July 14, 2009

Year 3, Month 1 Results: 8.8 oz of plastic waste

Well, it’s been a month since the Two-Year Anniversary of Fake Plastic Fish, and as mentioned, I’m going to be posting my tallies once a month from now on rather than weekly. So, while this may look like a lot of plastic, please remember that it was collected in over four weeks. Still, it’s more than I’d like it to be, so let’s look at the tally and descriptions to see what was inevitable and what could have been avoided.

Plastic used up this week but purchased before the plastic project began:

  • 1 mini microphone. Chewed through by Miss Arya. I have to be so careful about leaving cords lying around within kitty reach. Don’t know if I can figure out how to fix this.
  • 1 Kaiser Permanente Membership card. For some reason, Kaiser felt the need to send everyone a new improved card, even though the old ones still worked.
  • Plastic coating from Disney pencil. I found another Disney pencil in my home (must have been given to me by a friend) that is covered in plastic. Do I really want plastic dust in the pencil shavings each time I sharpen that pencil? According to some web sites, pencil shavings are compostable. I don’t want plastic in my compost either.

New plastic waste:

  • 8 plastic envelope windows. From Financial West Group (Which has now switched to online statements, so this should be the last one!), Kaiser Permanente (new card), Registrar of Voters (2 more elections!), Safeco Insurance, 24-Hour Fitness (membership renewal), & the Oakland Superior Court (Jury summons). I’m working hard to reduce the amount of paper mail I receive overall!.
  • 4 strips of plastic tape. From a Marin County Fair mailing (2 pieces), a promotional book copy, and a package from Gaiam. These three mailings were paper envelopes with a bit of tape on them.
  • 4 “Sign-Here” stickers from Marin County Fair. These stickers marked where I was to sign some documents for my appearance as the Plastic Sea Monster. Sometimes I wonder how contracts ever got signed properly before the days of plastic arrow stickers. Were you around back in the day? Do you know? Because for the life of me, I just can’t figure out how something so complicated was ever accomplished without them. :-)
  • Air pillow and plastic padded pack from “new” cell phone. As you may recall, I debated whether to switch to the socially responsible company Credo, which would necessitate getting a new phone (since Credo uses different technology from AT&T) or to stick with AT&T and my old phone. Finally, I made the choice to get a refurbished Moto Q9c from Credo because it’s a company I’d rather support and because I was able to avoid a brand new phone. There was a little plastic packaging involved.
  • Padded pack and blister pack from mini LAN card. I went ahead and purchased a Wifi card for my phone so I can access the Internet in places where cell coverage might be lacking (like some areas at the BlogHer conference in a few weeks!). My intention is not to buy any new technology for the rest of the year!
  • HP ink cartridge package & tray. I ran out of cyan. Unfortunately, my printer will not operate without all the cartridges full. I couldn’t just set it to print with black ink. No, I had to replace the cyan cartridge even if I’m not going to use it. I hope that HP is looking into ways to make its printers more efficient because the one I have is certainly not. For now, I’m taking steps to reduce the amount of ink I use in the first place. I’ve set the machine for black ink only and on the fastest speed, which uses less ink and prints lighter. I’m also printing very few documents in the first place.
  • Plastic windows from two Fed-Ex cardboard mailers. These contained a sample reusable grocery bag set (which I’ll probably give away on this blog this week!) and my Southwest Airlines travel vouchers — a prize for winning the Bay to Breakers costume contest in May.
  • Two Straus milk caps. The milk comes in a returnable glass bottle. The cap is plastic. I plan to continue asking Straus to look at more sustainable alternatives for the cap.
  • Tom’s of Maine toothpaste cap & neck threads. As I’ve mentioned before, the metal toothpaste tube can be sent back to the company for recycling. (See link below.) The cap and plastic threads must be removed first. I pried off the threads with a kitchen knife.
  • Piece of plastic from the ends of a bunch of organic bananas. See explanation below.
  • One Balance IT homemade cat food supplement bottle, cap, foam seal, & scoops. This supplement lasts many weeks and takes the place of many cans or bags of cat food. See below for details.
  • Cap from a mini bottle of sparkling wine. My co-workers took me out to celebrate 10-years at my job. I wasn’t expecting my wine to be served in a mini bottle with a plastic cap, and yet… there it was.
  • One plastic bag of World’s Best Cat Litter. See explanation about our cat litter choice below.
  • 10 plastic price tag hangers from Goodwill. I had a rare shopping splurge at Goodwill and ended up with a bunch of new old clothes. The tiny hangers were the only plastic involved, as I avoid synthetic fabrics and plastic beads. More on that issue in a later post.

As you can see above, the chart looks different. It’s a Google chart which links to the actual spreadsheet. I’m trying to figure out the best way to present this information. I’m not really satisfied with the Google chart. I’d love for you to be able to click on any month and see the photos and tallies for that month. If you know of a program that will do this, please let me know!

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In terms of the plastic top on Tom's toothpaste, you can remove the screw threads easily just by grabbing that little jobber with a pair of pliers; comes right off.


I love this idea of rounding up the plastic waste for the month. I need to start doing this. I bet I will discover that I use a lot more plastic than I care to think and…that it is time to make some changes. Thank you for the great post!


Wow! 8oz in a month. I am always so impressed when I see your listing because just the counting of the food plastic has resulted in like 3 times that in a month for me.


My 4-year-old drinks a lot of milk, and I buy it in re-usable glass bottles. I was recently wondering if you drank milk and if so what you do about the plastic tops. I am alternately disappointed that there doesn't seem to be a better option, and glad to know that I haven't overlooked something obvious.

And that's interesting about the bananas. I'd wondered that myself.

Robin Shreeves

Thanks for the info about the plastic wrapped around organic bananas (I clicked on the link). I always thought it was just a way for the grocery store to make it more obvious to the cashier that they are the organic ones.

Pure Mothers

I feel the same about those stickers and other items that aren't really considered "progress", but make it 1 second easier to find where to sign. Since when was 1 second so valuable to us? This past weekend we had a 2nd birthday party for our son and we got a few latex balloons for him. (Disposed of in the trash- we did not 'let go' outside!) When my husband came home I looked at them and noticed a little PLASTIC clamp on top of the knot at the end! How on earth did we enjoy balloons when I was… Read more »


For the "Sign-Here" stickers, I know what you are talking about since I once used similar stickers in my school books, but I have never seen any. (If you don't count those on your picture ;o)

I dare say that I have signed many forms in my life, but I did not recall to have seen anything other than yellow highlight or, most often, a simple a X written by the person who hand me the form. Or both maybe..



I think the contracts them selves were more simple. You only had to sign in one place. No?

Who needs a sticker when you can just sign on the last page?