December 29, 2008

Year 2, Week 28 Results: 8.8 oz of plastic waste.

Well, we can’t say I didn’t end the year with a bang. Look at all that plastic, most of which was acquired new. And some of which is exactly the kind of packaging I routinely rail against. But I have excuses explanations for all of it, I assure you!

First, plastic used up this week that was purchased before the plastic project began:

  • 1 plastic bag of Ocean Spray craisins. Found in the back of the refrigerator while cleaning on Thursday. Do I know how to celebrate Christmas or what? These things expired two years ago, apparently. Dumped them into the compost and have the bag left to deal with.
  • 1 bottle of Spectrum Essentials wheat germ oil & cap. Another discovery, expired and forlorn in the refrigerator. And at this point, I have no idea why I bought this stuff in the first place. I must have read that it was good for me. Any ideas?

New plastic waste:

  • 1 large plastic clamshell from a new Flip Video camera. Here’s where the justifying begins because this is just the kind of thing I’m always complaining about and for which I find alternatives or buy used or don’t buy at all. And in fact, I didn’t buy this item. I received it free from a marketing research company as part of my payment for participating in a video consumer research project.

    Here’s the deal. I’m registered with several research companies to attend focus groups for a fee. Being opinionated has its rewards. So a few weeks ago, I got a call from one of these firms offering $200 plus a free camera for me to spend 45-60 minutes making a video of myself in my kitchen, discussing the products I buy and tools I use and then finally sharing my thoughts about a particular brand of organic canned food. It sounded like fun. I didn’t think much about plastic when I agreed to do it. I believe they called during the office Christmas party, and I’d already had a glass of wine.

    So the camera arrives in the packaging you see in the photo. Crap. I considered sending it back and backing out of the project. After all, the camera itself is plastic and made who knows where (Wait… let me see… it’s made in… China! Big surprise.) and I wouldn’t need it if I would get around to having my bigger expensive video camera repaired (although, to be fair, the big expensive camera requires plastic DV cartridges, whereas the Flip doesn’t require any additional media cartridges or cards at all.) Blah blah blah. I was ready to send it back, and then the light bulb went off in my head.

    This project could be a perfect way for me to let this particular organic foods company know how I feel, as one of their customers. To let them see a nearly zero waste kitchen, and to address the issue of BPA in their cans! I would not be sending just an email or letter, but a whole video explaining what people like me need and want. And it would not be seen by a customer service rep but a marketing department interested in what I have to say! So I decided to keep the camera and go through with the project. The extra money in no way influenced my decision. (Okay, of course it did. In the interest of full disclosure, I’d really love to have an extra $200!)

    I completed the video last night and am uploading it now. (It’s taking hours to upload.) Tomorrow, I’ll post parts of it here… the parts I can show. I probably am not allowed to tell you the name of the research company or organic foods brand, but just keep in mind that when it comes to BPA, all food cans are lined with it (organic or not) with the single exception of Eden Organic beans. The brand in the study is not Eden Organic.

    If you buy beans or veggies or tomato paste in cans, consider writing a letter to the company and asking them to find an alternative to BPA.

  • Another plastic clamshell from a 3-pack of LED night lights. I haven’t checked, but I’ll bet these are the only two clamshells I’ve acquired all year. Could be wrong, but I can’t remember any others. And once again, this was a freebie. We had a coupon for a free CFL from a local hardware store, and when Michael went to pick up the CFL, they gave him this instead.

    The night lights (yes, plastic) are actually really cool. Light sensors allow them to come on only when the room is dark… an energy saver for people like us who forget to turn off our night lights in the morning. And they use much less energy than the CFL we leave on in the kitchen so as not to kill ourselves in the dark. And much less than the incandescent night light bulb in the bedroom.

    But isn’t it ironic that a product created to save energy is made from so much plastic and packaged in still more plastic? I’ll be writing two letters tomorrow… to Flip Video and to Feit Electric. I’ll post them here, of course.

    Oh, and one more thing about clamshells. Check out the benefits as listed by I love number 3: Adds value to product. Really? In what universe? These packages are so hard to open, there’s now a special tool you can buy just for the purpose. Exactly what value do you think they mean?

  • Plastic baggies from 2 aluminum felt door sweeps & plastic packing tape from the box. I bought the door sweeps online because the door sweeps available locally were made from vinyl (PVC) which I just won’t buy if there is a PVC-free option. Of course, they came in plastic bags with plastic tape on the box. We’ve already tried using a handmade draft dodger, but our cats tore it open and spilled beans all over the house. They are not very environmentally-friendly, those kitties.
  • Plastic shipping tape & UPS envelope from Skoy cloth delivery. Sigh.
  • 1 piece of plastic from the ends of a bunch of organic bananas. Unavoidable in these parts.
  • 1 little plastic pull tab from a large metal can of soy sauce.
  • 1 plastic gift wrap bag from a co-worker. The contents of which have already been re-gifted. Yes, it was plastic. And in fact, the day I received the gift, I was in an ornery mood and considered posting it on my blog and ranting about the uselessness of the present. But then I decided I didn’t want to be an a**hole that day. So I didn’t. Are we glad?

Okay. This year is almost finished. If I have a chance this weekend, I’ll photograph and post one shot of my 2008 new plastic waste. It all fits into one big cat litter bag. I was hoping to keep it under 5 pounds for the year, but those wacky clamshells this week put me over the top. Here’s hoping 2009 is even lighter!

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Beth Terry
14 years ago

Hi Maya. It would be exciting if Whole Foods’s cans were not lined with BPA. Please let me know what you find. I would not necessarily accept the statement of an employee but would get a definitive answer from above.

Here is Whole Foods’s statement on BPA. Note that it doesn’t mention cans:

This blog, written almost a year ago, states that Whole Foods does use BPA in its cans:

Like I said, this could have changed. But I would think that if they had removed it from their cans, they would have posted that info in the BPA section of their web site.

14 years ago

I asked at Whole Foods and one of their employees told me their cans don’t have BPA liners…I wonder if they were wrong? I guess I’ll write corporate and get clarification.

My sons got some horrible plastic presents (soft bath toys–filled with phthalates) from some very dear relatives. I just said thanks and got rid of them later.

14 years ago

Skoy sent me my sample cloths in an envelope with a plastic mailer, so when I ordered my round for Christmas, I specifically asked them to use no plastic in the mailing. They wrote my address by hand (a huge chore, I’m sure), and they mailed it in a paper mailer with no tape. I wonder why they handled yours differently…

14 years ago

Thanks for the link to the article. I buy as much in glass as I can because it’s so easily recyclable, but I didn’t know about the BPA in cans. I’m still learning and determined to do better for Mother Earth. And my health!

Beth Terry
14 years ago

Christy B, you rock! I guess the third company is Henry & Lisa`s Natural Seafood. Check out this article:

Everyone, check out this notice on Vital Choice’s web site:

So that’s helpful to people who eat canned fish and canned beans. There are so many other foods in cans… including that of the company for which I did the video. It’s not one of those three.

Christy B.
14 years ago


Exciting news, I got an e-mail last night from Vital Choice stating that they are 1 of 3 companies who have chosen BPA free cans. Unfortunately, they didn’t share who the other 2 companies are – I am assuming Edun is one but the other company remains a mystery, so far!

14 years ago

Arya is sitting so pretty next to that Video Camera Clamshell- Posing waiting for her closeup Ms. Demille!

14 years ago

You buy soy sauce in a can? Weird.

14 years ago

Oh, how I hate clamshells. We only had one this Christmas though (a beard trimmer for Mr Chiots). All other gifts were not wrapped in plastic and had minimal or paper packaging – YEAH!

Beth Terry
14 years ago

Guessing games. I think I know who you are too, Anonymous #2. But my refrigerator is now clean. Or clean enough. Wouldn’t you rather scrub out the disposal? Or take apart the dishwasher?

14 years ago

For your belated Christmas present, I will clean your refrigerator. If you can guess who I am and want to take me up on this fabulous offer, all you have to do is call or email. A hint: I am not the person who opened your refrigerator door last June.

Beth Terry
14 years ago

Hi Vanessa. Yes, it’s true about BPA-lined cans. Here’s one article I found quickly:

Unfortunately, this article’s author recommends other plastic alternatives. The shelf stable packaging (aseptic packs) don’t contain BPA. But they are nearly impossible to recycle and are lined with plastic. My choice is to opt for glass jars and to buy as much fresh food as possible without any packaging.

Beth Terry
14 years ago

Well, Anonymous, if by “Friend” you mean “Dear Old Dad,” I actually don’t recall your ever opening my refrigerator. I do remember your opening up my freezer repeatedly. Perhaps you were having hallucinations brought on by the combination of massive sugar rush and ice cream headache.

Glad you’re still alive!

14 years ago

All food cans are lined with BPA? Is this common knowledge and I’ve been under a rock? Is the shelf stable packaging (like Rice Dream milk) better? I’m trying so hard to green my life and attacking new things as I master each challenge, but BPA is in all food cans? Sigh! Sometimes this is overwhelming!

14 years ago

“1 plastic bag of Ocean Spray craisins. Found in the back of the refrigerator while cleaning”

I believe it! I felt like I was about to be attacked during the few times I opened your refrigerator door last June. LOL!

A. Friend

14 years ago

I too have plastic that was given to me by well-meaning friends as Christmas gifts. I am this close to asking everyone I know to quit giving me presents, period and donate to worthy causes instead. It’s so hard to do that without hurting feelings though! Christmas really sucks!!