July 15, 2007

Week 4 Results: Drowning in 13.9 oz of plastic

Michael asked me this week why I felt the need to catalogue every tiny speck of plastic. Does each little cheese wrapper really make a difference?

And in an online discussion group, one of the participants questioned my priorities, saying,

“I sympathize with your frustration… but do you think that plastic wrapping is a core issue, worthy of all your attention? Plastic wrapping accounts for a minor amount of plastic use (though it may be much in your face as a buyer). We have millions of tons of car parts and furniture and trinkets and clothing and so much more being made out of plastic.”

He then went on to say, “Beth, surely working on the larger issue of the zero waste redesign of plastic manufacturing will be more rewarding than removing wrapping on pieces of cheese (where the wrapping at least serves a reasonable function, like it or not).”

These points are quite valid, and if course there are bigger problems in the waste stream than a few cheese wrappers. So I want to clarify the reason for this weekly tally of every plastic item I discard.

It’s not so much that I think each piece of plastic is equally as harmful to the environment as the others. The weekly tally serves to emphasize the ubiquitous nature of plastic in our world. The purpose is to bring to our awareness just how many things are made of or are wrapped in plastic and to help us wake up to how completely plastic products have become a part of our daily lives.

Listing the items each week helps me to be aware, and I hope it helps those who read this blog. So, with that explanation, here is this week’s list:

Items used this week but purchased before the plastic project began:

First, plastic wrappers, bags, and other non-recyclable plastic:

  • 1 “clam shell” package from an Oxo candy thermometer I bought a few months ago and hadn’t yet used.
  • 1 plastic package from a tube of photo glue stick.
  • 1 plastic ballpoint pen, used up and unrefillable.
  • 1 plastic wrapper from a bar of Micky Mouse soap.
  • 1 used scrubber sponge. Yep, the dark green scrubber part is plastic and the sponge is made of some kind of synthetic material.
  • 1 sponge attachment for a plastic dishwand. This is the last one.
  • 1 plastic dishwand. This is the handle that you fill with soap. We won’t be using it anymore because we’d have to keep buying plastic sponge attachments for it.
  • 6 Refresh Endura single-use eyedrop containers (#4 plastic). It turns out Michael can’t recycle these at work after all because San Francisco only accepts bottles and wide-mouth containers. Not other items, regardless of the plastic number.
  • 1 Pure & Natural liquid hand soap pump bottle. (#1 plastic) This is our last bottle of liquid soap. We’re switching to bar soap from now on. And I’ll find another use for this bottle.
  • 1 wrapper from around the neck of an ACT fluoride rinse bottle..

Now for the recyclable plastic items:

  • 1 #1 CA Redemption Value bottle: Figi 1.5 litre spring water. Found this in a cupboard and used it up this week. Michael will take this to Safeway for the cash.
  • 1 ACT fluoride rinse 18-oz bottle. (#3 plastic) I can put this in Oakland’s curbside container since it’s a narrow-necked bottle. I have 3 more of these to use up.

That’s it for the waste from items purchased before the plastic project began. Okay, now for the new plastic waste:

  • 1 Stahlbush Island Farms caulifower bag. Do not be fooled by these. The bags look like brown kraft paper on the outside, but the inside is lined with plastic.
  • 1 Safeway Organics soy milk spout & cap. For now, have switched to quart-sized Wildwood organic soy milk. This is the only brand and size I have found without a plastic cap. Even the Wildwood half gallon has a plastic cap. I also got some bulk powdered soy milk to try, but I don’t know how palatable it will prove to be.
  • 1 Eating Right frozen meal plastic tray and film. (#1 plastic) I didn’t buy this. I forgot to take lunch to work, and my co-worker was nice enough to give this to me. Now, the tray will be with me for life!
  • 1 Dutch double cream gouda cheese wrapper from last week. A guilty pleasure.
  • 1 Michael Angelo’s frozen dinner plastic tray and film. (#1 plastic) I’d never tried it and didn’t know what the plastic situation would be. Now I know.
  • 1 film from the top of a Helen’s Kitchen frozen dinner. The tray was cardboard.
  • 1 Fedex padded pak. I had to order a set of HP restore disks to fix my dang computer, and this is how they were shipped. I’ll reuse the pak.
  • 1 ziplock-type baggie that was inside the Fedex padded pak. I can reuse it.
  • 1 shrink-wrapper that was around the CDs that were inside the zip-lock bag that was inside the Fedex padded pak that HP sent.
  • About 10 air-filled plastic pillow things that were around a solar porchlight from Smarthome. Didn’t even think about the packaging when I ordered the porch light. I knew the light was going to be plastic, but I rationalized that it’s not new plastic for us because we bought it in place of a traditional plastic porch light that is going back to Costco tomorrow.

I believe the only new plastic I purchased this week was part of the cap from a Klean Kanteen stainless steel bottle, in which I can carry water without worrying about plastic leaching into it. I plan on having this bottle for a very long time.

That’s the list for this week.

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K :)


Hi there, stumbled onto your site accidentally….but loved it :) DOWN WITH PLASTIC!! I’m from England, here recycling is getting much easier. We have a fortnightly collection and put out out purple/blue bins in which we can recycle paper, cans, glass, plastic and cardboard etc :) But unfortunately not many people round here seem to bother. How lazy!!

K :)


“I believe the only new plastic I purchased this week was part of the cap from a Klean Kanteen stainless steel bottle, in which I can carry water without worrying about plastic leaching into it. I plan on having this bottle for a very long time.”

Oh, Beth…I’m soooo proud of you! It’s great to know that those 1000’s of $ of college money have not gone to waste.


terrible person

Hey, read this! It’s all about how we create so much trash our landfills are filling up! Soon there will be no land to fill! (Well, most of it is full of people anyway.)


terrible person

You were right. I just checked our recycling guide at work, and it says that “#2, #4 & #5 Rigid Plastic Containers and Lids (yogurt cups, for example)” are acceptable. But not little eye thingies. So it goes.