November 23, 2008

Sickness: Not so eco-friendly, actually. Year 2, Week 23 Results: 8.4 oz of plastic waste.

I haven’t acquired this much new plastic waste (by weight) since August 24, week of the holey polar fleece blanket.

I started feeling crappy late Sunday night. Wednesday morning, I woke up with a fever of 102°F. As it climbed rapidly over the next hour, I was a quivering mess of chills and aches, barely able to think or even dress myself. Michael took off work to help me get to Kaiser, where a chest X-ray revealed pneumonia.

I returned home with a bag of plastic bottles (not included in this week’s tally because I’m still working on them) and collapsed on the couch, begging the husband before passing out, “Please get me some Chinese soup from Becky’s. And I don’t care if they put it in plastic.” (Grammarians, was that a dangling modifier?)

And boy, did I ever end up with plastic, as you’ll see in the tally below. All new plastic waste:

  • 4 plastic soup containers & 4 lids. We ordered 1 large won ton soup and 1 large hot & sour soup. We didn’t realize that large meant LARGE.
  • 4 plastic bags, 1 around each soup container. And they were necessary too because the containers leaked like crazy. Wondering why Becky’s doesn’t find a more effective way to package soup. As I recall, those cardboard cartons didn’t used to leak. And I’m not even worried about what could have been leaching from the plastic into the hot soup. When you’re too sick to stand up, you have other priorities.
  • Kaiser ID bracelet from the Radiology department. I don’t know why the bracelet was necessary. When I get other types of X-rays (mammography, etc.) I don’t receive a bracelet. But this chest X-ray was performed in the hospital itself, where perhaps ID bracelets are standard procedure.
  • 1 blister pack of Azithromycin antibiotic tablets & 2 blister packs of pain meds.
  • 2 plastic trays & 1 plastic wrapper from a new HP print cartridge. This was from Monday afternoon — before hell broke loose. Office Max kept my old print cartridge to return to HP for recycling.
  • 1 plastic wrist band from the SF Green Festival. Should have been included in the tally last week.
  • 1 plastic seal from around the neck of a glass bottle of Frontier fair trade vanilla extract. I opened this one on Monday to make homemade chocolate syrup. Will post the recipe this week.

Being sick has been less than ecologically kind in the paper department as well. I used up the few actual Kleenex tissues I had left in the house and then went through a roll and a half of Seventh Generation recycled toilet paper. Cloth handkerchiefs just don’t cut it in these situations.

Is this too much information? Just wait until I tell you about our cat litter fiasco! And I have not forgotten about the Contest. I plan to write about the SF Green Festival tomorrow.

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Beth Terry
14 years ago

Anne, I’m very skeptical about your not being able to put tissues in the compost bin when you’re not sick. If the rule about bodily fluids were true, we couldn’t put any food-soiled paper in there because most of it contains traces of our saliva. Paper napkins surely do, and I’m pretty sure they are allowed.

If your nose is running because of allergies rather than sickness, it seems the tissues would not do any harm. The material is subjected to high heat in the steaming compost piles. If I were you, I’d pursue the issue further and make sure you didn’t just happen to speak to someone shooting off an easy answer rather than a valid ones.

14 years ago

Bummer, Beth. I just called Sunset Scavenger (they handle San Francisco’s city-sponsored compost program) and the representative told me that no tissues should go in the compost bin if they contain bodily fluids, which obviously used Kleenex does.

Since I have allergies that is a major source of my waste. Bummer.

14 years ago

Beth, you got off easy… when I was in the hospital for 3 days in August/Sept, I was bombarded with enough plastic waste to give me a plastic anxiety attack: thank god for the drugs! Thanks for the inspiration: now I have today’s blog entry!

I’m glad you’re feeling better… so many people I know have been nastily sick lately… somehow I’ve managed to skate by unscathed… *knocks on wood*

Beth Terry
14 years ago

Hi Anne. I really don’t know about Jello inner liners. I would assume they are plastic-coated. I would call the city if I were you to find out.

I composted my Kleenex, too. Not in my own bin, but in Oakland’s green bin. I too am hoping it was the right thing to do. I’ve visited a commercial compost facility, and I know that the temps get way up there, so hopefully hot enough to kill whatever ailed us.

14 years ago

Bummer! Yes, we returned to our plastic overconsuming ways when a bout of sickness descended upon our house too. I put our mounds of Kleenex in the compost bin — hopefully that is not a health hazard — and recycled our 7-up bottles.

I also called Kraft to see if we could compost the paper liners that Jell-O comes packaged in, but they nice lady I talked to didn’t know. They seem to have a plastic-y sheen on the inside — do you know if they can be put in the bin?

Hope you’re A-OK now. :)

Beth Terry
14 years ago

Hey Juli. One thing I learned from visiting the compost facility is that there are all different “recipes” for plastic bags. Knowing that they are polyethylene doesn’t tell us what other additives went into creating them. Recyclers like to buy clean batches of one type of bag — for example all Safeway bags — because they know what’s in them and what their melting point will be.

Probably your tissue wrapper would be considered a contaminant that wouldn’t do much harm since it’s so small. That’s just my guess.

14 years ago

Beth, I’m glad you are feeling a little better! Question about the baggies that came with the soup– are they made of polythylene, like grocery bags? Could they be recycled along with grocery bags? Right now I’m looking at my empty plastic pocket tissue wrapper and wondering…

Beth Terry
14 years ago

Thank you everyone who wished me to feel better. I’m actually very grateful for this “down time” because it’s given me the chance to practice just being with what is. I had the nicest day today. My kitties are so beautiful. I finally went out into the world to do a few errands and everyone was smiling at me. And then, I realized, it was because I was smiling at them.

Clif — that song was just the right thing at this moment.

14 years ago

I have just the perker-upper for you Beth – and for everyone who reads and comments on your blog.

Here is a song sung by the kids at the school where my partner works. It is so joyful and uplifting that I’m spreading it around to give everyone a smile. Yes, I know the agony of suffering through children singing at school but this is professionally produced and quite different.

The song begins on slide 4 of this slideshow (total silence until then).

I think it’s good enough to go national – enjoy!

Mindful Momma
14 years ago

Sorry to hear you’ve got the crud. Focus on getting well and don’t stress out about tiny bits of plastic or cranking out another blog post!

14 years ago

Oh no! I hope you feel better!

Green Bean
14 years ago

Feel better! Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.

14 years ago

always fun to read the train of thought here. somehow this phrase struck my grammarian left eye:
seventh generation recycled toilet paper. the word recycled applies to the nouns toilet paper; can you tell i also am feeling poorly?

yes i know the brand and yes i wholly believe in using paper products on a must only basis.
and no plastic unless…
rosemary infusion and honey lemon tea every hour, are my own remedy for all and any infection– a warm bath with a lavender and rosemary cotton sachet bag at bedtime seem to cure what ails you and cleanse the air as well. hope i’ve distracted you from the pneumonia for a minute here, ns

14 years ago

Get better Beth!

14 years ago

Hope you feel better!

14 years ago

I was recently hospitalized for an infection and *everything* from my medical supplies to my meals had enough waste (plastic, mostly, but paper and misc. waste as well) to make the big vein in my head throb alarmingly. All I could think was, “And I’m just *one* tiny patient in *one” bed in *one hospital…” well, you get the idea. It’s painful to consider sometimes how very long this journey to sustainability and stewardship truly is…

I too hope you feel better soon. ~Lisa (aka Dioscita)

14 years ago

I am with you… cloth handkerchiefs do NOT cut it in situations like that.

14 years ago

Aww Beth, really hope you are feeling better by now.

An aside about the plastic, I’ve always wondered if people would so joyously drive the SUVs if they realized there will eventually be the choice between using the petrol products to make gasoline or medical supplies. Given that choice, some may wish they had chosen differently when they had the chance.

Take good care of you.

14 years ago

You better concentrate on getting better- I need your wit and and humor to get me throught the day. And give those containers to Arya- she will find fun things to do with them! Sammy cat says those are perfect to store catnip in!

Ted and/or Laura
14 years ago

Ugh, feeling sick is no fun. Don’t stress about the chinese food containers. There are hundreds of reuse uses for them…everything from storage of leftovers, to storage of crafts to drums to stacking fun for kids…so it doesn’t have to be waste… (and if you don’t need them, send them to me…we use ours like crazy)

~ Laura

A Slice of the Pie
14 years ago

Take care Beth, and feel better soon.

knutty knitter
14 years ago

If you are sick there will be plastic in this day and age so don’t sweat the small stuff!

Do get yourself well again – that’s the important bit. Oh and cuddle the cats. Somehow it helps.

viv in nz