September 5, 2007

Week 11 Results: 2.6 oz of plastic

Back from the fiery furnace known as Anaheim, CA. Still in one stiff and sore but mostly okay piece. More about the trip and the race and the plastic situation in Southern California (and I’m not just talking about surgery) later. For now, it’s all I can do to list the tally for the week ending Sunday, 9/02:

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

  • 5 Refresh Endura single-use eye drop containers (#4 plastic).
  • 1 outer wrap from a box of Refresh Endura eye drops.
  • 1 Aidell’s portobello mushroom sausage wrapper. All gone now.
  • 3 So Delicious mini frozen sandwich wrappers . These are all gone now.
  • 1 Garofalo spaghetti wrapper. I still have 2 more packages to use up.
  • 1 plastic wrapper from a Wholphin DVD. These are a series of DVDs that I subscribed to months ago by the folks at McSweeney’s. Not sure how many more I have coming. Of course, this doesn’t even include the plastic the DVD itself is made from. But it’s not yet waste, so it doesn’t go on the list yet.
  • 1 foot of plastic packing tape. I believe it’s from the Wholphin DVD package.
  • 1 lid from a container of garlic powder. Will buy spices in bulk from now on.

Recyclable items purchased before the plastic project began:

  • 1 powdered garlic container (#1 plastic). See above.
  • 1 Safeway Organics applesauce cup (#7 plastic). These are all gone now!

Now for the new plastic waste:

  • 1 plastic cork from a bottle of Boissonneau Chateau Moulin de Ferrand Bordeaux Blanc.
  • 1 plastic cork from a bottle of Calina Reserva Chardonnay. Bought this while on vacation in Anaheim. It’s hard to know which bottles have plastic corks until you open them.
  • 1 wrapper from a Bakersource white chip macadamia cookie. Michael brought this to me, and I just couldn’t resist it.
  • 1 mozzarella cheese wrapper. Usually Michael buys these for himself and I don’t touch them. But he was out of town this week, and I wanted cheese. So this one ends up being my weekly cheese wrapper.
  • 1 plastic ring from a glass bottle of San Pellegrino mineral water. I try not to buy any bottled water anymore. But sometimes you just want something fizzy, and what else can you do? This glass bottle has an aluminum cap. This tiny ring is the only bit of plastic on the whole thing.
  • 2 bits of colored plastic from the ends of a couple of toothpicks. Yeah, it’s really minimal. But I list everything. These toothpicks were in a couple of sandwiches that were provided at a company meeting.
  • Plastic window from a paper bag of Safeway “artisan” bread. Actually, the store was Von’s in Anaheim (owned by Safeway.) We tried to find bread without any plastic, but this was the closest we could come. And actually, we bought it from the bakery case and asked the clerk to sell it to us without the bag, but she refused. Apparently, the SKU number is on the bag, so we couldn’t avoid it.

    We also discovered that the Von’s stores in Anaheim (and presumably the rest of Southern California) do not offer paper grocery bags, only plastic! I guess as Northern California and other areas ban plastic bags, Safeway ships them to its stores in areas without plastic bans and does away with the paper bags in those areas. Isn’t that just great! They do have thin paper bags for the bagels and other baked goods, and those are what we used for our purchases since we forgot to bring in our reusable bags! It’s easy to forget things like that on vacation out of town, but we did try!

As far as new plastic purchased this week that is not yet waste, I did order 3 refurbished Smart Strip power strips from Bits Limited. Smart strips are better than ordinary power strips for saving energy because they automatically turn off your devices when not in use. I opted for refurbished models rather than brand new ones, hoping to save some plastic in the process.

And I have a confession to make. It occurred to me this week, after reading Radical Garbageman’s comments on my August 28 post, that I may have been cheating a little bit. Let me explain.

Radical Garbageman thinks I should list Michael’s cottage cheese containers in my tally, even though Michael buys them for himself and I don’t eat them. While I don’t agree that I should list everything that Michael buys for himself (we are quite independent and actually buy many things separately), it did get me thinking about other plastic packaging that I might benefit from even though I didn’t actually buy the item for myself.

Of course, if Michael buys something that I eat, I list it. Like the macadamia nut cookie this week and the mozzarella cheese. But how about while eating out? Surely many of the ingredients that go into foods that I buy in cafes or restaurants are packaged in plastic. And in fact, I have two examples for this past week:

1) A cream cheese bagel that I purchased from a cafe. I watched the server scoop the cream cheese out of a plastic container. I didn’t buy the container. But I did benefit from that plastic.

2) An avocado sandwich that I bought from another cafe. I saw the preparer take the bread slices out of a plastic bag. Once again, I didn’t buy the package of bread, but I did eat 2 slices of it.

So I’ve decided that while I’m not going to include these items in my tally because I can’t actually weigh them, and how do you count 2 bread slices worth of wrapper anyway, I am going to make a point of listing these items at the end of each weekly post so that I can be more aware of plastic while I am out in the world. The more I remember to plan ahead and prepare my own foods, the less I have to worry about plastic purchased by others.

And here are a couple more things that aren’t going in my personal tally but that are nevertheless linked to me:

1) A box of 1099 and W-2 forms from Greatland that I ordered for the office came packaged with those plastic air pillow things. How unnecessary is that? It’s not like W-2 forms are going to break!

2) Our company’s IT firm sent me a bottle of wine to thank me for the business we have given them this year. It came in a styrofoam shipper. I didn’t ask for it; yet there it was. I gave the styrofoam shipper to Paul Marcus Wines, a local merchant near my house, to reuse. I didn’t feel responsible for receiving the package since I never asked for it in the first place. But I did feel very responsible for its disposal once I had it.

I’ll try to remember to add these kinds of things as a footnote to my tally each week, just to show how, even with our very best efforts, we still can end up using or supporting the use of plastic anyway.

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Radical Garbage Man

Don’t change a thing! (That’s why I’m a daily reader)

I’m not avoiding all plastic either — I just pay a lot more attention now to the plastics piling up around me.

Keep up the great blogging!

heather t

I agree – each of you is inspiring in your own way.

You probably knew this, but those plastic air pillow thingies are highly reusable and, without overthinking things, I would guess they are better for the environment than standard packing peanuts or solid styrofoam.

I think they put them in packages that have solid, non-breakable items, because if the items are loose, the weight tends to shift in the box during transport, which could damage other packages nearby.

Not that they are great or anything. There are better choices like biodegradable cornstarch packing peanuts – I love those things!

Beth Terry

Hey, “Racial” Garbageman, are you still drunk? (Just kidding.) I do read EnviroWoman. In fact, it was her blog that got me started doing this in the first place. And I have a link to it on my sidebar. Highly recommended. However, my blog is different from hers. First of all, she is only listing the new plastic she buys this year. We don’t get to see all the plastic she’s using up that she purchased prior to 2007. I think it’s useful to list all of it, just to get an idea of how easy it is to accumulate… Read more »

Racial Garbageman

Beth wrote:“But how about while eating out? Surely many of the ingredients that go into foods that I buy in cafes or restaurants are packaged in plastic.” I don’t see how you could possible tally that, but it’s a point well taken in terms of consciousness raising. I hadn’t even considered that almost everything in a restaurant kitchen probably was wrapped in plastic. Arrgh! another toxic stew for me to fret about my involvement in! Something to consider is the model that EnviroWoman uses on her blog. She is trying to go plastic free all year and categorizes her failures… Read more »

anna hackman

Beth-thanks for the tip on the refurbished smart strips. I went to Bits’ site to order a refurbished one. anna