Here is my list of plastic from Sunday, May 17, 8 p.m., where my last tally left off, and Monday, May 25, 8 p.m. EST, when I should have taken out the trash for weekly pickup but didn’t feel like doing a plastic tally. I am not tabulating or picturing cans and waxed/coated paper products because there’s too much regular plastic to keep track of, or trash that I pickup on my way to work or trash that blows into my lawn from my neighbors (unfortunately quite a bit).
Plastic from Farmer’s Market Food Products — 8 pieces
2 pcs*: 2 rubber bands from a bunches of farmer’s market asparagus [RU]
2 pcs.*: 2 rubber bands from bundles of small greens [RU]
2 pcs (1*): 2 wrappers from farmer’s market mozzarella, each heavy clear plastic with an inner woven layer sealed to the outer
1 pc: plastic wrapper from farmer’s market hot italian sausage
1 pc*: plastic produce bag from farmer’s market snap peas (I ran out of bags) [RU]
Plastic from Organic Food Products — 11 pieces
1 pc: plastic mesh bag from 4# Wegman’s Organic Oranges [RU]
2 pcs: “styrofoam” container and clear plastic overwrap from Hmart organic King Oyster mushrooms (my partner’s favorite type of mushroom)
1 pc (bundled)*: plastic tape from outside of UPS shipment of 10# organic fairtrade coffee [this supplier Dean’s Beans really does try to minimize packaging while assuring secure shipment of a heavy product]
1 pc*: plastic tape from a 5# shipment of organic dried cranberries
2 pcs: empty Hain Peanut Oil bottle and cap (not really organic but mentally in that shopping category for me) [ReC, bottle only]
1 pc: lid (inside plastic coated) from a jar of BioNaturae organic tomato paste [RU]
1 pc: tear strip from a 2# bag of Newman’s Own organic raisins
2 pcs: pour spout and top from Organic Valley half&half (my partner’s vice, but I used some of this in cooking)
1 pc: plastic stem cover from organic bananas
Plastic from Conventional Food Products — 19 pieces
1 plastic deli bag*: my partner’s purchase, but I ate some
1 lid (inside plastic coated) from a jar of BJ’s green olives [RU]
1 lid (inside plastic coated) from a jar of cabernet chocolate sauce
1 lid (inside plastic coated) from a bottle of currant juice, a gift [RU]
2 plastic bags from frozen vegetables –tail ends of stuff in the freezer from winter
1 plastic inside wrapper from a box of water-style crackers
1 plastic bag from 10# of Domino Sugar — over a year’s supply of sugar for us, the purpose of buying this resealable bag was completely defeated when the whole “zipper” assembly tore off on first opening, we’ve got better containers now and bought sugar in paper
1 plastic bag from 1# of grated romano cheese
2 pcs: individual plastic foil envelope for a Bigelow green tea bag and tab on end of string, the last of a highly over-packaged box, that we’re not buying again
4 (3*) plastic bags from bread products purchased at our local bakery [3-RU] — most of this bakeries products are available in paper bags but these were pre-packaged; no one is permitted to bring in their own bags)
2 pcs: bottle and cap from 2L of diet pepsi [RU] — this was a free supermarket promotion and has been hanging around since we moved in. I decided it was time to dump it since neither of us drink it.
2 pcs: plastic foil laminated vacuum bag from 12 oz. of coffee and closure strip [RU] — Starbucks whole bean coffee that we purchased really cheap at a Dollar Store quite a while ago
Other Kitchen/Food Plastic — 8 pieces
2 pcs. of plastic wrap used by my partner to cover a large ceramic dish of marinating meat
3* pcs. of plastic foil cork wrap from different bottles of wine (my partner’s purchase but I shared)
2* plastic corks from Barefoot label wine [RU maybe] (my partner’s purchase but I shared)
1 pc. of plastic packaging tape which used to hold a bag of something shut in the kitchen
Plastic from Restaurant/TakeOut — 11 pieces
1* mustard package used by my partner for barbeque this week, from last week’s Chinese takeout, purchased by my partner
2* pcs: #5 quart container and #4 lid from last week’s Chinese takeout [RU]
2* pcs: #5 rectangular container and #5 lid from last week’s Chinese takeout [RU]
1* styrofoam clamshell from office Indian lunch at a mostly takeout restaurant, my boss’ choice
1* plastic plate from same office lunch
2* pcs: plastic fork and spoon from same office lunch
2* plastic small water cups from same office lunch
Plastic from Personal Care Products –1 piece
1 piece of a cut-up tube of Neutrogena sunscreen
Not shown in picture or tabulated: dental floss
Plastic from Garden Products — 31 pieces
1 plastic bag from 10# of bird seed, this is an interior bag from a 40# box of Morning Song seed
1 corner from the a new plastic bag for 10# of bird seed
1* plastic “fourpak” from cucumber seedlings purchased at farmer’s market [RU]
1 plastic bag from 10 qts. of Ferry Morse seed starter mix (a 2 years supply)
1 corner from a plastic bag found while cleaning up yard, appears to be from birdfood bag
1 small piece of green plastic foil, appears to be from a plant pot wrapper, found while cleaning up yard
1 plastic label off of a pot saucer, found while cleaning up yard
3 pcs. broken up plant label stake from something grown last year, found while cleaning up yard
6 plastic tag hang strips (3*) from tags on pieces of garden trellis
1 plastic bag from a 40# bag of organic soil builder [D-RU], containing the following items which are not pictured individually:
1 plastic container from birdsuet used for something outside, which would have been theoretically recylcable if it wasn’t utterly filthy [D-RU]
4 pcs of bubblewrap which I would have re-used again if they weren’t utterly filthy, used for insulating plants during winter [D-RU]
3 plastic drycleaner bags used to cover/insulate plants, which I would have re-used again or recycled except that I let them get wet and mildew [D-RU]
1 plastic quart container used outside and now utterly filthy [D-RU]
1 pc. of landscape cloth, apparently reclaimed from the ground by wildlife
1 small pc. of plastic from the lid of citronella candle
1 small pc. of plastic from the lip of a plastic pot
2 small pcs of plastic torn from bags of garden amendments
Plastic from Other Consumer Products –9 pieces
3 pcs: a plastic clothing tag hanger (in 2 parts) and a size tape strip, from a summer top purchased in Dec.
3 plastic rack hanger tabs from 3 prs. of work gloves, purchased in Dec.
1 pc. of plastic from a quart container used to store bulk purchased laundry detergent [D-RU]
2 small pcs. of plastic that appear to be from different plastic shopping bags, found on the floor
Advertising and Mail Plastic — 11 pieces
1* bag from local free circulars thrown in my yard [ReS]
6 window envelopes: 1* financial, 3* advertisements from organizations or entities I do business with or support, 1* junkmail, 1 bill [ReC, all]
1 pc*: static cling decal from junkmail solicitation from Appalachian Mountain Club.
1 pc*: large plastic envelope for financial mailing
Reused Plastic that is being discarded — 1 piece
1 plastic shopping bag now gritty that will be next week’s smelly trash bag –I don’t know where this came from or remember what I was using it [D-RU]
TOTAL: 110 pieces of plastic
including 21 pieces that will be reused (not counting wine corks)
7 pieces that have been reused and are now being discarded
1 pieces being recycled curbside, not counting window envelopes since the plastic is not recycled
1 piece being recycled via supermarket dropoff
Total number of plastic pieces newly acquired in total — 39 pieces
What items could I easily replace with plastic-free or less plastic alternatives?
During the farmer’s market season, I replace frozen vegetables with fresh and hope to have a sufficient okra harvest this fall and a four season harvest of greens this winter, perhaps eliminating the late winter need for commercially frozen green vegetables. We have replaced sugar packaged in plastic with sugar packaged in paper.
What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic-free alternative doesn’t exist?
Office politics aside I could give up the Indian lunch and all its endless plastic. But I may not have too. As I was carrying out my pile of plastic trash, my boss and I ended up getting into a discussion with the owner, who said she couldn’t eliminate plastic but bring your own containers was fine, and then my boss suggested that maybe we could find a picnic kit, only he noted he’d only seen ones that were plastic.
How many of these items are from “convenience” foods that could be made from scratch with less packaging but might take more time to prepare?
Crackers, the bakery purchases (buns, pizza shells, and Easter bread), pre-grated cheese and chocolate sauce are all things that could be made with less packaging. We were buying pre-grated romano and parmessan cheese when the price was the same as ungrated, but we’re placing this with a chunk of cheese, which is now actually cheaper, and grating our own (still plastic but probably less). I do occasionally made pizza crusts from scratch but the pre-made ones are bought specifically because they are a convenience.
What items are essential and seem to have no plastic-free alternative?
As with last week dental floss and sunscreen. While there are alternatives to getting garden soil and amendments in plastic bags, we don’t generate enough compost for all our needs and having soil delivered by the truckload would be a real nonstarter for getting things done around here unless I hired someone to do the heavy work.
What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
Well, the big one that stands out here is taking better care of the plastic that I use in my gardening and not letting it deteriorate from unnecessary exposure to the elements.
What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
I’m going to go with e-notification on the annual report-type financial statement.
What other conclusions, if any, can I draw?
There’s a number of items on this list that resulted from decisions weighing price, efficiency, and packaging choices that backfired. One example is the defective closure on the plastic bag of sugar. Another is the Newman’s Own raisins that I bought off Amazon at a great price for 3 2# packages, which I assumed would be shipped in one box. Nope. Each 2# package was shipped in its very own box from different locations.