August 25, 2009

Year 3, Month 2 Results: 3.4 oz of plastic waste

Oh hai. Once again it’s time for another monthly plastic tally. This month was tough, what with all the traveling. And there are several items not even shown in the photo for various reasons which I will list below. My sister suggested I take a break from plastic collecting/tallying during my visit with family in Hawaii, but that feels like it could be a slippery slope. And since this tally has nothing to do with blame and everything to do with education, it’s valuable to see what kinds of situations lead to more plastic waste. That said, here’s the tally.

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

  • 1 bottle of Hunt’s ketchup & cap. This shows you how rarely we eat ketchup in our home. This bottle has been around for over two years! We finally used it up this month.

    I have replaced it with a glass bottle of Westbrae Naturals fruit sweetened ketchup. The funny thing is, I bought the Westbrae ketchup over a year ago, thinking we’d be done with the Hunt’s soon, and it was nearly expired by the time we opened it. Now, when I check the Westbrae site, I don’t see this product listed. Is it discontinued? I don’t know. It tastes great. Maybe when it’s used up, I’ll make my own ketchup.
  • 1 used up/chewed up pen. Yum! Yum! Kitties love to chew plastic. Pen found while cleaning up my office area.
  • Elastic from an old pair of underwear. Yep. It’s plastic. It goes in the tally. And yes, I was obsessive enough to remove it all from the cotton underwear with a seam ripper. Actually, it was relaxing.

New plastic waste:

  • Plastic seal from the neck of a new glass bottle of Westbrae Naturals ketchup. This was the only plastic on the bottle. Unless you count the coating inside the metal cap. Which I don’t.
  • 2 strips of plastic tape. From an envelope that was mailed to me.
  • 1 plastic tear strip from a cardboard FedEx mailer.
  • Plastic neck seal & plastic inserts from a glass bottle of Spectrum Naturals olive oil. I have been taking my own bottle to Whole Foods to refill from their bulk olive oil container. But this particular day, they were sold out and gave me a small glass bottle of olive oil for free. For my trouble. Isn’t that nice?
  • Plastic seal from around the neck of a bottle of Pepto Bismol. This is the infamous bottle that my roommate Micaela got for me when I drank too much at BlogHer. The bottle itself is also plastic and will be included in the tally once it’s used up.
  • Plastic name badge holder from BlogHer. I’ll hold onto it and try and remember to take it with me to the next conference.
  • Plastic CTA transit pass. For taking the El and buses while in Chicago. I actually used it less frequently than I expected, opting for feet and bike instead.
  • 2 plastic bags of kitty treats. Both were gifts from friends. We don’t buy them treats outside of the homemade cat food we make for them each week. I wish kitty treats were sold in bulk like dog bones are.
  • Packing tape from a box of Seventh Generation recycled toilet paper. Read about our nearly plastic-free recycled toilet paper solution here. (Note: recently, I read about a new recycled toilet paper that comes in a cardboard dispenser. Unfortunately, it has less post-consumer recycled content than Seventh Generation.)
  • 1 single use plastic container of Refresh Endura eye drops. My little cornea problem flared up temporarily.
  • 2 plastic price tag hangers. From a couple of dresses I bought in Hawaii.
  • 2 plastic salad dressing cups. From Big City Diner in Hawaii. All the rest of the food was served on durable dishware.
  • 4 plastic envelope windows. 2 from Chase regarding credit card issues, 1 notice from AT&T, and 1 receipt from a fabric company.

And now for the travel-related plastic not show in the photo:

  • 1 plastic cup from the BlogHer Friday night cocktail party. I explained this one in my BlogHer post. I took the photo of the cup but lost the actual cup to an efficient table clearer.
  • 1 Styrofoam food container. Obtained from the food vendor inside Diamond Head Crater. My heart sank when I realized all the snacks were served in Styrofoam, but it was too late. I lost this one to my efficient sister cleaning up.
  • 2 plastic straws. Yep. The one time during my trip I forgot to ask for no straw. And then realized it. And then forgot again when ordering my second drink. And then forgot to put in my purse.

So what have I learned this month? I’ve learned that we as individuals can only do so much. That we can’t be hyper vigilant all the time, as best as we might try. But that still, we can’t give up. Styrofoam seems to be a way of life in Hawaii. Apparently Maui is considering a ban on polystyrene containers. Anyone know about other efforts happening in Hawaii? Individual actions are important, but they are not enough. I’ll write more about this topic tomorrow.

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Beth Terry

Thanks, Dad. I fixed it. Linda, I'd love any details you can find about plastic/styrofoam measures in Hawaii. Condo Blues and RobJ — Seriously? Cooking their frickin' food from scratch is not treat enough? I have to also bake them treats which are basically the same as the food I already cook for them? Unless you guys are willing to come over and do it for me, those kitties are not getting anything extra except for kisses — not the chocolate kind. Juli — Yep, the autopilot is on a lot and I have to repeat my requests for no… Read more »


Wait, you're in your "50th decade"? That means you're at least 490 years old! I had no idea!

Quiet Little Life

Unless it's totally shot, the elastic could be reused for something else. How about tying up tomatoes?


This one's even better – no cans – only fresh stuff. AND it hails from our very own Fog City Diner.


Those straws will get you! Do you ever have the experience of saying 'no straw/no plastic wrap please' only to have the person behind the counter forget and automatically put the straw in, or wrap the item in plastic, until they finally hear you protesting? Happens to me a lot.


Hi Beth,
Welcome home – I've missed you!

I buy a 48 roll case of Natural Value tp by special ordering it from my local grocery store. They give me a 10% discount on a case order. The tp is 100% recycled, 80% post consumer, and it comes in a cardboard box. I bring the box home from the store in a wagon!


You can buy the ketchup on amazon.


Thanks for another inspiring post. I am much more conscious of my plastic use these days, and I am inspired by your efforts every time I read your blog.


Poor Soots and Arya don't get no treats? Well here is a post on making homemade kitty treats. Soots- don't eat carrots- especially if that blitzkrieg dog eats them. Hold out for kitty treats- shred something if you don't get them. Use them claws kitty!

Condo Blues

The most upsetting thing in this month's plastic tally is finding out that the kitties don't get treats regularly :( Blitzkrieg LOVES carrots and I usually have some cut up in the refrigerator/freezer for training sessions. I'm the only person in the history of our agility classes who's dog does agility for carrots because it's a high value treat for him. The vet OKs it and we're both happy it keeps him slim for the ladeeze. Are there any plastic free veggies that are OK for cats to earn as a treat? In addition to buying plastic free treats at… Read more »


Hi Beth – I've finally started to seriously reduce the amount of plastic our household consumes, and it makes me even more stunned at how well you're doing. If I tried to take photos of everything we use, I'd need several blog pages to cover it all! And we really ARE reducing!

It is just so hard with kids, especially preschoolers. They bring stuff home MADE with plastic! Augh!

I think I need to work harder.

Thanks for posting, and helping me to think more about this issue.

Daharja (Cluttercut)

Lisa Sharp

Man I wish this was all the plastic I use in a month. Oh well, I'm trying. :) One step at a time right?

My husband and I are trying to find a way to order the 7th Gen from Amazon. Just need to find space for it. We are buying the biggest amount we can at once right now but that is still a lot of plastic for 12 rolls.


Maui did not pass the proposed ban on plastic bags several months ago, but my son says the campaign is reorganizing. I'll get you some details.