October 26, 2009

Year 3, Month 4 Results: 4.7 oz of Plastic Waste

Year 3 Month 4 Results
This weekend in L.A., helping to launch the Plastic Pollution Coalition and joining in 350.org events, was amazing. I have so much to share with you! But first, something that is long overdue:  my monthly plastic tally for the month ending 10/15/09. The total plastic is down.  Way down. Although there are a few missing items which I will share at the end of the tally.

This month, it’s all new plastic waste:

  • Plastic Packing tape. From delivery of stainless steel ice cube trays. I have written to Ramin at NoPlastic.ca and shared with him links to recycled paper tape he could switch to. He has agreed to check it out. Other than the tape, there was no other plastic packaging in the box.
  • 1 plastic tear strip from a Jiffy padded envelope. This was from delivery of the Tapped DVD screener, which I need to remember to return to the Mill Valley Film Festival! I’ll reuse the same envelope. Jiffy padded mailers are made from Kraft paper with inner paper fiber cushioning. I noticed on the company’s site they also offer a Yesterday’s News version in which the inner cushioning is made from recycled newspaper. Could be an even better choice.
  • Plastic scoop from powdered laundry detergent. We ran out of Ecover (which comes with a cardboard scoop) and I ran out of time to make more soap nuts soak, so Michael picked up a box of some other laundry powder (I’m not sure if it was Whole Foods brand or something else) which of course came with a plastic scoop. Unfortunately, Ecover is kind of hard to find around here, and we need to make special trips (on our bikes, of course!) to get more. We use it in a pinch when I don’t have time to prepare the soap nuts, which don’t work by themselves in cold water. Read more about our plastic-free laundry solutions here.
  • 1 plastic seal from around a carton of Ben & Jerry’s coffee Heath bar crunch. I was still having the same cravings at the beginning of October and couldn’t resist. The last several weeks have actually been ice-cream free. I’ve found other waste-free ways to satisfy my sweet tooth. Like making chocolate/coconut balls from bulk bin ingredients. Maybe I’ll share the recipe at some point.
  • Plastic clothing tag hanger. I actually have no recollection of what I bought. Oh, wait! Maybe it came from the Synergy organic cotton hoodie I got at the Outside Lands music festival. Yes, that must be it.
  • 4 plastic envelope windows. 2 notices from AT&T, 1 from the IRS (nothing serious!) and 1 notice from Chase VISA. None were routine statements, as I’ve switched all my accounts to online billing/statements.
  • 1 plastic bag of World’s Best Cat Litter. The one hold out. Read more below.
  • 1 prescription bottle & cap. These cannot be refilled in the state of California, although you can take the #5 bottles to Whole Foods for recycling in Preserve’s Gimme5 program or mail them directly to Preserve. I have not found any other solution to medical prescription plastic.
  • 3 plastic Straus milk caps. While I had been buying Clover Organic milk in paperboard cartons because Oakland allows us to put them in our city’s green compost bin, I always felt a little awkward about it. Straus, I believe, is a more responsible company, their glass bottles are returnable to be refilled, and the bottles contain little plastic which is in contact with the actual milk. Paperboard cartons, on the other hand are lined inside and out with polyethylene (plastic, not wax) and even though they are allowed to be composted, I’m not crazy about the idea of plastic-encased food. So I’ve switched back to Straus and will be including these caps in my tally. Read about my visit to Straus Creamery below.
  • Plastic tag and twistie from a bunch of parsley. Honestly, I didn’t even notice the plastic tag when I bought the parsley. I think I was in a rush as the store was about the close, and I needed the parsley for a quinoa salad I was making (which was awesome [and whose recipe I found here.])

Plastic waste not included in the tally:

I’ve decided that it does no good to carry home unrequested plastic straws and other containers that are brought to me and quietly add them to my tally. The wait staff and owners of restaurants need to hear my message, and asking them to take these things back sends a clearer message than giving them my plastic speech while at the same time accepting the plastic. So I’ve decided that when I receive unwanted plastic in restaurants, I’m simply not going to accept it, and I’m going to explain why. Of course they’ll just throw it away. That’s not the point. The point is to get the message across for next time. So in addition to sending the items back, I will also link to the source of the plastic in hopes that if any of you patronize these establishments, you’ll help me reinforce the message.

So, here are the items I refused to accept, but for which I take responsibility nevertheless:

  • 2 thin plastic bar straws from Coast Beach Cafe & Bar in Santa Monica. And guess what. No, I didn’t have an alcoholic beverage. In fact, I didn’t drink during my trip at all! The straws were inserted into my seltzer & pineapple juice, which I found to be almost as delicious as a mai tai. If I squinted.
  • 2 plastic condiment containers from Jerry’s Deli. These contained shredded cheese and chopped onions for my cup of chili. After sending the plastic away, the waiter returned with two stainless steel containers of the same size. I don’t understand why he didn’t use these to begin with! Fortunately, everyone at the table had just returned from the Tapped screening and were wearing “Plastic Is Washed Up” T-shirts, so the message was loud and clear.

Happily, I remembered to specify “No plastic straw. No plastic anything!” at all the other places I ate this weekend. And of course, I carried my reusable utensils, glass straw, and LunchBots container to be sure.

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17 Comments on "Year 3, Month 4 Results: 4.7 oz of Plastic Waste"

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You can find recycle paper tape, recycled office paper and other recycled office products from here:


I work at this company called shoplet.com and they encourage their customers to buy recycle items. During check out, if the items you are buying is not a recycled item, you’ll have the option to swap it out for a green alternative.

Through a long chain of events, I stumbled across your blog today. First thing I gotta say is YOU’RE AWESOME! Cutting down plastics to ZERO consumption is essential and you’re well on your way and encouraging/teaching others. That’s great! What I came to say though was to recommend “Cradle-to-Cradle” by William McDonough and.. I forget the chemist’s name. It’s a book all about changing global design to incorporate biodegradability and recyclability to ALL products in order to achieve complete sustainability – and end the cycle of throwing trash “away” since there really is no “away,” it all stays in our… Read more »
Hi Beth, We did have a general “bulk buy” shop here (Jersey, Channel Islands , U.K.) in the 90’s but it failed. You have got me thinking though. We do have a speciality tea/coffee shop and I already have the tea balls/infusers for my mint and herb teas so I just might make the journey in town to get some loose leaf tea. It used to be said that loose leaf tea brewed in a tea pot was regarded as far superior to tea bag tea but they then made tea bags better so just about everyone gave up loose… Read more »

Hi, Nick. Thanks for making that point. Do you have access to buying tea in bulk? I buy all my tea from the Whole Foods bulk teas section in my own container. Then, I use a metal tea ball to steep it. The tea goes in the compost with no packaging waste. Is that a possibility for you.

It’s good to let everyone know about the tea bags in case they are thinking it all breaks down. Thanks.

Hi Beth, I have mentioned the following on quite a few green blogs and, so far, I have found out that what I mention below is virtually unknown. It’s tea bags. As far as I know, all tea bags contain a percentage of polyester fibres in amongst the paper (so the manufacturers can heat seal them). I found out because I compost my bags in a wormery and after a year or so I found a mysterious impenetrable (to the worms) “net” like layer had built up. Research showed what the problem was. If you compost them in a standard… Read more »

Take a look at what my lady love is crazy about these days. These low-calorie meals come loaded with plastic and are cooked in that plastic. Not only do I wonder about the health aspects of eating food after it has been in contact with scalding hot plastic, but I wonder if ConAgra, who produces it, makes the plastic (#5) from recycled plastic stock. I am going to write them asking these questions.

Hi Kevin. Where are you located? I have found recycled paper tape in Canada (which is where noplastic.ca is located):


In England:


Here is an article about paper tape with some links at the bottom about where to find it:


There is plenty of paper tape in the U.S. I bought mine at a local office supply store. But whether it’s recycled is another question. I will research more when I have time. If you find it, please let me know.

What is your source of recycled paper tape? Plastic tape has been something I’ve spent some time trying to find alternatives to but was unsuccessful. I’d love to replace my use of it with something paper-based.

PS: great blog, I’m a new readerand love that others share my passion for avoiding plastic

Do you have an Aveda nearby? If you’re looking for a place to downcycle the hard plastic milk cap and medicine cap, I’ve dropped both types of caps off for their cap recycling program. They even gave a free hand massage as a thank you. Now if only my city recycling program would hand out free massages when I drop off my paper at the city recycling dumpster..

My vet is willing to take our prescription bottles; she re-uses them for scripts and whatnot. I gather animal rx isn’t as tightly regulated as human rx.

We had two very sick dogs and ran up quite a stash.

My pharmacy will also re-fill MY scripts into MY bottles if I ask.

I totally agree w/ your decision to go w/ Straus! I can’t believe how low your tally is!!!

Take a look at what my lady love is crazy about these days. These low-calorie meals come loaded with plastic and are cooked in that plastic. Not only do I wonder about the health aspects of eating food after it has been in contact with scalding hot plastic, but I wonder if ConAgra, who produces it, makes the plastic (#5) from recycled plastic stock. I am going to write them asking these questions.

…also – Martha Stewart was on the View – making halloween treats and she was using a Metal IceCube Tray!!
I think she said it was available for purchase at Michaels craft store.
Kind of cool to see these things go mainstream.
Best Regards,

Hello Beth, I also completely switched to Swheat scoop and my cat did the *Poop on the Floor* scenario. However, then determined to change – I took the standard clumping litter and mixed in about 10% wheat. It was almost completely unnoticeable even to me. I kept slowly increasing the percentage of Swheat scoop in there (as the level of my standard clumping went down) and mixing it completely in – not layering it like the box suggests. Finally *gulp* I was at 100% Swheat scoop. The cat was fine and used the litter box through all this. It was… Read more »

I don’t include plastic that comes to me specifically AFTER I mention that I am not interested in plastic. People are just so used to their jobs that require them to dish out plastic that they do it without thinking even after you request it.

Julia (Color Me Green)

maybe you’ve already addressed this, but what exactly do you say when you want plastic straws, etc at restaurants returned? i get flustered if i try to do this and my boyfriend says i come off as mean and weird. whereas i would prefer to come off as assertive and inspiring. i would love to hear your advice!

Hi Beth,

I have no qualms about returning unwanted plastic waste, eg envelope windows, back to source. They have to see the consumer’s viewpoint which is often ignored when complaints are made on TV programmes. Their attitude is ‘more of the same’. I am happy to take a similar approach in returning the waste items to them for processing.

Your usual friendly approach has value of course and there have been many positive responses but Junk Mail needs particular attention since it is a persistent offender.