December 10, 2007

Week 25 Results: 12.8 oz of plastic.

Back from my retreat and so grateful that I have a beautiful place to go and supportive people to be with for a few days to recharge. More on that tomorrow. I’m still in retreat mode, so this post will be brief.

I mentioned that the plastic this week would be a doozy, and I wasn’t kidding. I went through drawers and cupboards searching for unnecessary plastic packaging to add to this week’s tally. Next Sunday will be the 6-month anniversary of Fake Plastic Fish, and I’d like to start out as cleanly as I can for the next 6 months. So here we go:

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

  • Plastic from a blister pack of emery boards. Discovered during the great cosmetics purge last week.
  • Plastic from a nail buffer file blister pack. See above.
  • Plastic from an eye liner blister pack. Above, again.
  • Plastic from a lip color blister pack. Again, the purge, above.
  • 2 Kleenex pocket packs. These are the last of the pocket packs of Kleenex.
  • 1 Safeway Select paper napkins plastic package. No more paper napkins for us. It’s cloth from here on out.
  • 13 Invisalign aligners. Wow. I really thought I’d already found and tallied all of these. You know, Invisalign seems like such a wonderful way to straighten teeth without having to wear unattractive metal braces, until you think about all the plastic waste involved. Each set of aligners is discarded after two weeks. I wore them for about three years. That’s 78 sets of plastic aligners, plus the plastic packaging they are encased in. Worth it? I’d be a hypocrite to condemn them now after I’ve already reaped the benefits from them. I’ll just say that these days I’d have reason to reconsider such a choice.
  • 8 Invisalign blister packages. See above.
  • 1 large plastic drycleaner-type bag that was covering a tablecloth.
  • 1 vinyl (I think) tablecloth package from a Crate and Barrel table cloth. It feels like vinyl. I can’t be sure. There’s no plastic number imprinted on it.
  • 1 plastic package from a pair of bike shorts I never opened. I’ve had these sitting in the drawer in the original plastic packaging for years, ever since 2001 when I gave up on riding a bike. Maybe (if my friend Sharon will help me) I’ll get a bike and start riding again.
  • 1 ancient vinyl (I think) sweater bag. This thing is probably at least 20 years old and has the cracks to prove it.
  • 1 foam bag from a computer part.
  • 35 miscellaneous plastic bags from random computer and video cables and other things I found throughout the house. I gathered this packaging up before I left for my retreat, and now I don’t remember specifically what held what. But it doesn’t matter. Suffice it to say, there was still A LOT of plastic packaging in our home. And there probably still is, actually.

So that’s all the old stuff. Now for the new plastic waste.

  • 10 Refresh Endura single-use eye drop containers (#4 plastic). Yes, these have moved from the old plastic waste section to the new. I’ve used up all the eye drops I bought before starting this project and have brought a whole new batch into the house. As I’ve said before, they’re a medical necessity for an eye condition that I have. The nice thing about this purchase was that even though the containers are plastic and the cardboard boxes are shrink-wrapped in plastic, the company I order from,, was very nice about honoring my request for no plastic packaging materials in the shipping box.

    I was very specific in the note I sent them: “Please do not use any plastic packaging or fillers. I do not want bubble wrap, styrofoam peanuts, plastic air pillows, or any other type of plastic packaging in the box. Thanks!” The package arrived as requested, with my note highlighted in yellow on the packing slip and a hand-written note: “Okey Dokey Only Paper” and a smiley face. Whoever took care of this order in the warehouse was someone I’d be happy to do business with again!

    I wish I could find an alternative to all these plastic eye drop containers. But right now, I just can’t. Especially with winter coming and the dry air from heat systems. This weekend at the retreat, in fact, I found myself getting up in the night for a second round of eye drops after waking up to some excruciating cornea pain. As long as this condition continues (which I’ve had since February of 2002) I’ll never be entirely plastic-free.

  • plastic shrink wrap from a box of Refresh Endura eye drops. See above.
  • 1 wrapper from a block of Cabot Private Stock classic Vermont cheddar.

So that’s the plastic for the week. Thanks to everyone who left such nice comments on Michael’s post while I was away. Tomorrow, I plan to write a few things about discoveries made at the retreat. And this week, I hope to complete the Frequently Asked Questions post I mentioned a few days ago and also a summary (with pictures of course) of all the plastic I’ve collected to date. And there will be a few other useful posts that even I don’t know about yet. Stay tuned!

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13 years ago

hi jus set up a blog called killed by plastic,, i am an artist and do varied art events/performances, will keep in touch. loved your blog

Beth Terry
13 years ago

Hi Juli. If you read this response to your comment, would you be willing to send me a private email? I’d love to find out more about your eye condition to see if it’s the same as mine and compare notes. I’ve been living with this for almost 5 years, have had all kinds of procedures including laser surgery, and nothing has worked permanently. My email address is in my profile.

And Green Panther, I’m tallying my plastic waste each week and analyzing it in order to see where it comes from and figure out alternatives. In a few days, I’ll be posting a photo of all the non-recyclable plastic I’ve accumulated since I started this project 6 months ago. And then hopefully, in the next 6 months, there will be significantly less.

The Green Panther
13 years ago

This post reminds me of the week or so, earlier this year, when I tried to take a picture of everything I threw out in the trash I put out for pickup on my curb.

My plan was to make a year’s worth of pictures into a collage to make a point about how much waste we (and I, specifically) contribute to the flow of garbage.

I finally couldn’t keep up, timewise, with the photography. And honestly, it got to be less-than-inspiring to take photos of yet another crushed Diet Sunkist can.

Well, now I’m off soda and rethinking another stab at the project . . . are you doing something similar? I really should just read back through your blog to find out, but I’m on my way out the door so I thought I’d just ask.

Anyway, thanks for the inspiration and keep up the good work!

13 years ago

I bought an etched glass “emery board”. It works really well and will last virtually forever. Even though it still comes in plastic, you only have to buy one once.

Beth Terry
13 years ago

Hey, Terrible Person, I guess you didn’t notice the badge and link to The Story of Stuff on my sidebar. It’s great. I’ll have to make it more prominent so others will see it.

You will not be thrown out of the bunk as long as the weather is so cold. Don’t worry yet!

terrible person
13 years ago

And here is a cute little video called “The Story of Stuff” about the cycle of production, consumption, and disposal, and how it needs to change. Not that much specifically on plastic, but worth a watch, I think. (I mean, maybe a Timex watch, probably not a Rolex.)

terrible person
13 years ago

By now, you’ve probably heard that the Oxford English Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2007 is “locavore” (or “localvore”), meaning someone who only eats food grown locally. But one of the runners-up is one I’d never heard: “upcycling”. Read about it here.

Beth, when you say I’ve been “debunked”, does that mean “thrown out of the bunk”? It will get awfully cold without me!

13 years ago

Hi Beth,

I started reading your blog last week and linked through No Impact Man. I’m so inspired! And so glad you are blogging– I miss the posts from PlasticFree.

I have an eye condition, too. I know about those drops! A few things that have helped me recently are drinking (a lot) more water, using a humidifier, and taking fish oil caplets (frozen and at night to avoid the burp issue). I haven’t needed to use nearly so many drops this week as a result.


13 years ago

Hi Beth,

I have been reading your blog for several weeks now.

It started when I read a newspaper article about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and I decided to take steps to reduce my plastic use…So I started Googling about plastic consumption and that is how I came upon your site. I’m a busy student at UCLA and I can’t be as orthodox about this as you! You are intense!!! I’ve really just tried to stop buying plastic bottled beverages (its hard to do–almost like an addiction). But I’ve definitely been more conscious of my plastic waste.

Anyhow, I think what you are doing is great. In addition to being a very articulate and entertaining writer, you are setting a very good example and increasing awareness. Keep it going! :-)