such a double edged sword, isn’t it? Thanks Beth. Your website has been a great inspiration for me. There are lots out there (as the aformentioned blogroll page shows) but you strike just the right tone that keeps me inspired, not scolded or hopeless. Round or square box corners no matter.

11 years ago

I too experienced some weird stuff from your blog – some chart looking thing that claimed to know how much room was on my hard drive and so I didn’t try to email you or comment for a while. Just today though I experienced a weird error message (click ok message) that had weird code and then some note about Curvy Corners not being available. Or something. I should have written it down for you. It was after being on your BlogRoll page for a few minutes. Hope they can take care of the problem for you.

Tory Bers
11 years ago

My kids’ school has started a green campaign to reduce the use of plastic around school. They’re asking kids who bring their lunch to school to use re-useable containers instead of plastic baggies. Apparently the usage has gone down significantly since the campaign started just a few months ago. If we teach our kids early, they’ll carry these good habits throughout their lives!

11 years ago

Sleep phobia is an excellent phrase! I am going to use it on my boyfriend, who does the exact same thing. Back when it hadn’t altered my sleep schedule yet, and I was happily snoring away by ten pm every night, I would often find him asleep at his desk, drooling on the keyboard. Now he will lay on the bed and read but not change into pajamas or take off his glasses until I make him.

Also thank you for the plastic window link. I hate those. We composted our shredded junk mail for a long time, and I still find little plastic shreds in my garden. It just doesn’t go away!

I have a question I know you’ve answered before, but I can’t find it now – which brand of tea has the plastic in the tea bags? Because this spring, turning the compost heap, I found some little ghost tea bags. Most of our tea bags compost, so they aren’t plastic – but I want to find out which ones don’t, so I don’t buy them again.

11 years ago

I saw a sign at our Whole Foods recently saying that they are going to start collecting corks for recycling. Have you seen anything like that in your area?

11 years ago

Tassles? Why not make your own? Simple- just go to a craft shop and buy some beads! I am guessing you can find some just about the right size. Of course there is nothing wrong with the fix you did either. Arya likes it!

11 years ago

Glad you are reducing your plastic consumption, but do you know what canola oil is? It is a genetically modified version of the rapeseed plant, so that the level of neurotoxin in it is considered “safe”. Canola actually comes from the words Canada Oil. I learned about and gave a presentation on this subject several years ago in my Genetics class.

Why not switch from canola to something else? I’d personally rather just use olive, sunflower, or coconut oil than the much more abundant soybean or canola oils. Aren’t there any others you can get that still save your plastic usage? I’d be thinking about not only the fish’s health but also my own. Shutting up now.

11 years ago

I don’t know how you keep going!

I try to get my plastic garbage down, only to find it creeping up again. I’m starting to think the only way around the plastic problem is large scale legislation.


11 years ago

I loved the link to learn about the sushi grass – very interesting! I also love how you made a stopper for your syrup bottle. I have had lids break and then just recycled the glass bottle now I have a way to make it last forever in my kitchen.

Condo Blues
11 years ago

Insomnia is my co-pilot too. I can’t tell you how much it helped me sleep when my husband and I replaced our mattress. It was a colossal pain because you can’t comparison shop for mattresses and if you choose something you later find is a bad fit returning them can be tough.

Other things that help me sleep is to cut out caffeinated beverages after 3pm. I stick to herbal tea. I drink mint and chamomile tea made from herbs from my garden if I’m having problems sleeping.