Monday, March 31, 2008

Plastic Waste: A One Week Collection

To get an idea of how much plastic I'm sending to the landfill these days, I decided to collect a week's worth of plastic waste, with the week starting last Monday and ending yesterday. Below are the results, a la Beth from Fake Plastic Fish, minus the weight measurements since I don't have a scale.

The Results

Clockwise from top left:

1. Bag from brown sugar: This was purchased before I started trying to reduce my plastic consumption

2. Two safety seals from Breyer's ice cream: I had people over for a potluck on Sunday night because it was my birthday, but I ended up running short on time when I was getting everything ready. To make up for it, I purchased ice cream to serve as a dessert, but I had to buy Breyer's since my boyfriend is lactose intolerant. Hence the plastic seals.

3. Ribbon: This was part of the gift wrap from my otherwise plastic-free birthday gift from my boyfriend.

4. Kleenex box plastic: This came from the box I used to have at work (I need to get a handkerchief!)

5. Packaging for disposable contact lenses: This is a type of plastic waste that I'm not ready to give up.

6. Safety seal from organic peanut butter jar: Not much to say here, but that I hate plastic seals.

7. Tag from asparagus: I didn't realize this was plastic when I was purchasing the aspargus for my birthday dinner. Darn.

8. Plastic tab: I found this under my couch while I was cleaning for the dinner party.

9. Two bags from microwave popcorn: My co-workers were going to throw the bags away because they were expired. I intercepted them and ate them as snacks instead of letting them go into the trash.

Not pictured: Two cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon (aluminum cans are lined with plastic). I drank these in a moment of weakness (read: pre-birthday drunkeness) at a bar on Saturday night.


I'm pretty happy with how I did, although I obviously had a few weak moments. I could have, for example, planned a different dessert for the dinner party or opted not to have the cans of beer at the bar.

Lessons learned: Plan better for dinner parties, examine tags on vegetables, and don't drink too much.


Emily DeWan Photography said...

I would say this is a pretty darn good collection. Regarding #5, you can switch to non-disposable gas permeable lenses – all the cool kids are doing it.
Is the Breyer's the only brand that makes lactose-free ice cream?

LifeLessPlastic said...

Hmmm, I should consider getting non-disposable contacts once I finish my current supply. I'll have to chat with you about that. As for the ice cream, Breyer's probably isn't the only one who makes it, but it's the only Brand of lactose-free that I've seen for sale around here.

arduous said...

Even most disposable lenses are made to last a lot longer than the manufacturers claim. Obviously check with your optometrist, but mine has cleared me to use my contacts for two months as opposed to the manufacturer recommendation of two weeks. Less waste and less money!

arduous said...

P.S. Your plastic waste is very impressive. And I think you get dispensation for the PBR because it was your birthday anyway. But don't stop drinking! Just drink your PBR on tap!!

LifeLessPlastic said...

Arduous. Indeed! I definitely have to agree about the disposable contacts. I'm only supposed to wear mine for two weeks but I always wear them for at least a month. I always worry that it's bad for me, but never enough to stop using the contacts longer.

As for the beer, tap beer is better anyway, right? I shall not veer from course again :)

Fake Plastic Fish said...

Be careful eating microwave popcorn! Those bags can be lined with PFCs (perfluorochemicals) the same stuff that's in Teflon. This is what the Environmental Working Group has to say about them:

A flood of disturbing scientific findings since the late 1990s has abruptly elevated PFCs to the rogues gallery of highly toxic, extraordinarily persistent chemicals that pervasively contaminate human blood and wildlife the world over. As more studies pour in, PFCs seem destined to supplant DDT, PCBs, dioxin and other chemicals as the most notorious, global chemical contaminants ever produced. Government scientists are especially concerned because unlike any other toxic chemicals, the most pervasive and toxic members of the PFC family never degrade in the environment.

You can buy regular popcorn and pop it in the microwave in a regular paper bag. I would not eat the microwave popcorn even if it's free. Maybe the trash would have been a better place for it, even though we know that there is really no "away" when we throw things away.

LifeLessPlastic said...

Ill, gross. I've never been a big microwave popcorn eater, and have always been fond of making it on the stove (like in this post), but that's pretty disgusting.

Aimee said...

I know she's evil, but there's something I love about Martha. Not too long ago she had a segment about making brown sugar (both light and dark) from scratch. No more plastic bags!!!

Martha's Homemade Brown Sugar

The Minimalist said...

I love your site and have added you all over the place! I can't believe how much plastic is everywhere! Do you know if you can compost frozen food containers? We can't recycle them for some reason?