August 26, 2007

Week 10 Results: 5.6 oz of plastic

04/14/2008 Update: If you’ve reached this page because you want to know how to recycle Brita filter cartridges in North America, please visit for more information about the campaign to urge Clorox (owner of Brita in North America) to develop a take-back recycling program for these cartridges!

In solidarity with my guy Michael, who left on a jet plane today with his TSA regulation zip-lock bag of liquids and gels, I packed up my plastic waste in a zip-lock type bag that I happened to acquire this week. He’s got a conference to attend for a couple of days, and then he’ll be joining me in Anaheim as my friend David and I attempt the Disneyland Half Marathon on Labor Day.

Crimany! I’ve run exactly 4 times since my surgery on June 11. It will be interesting to see if I’m still alive to blog about plastic in a week after dragging my untrained self 13.1 miles through the happiest place on earth. If so, I’ll probably have some interesting things to share about plastic in Mickey’s world.

So, here’s the tally for week 10:

Non-recyclable items used this week but purchased before the plastic project began:

  • 8 Refresh Endura single-use eye drop containers (#4 plastic).
  • 1 San Francisco Silent Film Festival laminated pass & neck cord. I found this while cleaning out my backpack this week.
  • 1 Brita filter cartridge. As I’ve mentioned before, the filters are encased in a disposable plastic housing. But, with Michael gone and time on my hands, and no one to stop me, I decided to do a little further hands-on research. I used a hand saw to cut through the plastic and reveal the cartridge innards.

    As you can see, in addition to the housing, the carbon filter has two endcaps, also made of plastic.

    My question is this: Why do these cartridges need a disposable housing? Wouldn’t it make more sense to sell a permanent housing that you would open to insert a cartridge consisting of just the carbon filter with the endcaps?

    That is how the Multi-Pure system is put together, which Scott from Least Footprint recommended to me this weekend. The housing sits on the counter or under the sink, and the cartridge is a carbon block with two plastic end caps. The cartridge only needs to be replaced once a year, resulting in much less plastic waste than with the Brita System.

    I also found out this weekend that Brita USA is actually owned by Clorox, that environmentally responsible manufacturer of such products as Clorox bleach, Liquid Plumr, and Glad plastic trash bags. So another reason the cartridges are recyclable in Europe and not in the United States could be because they’re not actually made by the same company, and the company that does make them in the U.S. doesn’t give a crap!

  • 1 Brita cartridge blister pack. (See above.)
  • 1 baggie from a ChampionChip timing chip. This is the thing you put on your shoe that keeps track of where you are during a race. This one was from the SF Bay to Breakers in May, and I happened to find it while cleaning.
  • 1 plastic wrapper from something I don’t remember.

Recyclable items purchased before the plastic project began:

  • 1 ground black pepper container (#1 plastic) & lid. Now that the ground pepper is used up, I’ve switched to buying whole peppercorns in bulk and grinding them in a pepper mill. I’ll either reuse this container or recycle it in Daly City.
  • 1 Safeway Organics applesauce cup (#7 plastic). I have 1 more of these left to use up and can recycle the cups at work in Daly City.

Now for the new plastic waste:

  • Plastic corks from 2 bottles of Boissonneau Chateau Moulin de Ferrand Bordeaux Blanc.
  • 1 zip-lock type bag which contained a Jessica Prentice SF bay Area Local Foods Wheel. What a little dilemma I had this week. The Local Foods Wheel was recommended to me by a woman I met at the farmer’s market last Sunday. It shows what foods are in season in the Bay Area during the year. What a great idea! Yet, when I went to purchase the Local Foods Wheel, I found it packaged in a very large zip-lock bag. So I e-mailed Jessica Prentice to ask about her decision to use this kind of packaging. She wrote back that she wanted to use biodegradable materials but hadn’t been able to find a bag in the right size. I’ve offered to help her find a more sustainable type of packaging. We’ll see what happens.

That’s it. I didn’t buy any other plastic last week.

Hey, I love all of your comments, and it will be especially nice to get them this week while Michael is away.

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Sven Gali
13 years ago



A simple straightforward step-by-step method for reusing the plastic filters.

Problem solved.

Nothwithstanding the fact that I have put forward this non-confrontational approach to the problem, I can see there is lots of energy being spent on this. So let me state the obvious…

Clorox is a public company.

The shares of the public company are owned by the “public”.

That’s you folks (either directly or through your 401k, pension, IRA etc. etc.).

The directors and CEOs of public companies get fired for not making money (the shareholders do the firing by the way).

So you, as shareholders, can tell the public company (at shareholders meetings), how you want the company to behave.

In this case, you would tell Clorox that you don’t mind making a few fractions of a penny less in dividends if they’d only recyle the filters.

Problem solved! – Oh by the way this works for all public companies…


Sven Gali

13 years ago

Inre: water and water filters. Aside from drinking the tap water, there is only 1 way I’ve found to get away from plastic in filters: whole house GAC (granular activated charcoal). I worked in water purification (U.S Pure Water in Novato, CA) for almost 2 years and learned a lot during that time. Funny, we installed the high output R.O (reverse osmosis) in the Clorox/Johnson Controls plant: the water feeds a bank of toilets where they test their new and existing products. Why R.O you ask? It’s a control: it has no minerals in it, so you can get repeatable results.

Getting back to water filters: Brita filters use an abundance of plastic, while others use less. Hydrotec systems are primarily what US Pure water installs in homes, and their filters use some plastic, probably less than Brita, but without cutting a filters apart and doing a weight comparison, I can’t be sure. Perhaps the way to get use the least amount of plastic would be to install a whole house GAC filter, which costs quite a bit up front, but cuts the chloramine, chlorine and quite a few other nasties out of the water. It’s not as effective as RO, but for those with good source water (much of the bay area, except those on well water), this is a fine solution and you’ll experience nicer water for showering as well. For those who don’t own their own homes (or can’t make the investment) the choice isn’t as clear. Most people will tell you that drinking the tap water is fine, and in the days before the widespread use of Chloramine, it was true that you could use tap water and then let the Chlorine off-gas by letting the water stand. Chloramine won’t off-gas no matter how long you let it sit, hence the desire for filtration to remove the chloramine and associated taste. So what to do? My vote is to reduce the amount of plastic bottles. Get an undersink (or sink-top if you’re not allowed to mod you sink) carbon block filtration system if you’re on a budget. Over the course of it’s life, it will use far less plastic than buying all your water bottled. An R.O system provides even better filtration (it’s the “ultimate” in mechanical filtration), but they are more expensive and very few can be found in sink-top models. Finally, there’s whole house GAC which provides less filtration than R.O but it treats ALL your water (which means not just the kitchen sink water but the bath and bathroom sink water too: drink from anywhere!) and large scale GAC usually comes in woven polypropylene bags (which I believe can be recycled). Per gallon, it has to be the least amount of plastic. Just some food for thought.

Beth Terry
13 years ago

Hello, SP. I have considered going without any filter, but I just don’t like the idea of drinking chlorine and fluoride. Chlorine provides us with germ-free water, but I feel like it should be removed before we drink the water. And fluoride works topically on teeth but shouldn’t be consumed either.

13 years ago


I enjoy your blog and have been making similar efforts but feel that I’m drowing in plastic.

However, I too have the brita challenge as we come to the end of the last filter.

Then, I had a challenging thought. What about drinking water from the tap (we stopped buying water 1 year ago)? We live in Menlo Park and the water standard is high even though it tastes a bit funny.

So, that’s what I’m going to do. No more brita or filters once we use up the one we have.


terrible person
13 years ago

I haven’t noticed that they use more plastic here in San Diego than in the Bay Area. I’ll look around for recycling bins. But here is a relevant article….

terrible person

13 years ago

Thanks for cutting open the filter. We’ve been using these but I really hate to. I may look into another system. On another note, I use a vitamin oil on my legs after I shave. The brand I was using came in a plastic bottle. I did find a similar type of oil, this one with lemon, in a glass bottle and switched. I also have switched to syrups for my coffee in a glass bottle. Means I drive a little further but I love the store and can stop when I’m out in that direction anyways. Thanks for your blog. Helps me think of new ways to do what I already have been wanting to do.

Least Footprint
13 years ago


I must say that you are doing this right with as little plastic as you use. I am finding plastic showing up everywhere now. The box of cereal has a plastic bag inside. (I buy bulk cereal mostly but there is one cereal my wife really likes that is in a box, so we still buy it every now and then.)

Another thing I ran into recently when I tried to convert to greener fluorescent bulbs was that the three way fluorescent bulbs all came packaged in plastic blister packs. Save the planet one way while destroying it another. Kinda didn’t make sense to me.

I hope you do well on your run.