Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Another plastic recycling option: Caps!

Aveda started recycling plastic caps last September, during the Spring/Summer 2009 New York Fashion Week. Plastic caps are usually made from #5 plastic, and are not collected by the City for recycling. So, in addition to the Park Slope Food Coop and the Take 5 program at Whole Foods, we can drop off our caps at Aveda stores. Has anyone tried this or seen the collection points at Aveda? One advantage to Aveda's program is that they take rigid plastic caps whether there is a #5 symbol on it or not. Here are the details on what they take:

What type of caps do we collect?
The program accepts caps that are rigid polypropylene plastic, sometimes noted with a 5 in the chasing arrows recycling symbol. This includes caps that twist on with a threaded neck such as caps on shampoo, water, soda, milk and other beverage bottles, flip top caps on tubes and food product bottles (such as ketchup and mayonnaise), laundry detergents and some jar lids such as peanut butter.

Excluded from collection are pharmaceutical lids and non rigid lids such as yogurt lids, tub lids (margarine, cottage cheese), and screw on lids that are not rigid. If you can bend or break the lid with your bare hands, than it does not meet the rigid plastic definition. Please do not include any metal lids or plastic pumps or sprayers. Unfortunately, too much of the wrong types of materials can contaminate the recycling process. We appreciate your efforts in keeping it clean!

Full details are here:

Aveda stores in New York City:

10 Columbus Circle STE 308
NEW YORK, NY 10019

10 Grand Central Termina 87 E 42ND ST
NEW YORK, NY 10017

456 West Broadway
NEW YORK, NY 10012

20 Vandam St
NEW YORK, NY 10013

233 Spring Street
NEW YORK, NY 10013

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

In praise of drinking fountains

Remember in grade school how you would stand in line for the water fountain, wishing the water hog would hurry up so you could take your turn? And then when it was finally your turn you would drink and drink and drink until your teeth hurt from the cold because that water was just about the most delicious thing you ever tasted?

Well, it is STILL THAT GOOD. Maybe it is the wait. Maybe it is the aeration, and drinking fresh cold water straight from the source. Whatever it is, this stuff is amazingly good-- and already paid for with our tax dollars.

This is something I've known for a long time, but the point was nailed home during my Christmas travel. There I was early on Christmas morning at LaGuardia airport with several new Kleen Kanteen bottles in my suitcase, gifts for nieces and nephews. I checked the bag to avoid any hassles with security, arrived at my gate and looked around. It was obvious that Siggs and Kanteens were popular gifts this year! A few hip young things were hanging onto sparkling new bottles, and the sight made me happy...and thirsty. That's when I realized I left my metal water bottle on the kitchen counter. Crap!

It wasn't a problem, though. Water fountains were plentiful at the airports, there was never a line for any of them, and that water tasted SO GOOD. I wasn't thirsty during my short flights, and it was nice not to have to worry about generating waste, or asking the flight attendant about filling my bottle instead of using a plastic cup- this has never been a problem when I've asked previously, but it is nevertheless a bit awkward.

Drinking Fountains! Try one today!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


It has been a busy week, trundling between work, caroling gigs, rehearsals, and church singing jobs-- along with the customary flurry of last minute Christmas preparations. There hasn't been much cooking going on. This means meals out, and my choice of the week has been Whole Foods-- they have a food bar with lots of variety, and have cafeteria style trays and bowls. Fast, good, no waste.

Except for the forks. Whole Foods has re-usable bowls, but not re-usable cutlery. So there will be a plastic fork and fork wrapper on the next tally. I still haven't made or ordered a silverware to-go kit, but tossed a fork and spoon in my work bag for the time being.

Of course, that didn't help me yesterday at the annual office holiday luncheon. I totally forgot about that. Plastic everywhere. I chose virtue (well, fake virtue) and grabbed a couple cookies with a napkin. Later in the day though, I accepted a slice of cake from someone and didn't even THINK about the plastic plate until I saw it later beside the computer and gasped. How did that get there?!?? I slunk off to the kitchen, washed it and stashed it in a drawer with some other plastic-ware.

Light posting for the next few days as I travel to the midwest to see my family. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Week 4 Plastic Waste

This is a few days late...

- Plastic window from a CFL mini bulb box.
- labels from a green pepper and some oranges.
- bag from some shredded cheddar cheese
- thread spool and package for D-Rings (sewing notions)
- plastic topped party toothpick
- Reese's Peanut Butter Cups wrapper

CFL Bulbs: the larger bulbs come in a box with no plastic window, why not the small ones? I could probably do a better job of looking for produce without plastic stickers. The next cheddar I buy will be in a block, wrapped in paper or placed in a container brought from home. I haven't tried this yet with the cheese counter guys, so wish me luck. The sewing notions are from a home improvement project-- I made two big belts to tame a futon mattress that really, really didn't want to fold for couch duty. In the future I can go to notion stores in the Garment District and purchase notions from bins, counted out into a small paper bag. But for thread I'm stuck with plastic. They used to come on wooden spools, but not anymore.

I've been pretty lucky with holiday parties so far, getting away with putting nibbles on a paper napkin. However the Swedish meatballs were my downfall. I used that plastic topped toothpick with intent. As for the Reese's wrapper-- I squinted and told myself it looked like paper but knew better.

Friday, December 19, 2008

On the topic of Planned Obsolescence

Remember this ad from Ikea a couple years ago? Back then, I thought it was genius. Way to personify an object, then yank the rug out from under us! Now? It just makes me sad. I'm not sad for the lamp. I'm sad for us.

That old lamp could have been re-used, donated, given away, Freecycled (stuff on Freecycle, even BROKEN stuff, goes FAST), or taken to an electronics recycling event. But no, it is on the curb in the rain next to a half empty plastic garbage bag, bound for a landfill. A lot of New Yorkers put things out on the curb knowing someone might pick it up, and generally a lot of stuff DOES get re-used that way. But in the rain? With no note that says "Still Works"? Forget it.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Can we declare war on planned obsolescence?

This article was posted on the New Jersey page at The New York Times:
Time to Buy a New Stove. Again.
...I wish it were placed somewhere more prominent so that everyone would read it.

The refrigerator repairman had waxed philosophical, holding the defunct thermostat aloft like poor Yorick’s skull. “Plastic!” he boomed. “They all used to be metal.” His glumness should have warned me that planned obsolescence has reached the level of infinite jest.

The article/opinion piece (I recommend reading all of it) bemoans planned obsolescence as it applies to large home appliences-- stoves, in particular. As an apartment renter I've never felt the pain of replacing a major appliance. But I know the feeling when it comes to smaller kitchen appliances, cell phones, iPods, computers, TVs, DVD players, furniture, clothing, radios...

You name it, if it was made recently, it wasn't made to last. It also wasn't made to be repaired. It WAS made to be replaced. And it was probably made with plastic and came in a lot of unecessary packaging.

Can we stop that now, please?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Good News: NYC's Plastic Bag Law To Remain Unchanged

This is great:
In January 2008, the New York City Council passed a law creating the most expansive plastic bag recycling program in the nation. In June of this year, the State Legislature passed a bill that would bring plastic bag recycling to the entirety of New York State.

The State legislation initially threatened to preempt the Council's law, and would have drastically reduced the number of city stores required to accept bags from consumers. However, upon signing the bill into law, Governor Paterson announced an agreement on legislation that grandparents in the City’s plastic bag law, so as to allow it to remain in full force and effect.

More details and statements from Speaker Christine Quinn and Council Member Peter Vallone are here.

Thanks to all who wrote letters to Governor Paterson!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Plastic free peanut butter plastic, anyway.

Last night I went to my friend K.'s house to avail myself of her food processor. Put in salted roast peanuts purchased from the bulk section at Fairway, add a little oil (I used corn oil since I had it already), hit the button and hey presto! Peanut butter!

It is in the plastic jar from my last peanut butter purchase. As you can see, I can't keep my fingers out of it.

NOT ONLY did K. aid me in my peanut butter making, she also made me dinner, a delicious leek & asparagus risotto with local beer, and sent me home with some great items of clothing. She gets more space in her closet, and I get new clothes with no plastic price tags. Win!

Friday, December 12, 2008

What plastic can be recycled in New York City?

I realize I've made several posts about plastic recycling, so let me get this out of the way:

Recycling is not the answer. Recycling is the last option before the landfill. Recycling is what you do when you cannot avoid, reduce, or re-use. Recycling takes a lot of resources and energy, and things (especially plastic things) are not recycled so much as they are downcycled. A plastic bottle cannot be recycled into another plastic bottle.

That said, recycling is still important. There is a lot of plastic out there and while the idea is to use much, much less of it, we still have to deal with what is already there.

So. What plastic can you recycle in New York City?

Let's start with The New York City Department of Sanitation. Many well-intentioned New Yorkers (including me until I learned!) put all of their plastic containers in the recycling bin for the City to pick up. However the City only recycles plastic bottles and jugs made of #1 PET and #2 HDPE-- any bottle where the neck is smaller than the body. Even if the container is labeled #1 or #2, if it isn't a bottle they can't recycle it-- because they are formed differently and have different melting points.

More information on NYC's Residential Recycling Program can be found at these websites:

Natural Resources Defence Council

Thanks to Local Law 1 of 2008, we've been able to recycle plastic bags in NYC since June. The law requires large stores and chain stores that provide plastic bags to accept shopping bags, dry cleaning bags, and newspaper delivery bags. Not only that but they must offer re-usable bags for sale! I hadn't realized that. I've been thrilled to see re-usable bags popping up everywhere and thought all the stores caught on to the re-usable bag trend-- but they did it because they had to by law. Food for thought.

This law is under threat from the New York State Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse, and Recycling Act, which is a much weaker law that would in effect cancel out NYC's program. No news yet on what is happening here. Have you written the Governor?

UPDATE: The State plastic bag recycling law was signed by the Governor with a provision to let NYC's law stand. Win, win. Thanks to all who wrote!

More information on recycling plastic bags in NYC:

Beginning in January 2009, we can recycle Brita pitcher filters and clean #5 plastic food containers at participating Whole Foods Stores, or by mailing them in.

The Gimme 5 program is piloted by Preserve, which recycles the containers into household products. Not every Whole Foods store will participate-- it is up to the store manager to make that decision. If you want to take advantage of this program, please contact your local Whole Foods store and ask. UPDATE: The Union Square Whole Foods is participating !

#5 Plastic Caps
Aveda started collecting polypropylene plastic caps in September 2008. These include caps that twist on with a threaded neck such as caps on shampoo, water, soda, milk and other beverage bottles, flip top caps on tubes and food product bottles (such as ketchup and mayonnaise), laundry detergents and some jar lids such as peanut butter. The caps do not need to display a #5 symbol but should be rigid and within Aveda's guidelines.

The Park Slope Food Coop in Brooklyn accepts many items for recycling that aren't accepted elsewhere:
* #1 & # 2 (where mouth is wide or wider than the body, meaning NOT bottles) plastics
* #4 plastics
* #5 plastic tubs, cups & specifically marked lids and caps (discard any with paper labels)
* Plastic film

I am not a member and am unsure if just anyone can bring items in-- but I will be checking this out! Eventually. Its a bit of a hike from Astoria. More information and hours are here.

Do you know of other plastic recycling options in New York City? Let me know.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lunch Loser

I lose. Lunch came with a #6 clear plastic clear clamshell box. It was crowded and busy and I wasn't fast enough with a 'wrap that in paper, please!' request. This is the place downstairs and they were slammed-- the weather is nasty and no one wants to go outside.

I've been meaning to do some holiday cookie baking though, so the box could at least get some re-use.

PS- You know what? These things aren't cheap! The website where I found the picture above sells plastic take-out containers from 30 cents to a dollar A PIECE. And we use them for all of a few minutes before throwing them away. Wow. I wonder what the average New York take-out place spends per month on containers.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Week 3 Plastic Waste

Just got back from my lunch break at Pret A Manger . At first glance, everything there comes in plastic. But I ended up with a hot wrap sandwich that was pretty tasty, wrapped in paper.

Here is my waste tally for the week:

-- bag/foil pack of Annie's Mac n Cheese. I'm getting sick of mac-n-cheese.
-- 2 martini swizzle sticks. I was at a bar and forgot to tell the waitress to leave them out (one drink came with 2 plastic swizzle sticks).
-- Lid from a McDonald's medium Coke. Even though I carefully explained I didn't want a lid, I got it anyway. The server removed it when she remembered, but I'm counting it.
-- Eye shadow applicator. I prefer brushes but have a few lingering applicators.
-- Expired monthly MetroCard. They aren't refill-able.

The Eco-Bags continue to work well. They've gotten several admiring remarks from shop cashiers. One went through the wash and it did shrink a bit. I will probably buy or make more bags down the road, and be sure to use pre-washed fabric. When purchasing bulk items, the bar code stickers don't stay on very well-- just be sure you have them when you check out.

Also... it is candy cane season! I adore candy canes. Do they come without plastic???

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Oh, crap.

Yet another excellent reason to stop using "disposable" plastic (and paper, and metal):

"Just months after riding an incredible high, the recycling market has tanked almost in lockstep with the global economic meltdown. As consumer demand for autos, appliances and new homes dropped, so did the steel and pulp mills' demand for scrap, paper and other recyclables.
Cardboard that sold for about $135 a ton in September is now going for $35 a ton. Plastic bottles have fallen from 25 cents to 2 cents a pound. Aluminum cans dropped nearly half to about 40 cents a pound, and scrap metal tumbled from $525 a gross ton to about $100."

This doesn't look good...

Why isn't this big news?

When other cities around the country and the world do something about plastic bags, The New York Times writes about it. When the New York City Council passed a bag recycling law last January they wrote about it. And when Mayor Bloomberg proposed a 6-cent bag tax, they certainly wrote about it. But when the State of New York passes a weak bag recycling bill that would NULLIFY New York City's law, there is nary a peep from the Times. What gives?

WNYC, Gotham Gazette and NY1 have aired the story, but without follow up. That has been the only coverage-- at least that I can find with Google searches. The bill is currently with Governor Paterson. He can veto or exempt NYC from it, or do nothing and let it become law-- which it will IN THREE DAYS.

Am I missing something? This will affect everyone in the city-- we all buy groceries! For the life of me I can't figure out why more people aren't screaming bloody murder. If anyone knows, please give a girl a clue.

Here is how the State law would affect NYC:

*The State bill would preempt the City from taking stronger action on bag recycling, now or at any future point.

*While the Council’s law applies to stores of 5,000 square feet or more and to chains under a common name, the State bill only applies to stores 10,000 square feet or more, and to chains under common ownership or management. The 5,000 square feet requirement is better suited to the City’s needs, as stores tend to be much smaller than in other parts of the State.

*The State bill only applies to plastic carryout bags. The Council’s law also required the recycling of film plastic, such as package wrap, dry cleaning bags and newspaper bags.

*The Council’s law has clear responsibilities for manufacturers of plastic bags. They must, upon the request of a store owner to whom they sell plastic bags, make arrangements for the collection, transport and recycling of plastic pursuant to the provisions of the law. Under the State law, there appears to be no manufacturer obligation to collect, transport or recycle bags.

So if you think the State law sucks and want to do something about it, go here (this page also has links to more information about the issue):

Friday, December 5, 2008

Big money in caps?

I don't know that much about plastic, apart from knowing I want less of it in my life. There are many different types, some more recyclable than others, some scarier than others, but all of them a complicated mix of petroleum and chemicals.

This guy writing for the Duluth News Tribune knows a thing or two about plastic though:

After being yelled at for putting a cheapo high density polyethylene bottle with a polypropylene cap still on it into a recycle bin, I had to check the plastics market. The Street Plastic Prices Report confirmed my hunch: Polypro was selling between $1.01 and $2.25 a pound. HDPE was going for only 49 to 89 cents.

So why are recyclers asking you to throw away the more valuable material and reclaiming the cheap stuff?

Several reasons, says Duluth’s Greg Hartel. “It becomes difficult to bale a plastic bottle when the top is on,” he said, relating horror stories of caps turning into projectiles when the bottles are crushed.

In that case, duck. The real issue, though, is economics.

“It’s not necessarily that something can’t be processed, but whether a particular process makes it economically feasible to do it,” Hartel said, adding the no-cap policy of his family’s business may change with an impending expansion. “I don’t think we’ve made up our minds which direction we want to go in regards to caps.”

At two bucks a pound, I’ll help — except I might have competition. Mike Lunow from Waste Management in the Twin Cities said the company’s Duluth operation does accept caps.

Huh! It has always bugged me that plastic bottles are recyclable, but the caps are not. And here's this guy saying the caps are worth twice as much. Hopefully the recycling companies will figure out how to get at that untapped revenue potential soon.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Week 2 Plastic Waste

Here's the weekly tally. Some of this was discarded pre-pledge but is being taken out now:
  • Cap tab from 1/2 and 1/2
  • 2 clear/2 foil packs from Annie's Organic Mac-n-cheese
  • Carefree panty liner bag, and a few liners (plastic backing) and wrappers
  • Wrapper for McVitties Digestive Crackers
  • Ball of packing tape found when cleaning under the bed
  • Plastic grocery bag, used as a kitchen trash bag
  • A few plastic window envelopes
  • A Swiss Miss cocoa powder envelope
I'm looking into alternatives to the panty liners and will post about that later. We use grocery bags to line the kitchen trash can-- I don't think my roommate will want to go without. The cocoa envelope might not contain plastic, but it probably does. My hands were cold at work today and I really wanted some, so I caved.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

New development in the bag recycling issue

The State of New York passed a bag recycling law- but it is weaker than the one passed last month by New York City. The new state law, awaiting signature from Gov. Paterson, would require stores larger than 10,000 sq. feet and certain chain stores to collect used bags for recycling. New York City's law passed last January is stiffer- it includes more chain stores and stores larger than 5,000 sq. feet.

Local politicians are urging Governor Paterson to veto the new law or exempt NYC. Good on them. This law does not effect Mayor Bloomberg's proposal for a 6-cent bag fee.

The law hit Paterson's desk on Monday. I heard about it yesterday evening on WNYC. So far it hasn't been covered in the New York Times. NY1 has the story.

If you'd like to tell Governor Paterson what you think about this issue, his contact information is here. Or add your name to a letter from the New York City Council.

Update - The governor has until 12/12 to act. A copy of a letter from Cristine Quinn about this is at sustaiNYC.

Bad Morning

Slept late and didn't have time to make coffee. Totally fine, just pack a travel mug and fill up at the office! Not as good as coffee from home, but it is free.

Except the office coffee comes in those pods and you know...plastic.

I know where I'm going at lunchtime!
(Oh yeah. I totally had a good plasticless lunch packed and ready to go, and forgot to grab it. Drat.)

Monday, December 1, 2008

There Is No Spoon

I had a close call at lunch today. I try to pack my lunches on office days, which include a cloth napkin and silverware from home. Today I was lazy and had a yen for chicken noodle soup from the place downstairs. Then I remembered I was spoonless.

What to do? Should I cave and use a new plastic spoon? These are my least favorite-- the flimsy plastic ones that get soft in piping hot soup. I'd rather not think about leaching chemicals with my lunch. I decide to sip the broth from the cup and toss back the solids at the bottom. There are wooden chopsticks at the checkout counter. Aha! One time use chopsticks aren't a great environmental choice either, but I will re-use them. They did the trick.

I need something like this to put in my work bag:

Image taken from Plastic is Forever. This cool kit is available from The thing is I know I could make something similar myself-- and that is how it took me almost two whole years to get my Eco-Bags.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Oh, Annie, NO!

I have some good news and some bad news. First the good news: the Eco-Bags are a hit. I took them to Top Tomato, a local green grocer where I usually have to wave and make extra noise to stop the cashiers from placing my purchases in plastic bags. They take the items out and always seem a bit annoyed. Now, I do make a point to say 'I don't need a bag' but I think there's a language barrier here. So I took in my new cloth produce bags the other day. The cashier saw them, stopped, and looked up at me with big smile. "It's nice!" She didn't make a move towards the plastic bags this time.


Now for the bad news: My relationship with Costco may be at an end. The night before starting this blog I went with the idea of seeing what I could get there (that I needed) without plastic. Not much as it turns out. Actually nothing, at least not this time. It is common knowledge that you can't leave a Costco without spending $100. Well this trip cost about $27 for four items: butter, half-and-half, a case of organic diced tomatoes, and Annie's Organic mac-n-cheese in a bulk box. They weren't all plastic free but I thought I did pretty well. The butter came with a thin plastic wrapping around 4 boxes and was $1.50 cheaper per box compared to the grocery store. The half-and-half has a plastic pour cap but also a fantastic price. The tomatoes are canned, so they have a plastic lining on the inside. I love cooking with canned tomatoes in the winter-- not sure what if anything I can do about that right now. The mac-n-cheese was 5 boxes of pasta with the pouches of dry cheese powder. I thought.

So the night before Thanksgiving I don't feel like cooking and get down the mac-n-cheese:
There's a strip of plastic tape holding the box closed. OK, I'll add that to my weekly tally. Then I get the box open:

AAIIIIEEE!! Those aren't the boxes! I should have looked more closely. The foil pouches have that orange cheese goo in them. Even though it is Annie's and organic, the cheese goo is not as good as powder. IMO if you are going for mac-n-cheese from a box, powder is the way to go.

Sigh. This is more plastic than I planned on.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday

It is a beautiful day in New York. I slept in, had coffee and pumpkin bread with a friend, and handed over leftover goodies from yesterday's locavore feast. A bike ride is planned for the afternoon. I walked to a nearby store for a CFL lightbulb (happily found one that came without plastic packaging), and wondered how 'Black Friday' was going in other places.

Now I'm home checking e-mail and just heard this on the radio. In Valley Stream, Long Island-- 17 miles from my front door-- a man has lost his life. He was trampled to death by shoppers.

A Wal-Mart worker died after being trampled when hundreds of shoppers smashed through the doors of a Long Island store Friday morning, police and witnesses said.

The 34-year-old worker, employed as an overnight stock clerk, tried to hold back the unruly crowds just after the Valley Stream store opened at 5 a.m.

Witnesses said the surging throngs of shoppers knocked the man down. He fell and was stepped on. As he gasped for air, shoppers ran over and around him. (Credit: New York Daily News)

Today is Black Friday, and something has got to change. I don't know what else to say.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Plastic In The News

Here are a few recent news articles guessed it.
  • Nestle Prepared Foods Company is recalling 879,565 pounds of frozen Lean Cuisine chicken meals that may contain small pieces of hard blue plastic. Yum, yum!
  • Command Packaging, a leading U.S. manufacturer of plastic carry bags for retail stores and restaurants, announced it has been officially licensed by the California State Department of Conservation as an approved plastic film and bag recycling center. CEO Pete Grande: "Compared to all other packaging, these recyclables have the lowest carbon footprint, use less energy, reduced raw material and transportation costs." Seriously? Lowest carbon footprint campared to all other packaging? How about a step in the right direction towards responsible manufacturing?
  • The U.S. Public Interest Research Group is urging parents to avoid buying soft plastic toys this holiday season because of a risk that the toys may contain toxic chemicals. Toys containing the chemicals, called phthalates, can no longer be manufactured or imported after February 2009, according to a product safety law that passed Congress over the summer. But U.S. PIRG says the Consumer Product Safety Commission is allowing the toy industry to circumvent the law. The agency wrote a letter last week telling manufacturers they can still sell their existing stocks of phthalate-containing toys even after the ban takes effect in February. Happy Holidays!
  • Looks like Toronto is examining a bag fee similar to the one Mayor Bloomberg has proposed in NYC. The 5-cent fee proposal is an alternative to a proposal requiring a 10-cent discount for refusing plastic bags, which failed.
  • And across the pond, four of UK's leading supermarket chains say they aim to halve the number of plastic bags distributed to customers by next spring. Last year the supermarkets agreed to voluntary annual 25% cuts in bag use in order to head off plastic bag charges. Bags are placed below the counter and customers are asked if they really want them. The result? One of the company heads says it is cheaper to not hand out the bags, and therefore is a good business decision.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Week 1 Plastic Waste

Here is my plastic waste for the week:
  • Wrapper for a hard sausage purchased from Costco. I think I can get sausage sans plastic at Fairway and specialty markets.
  • Plastic wrapping (sadly, a LOT of it) from a curling iron purchase 3 weeks ago. I got a fancy tourmaline-coated iron that works really well. There were some similar used ones offered on Craigslist but they seemed dodgy. It also came with bubble wrap that I will re-use.
  • Wrapping from a pre-cut hunk of parmesan cheese. I should be able to get parm. without plastic (and lots of other yummy yummy cheeses) from cheese mongers like Murray's or at Fairway.
  • The aforementioned plastic water cup at the pizza place
  • 5 bags of frozen kitchen scraps, left at Union Square's compost drop off point. I will try to re-use the bags in the future.
  • An empty pocket tissue wrapper
  • Kitchen plastic wrap from some bacon in my refrigerator
Can the tissue wrapper be recycled along with grocery bags? Is it the same kind of plastic? I have a couple more packs and plan on using handkerchiefs when they are gone-- unless I get really sick.

Now, about that kitchen plastic wrap. I've been thinking about it for a while. This particular box came from Costco about 3 years ago. It came in a double pack and I don't use it much, especially since I started reading plastic reduction blogs. Most is used to cover open containers and partially used food items in the refrigerator. Should I give it away now and find alternatives, or use it up and then find alternatives? I'm leaning toward the latter. Your comments and ideas are welcome.

Monday, November 24, 2008

My Eco-Bags arrived!

My order from Eco-Bags arrived on Saturday, just in time for me to take them to the Union Square Greenmarket for some pre-Thanksgiving shopping.

The order for produce bags was placed before I got a tip from Green Cat about local-to-NYC bags from Organic Needle. When I need more, I will look there!

So far the Eco-Bags are great, with a few drawbacks. They arrived in a plastic-ish USPS soft mail pouch. Hmm, are these recyclable? I may have a candidate for a re-usable compost bag in that. The other drawbacks: made in India, and not pre-shrunk.

Now, I am not entirely anti-globalization. I am glad to know that someone overseas is earning a living helped by my purchase. But a local purchase would save a lot of petroleum getting the product to me. Not pre-shrunk means that if I want the bags to stay the same size, I have to wash in cold and line dry-- making it harder to sanitize them. I'm not all that paranoid about germs and bacteria, but I am a meat eater-- which means that my produce bags may get meat liquids on them on the way home from the store. I'll want to sanitize them every once in a while.

But the good news is-- no more plastic produce bags!

I have a failure to report from the weekend-- I was not brave enough to live out loud. It was my first time eating in a restaurant post-reduced plastic pledge. I went for a run in Central Park with a friend, then we got wine and pizza afterwards. I didn't have my water bottle with me and asked for a "glass glass of water". It arrived in a plastic cup. I didn't speak up. I should have.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Exciting news for 2009: Brita recycles and Preserve takes #5 plastics for recycling

A few days ago the Take Back The Filter campaign announced its first success: beginning in January, Brita and Preserve will join forces to recycle Brita's pitcher filter cartridges. The filters can be dropped off at Whole Foods markets, or mailed to an address Brita will provide in January. So far they are only accepting pitcher filters, not refrigerator or faucet mount filters, and other large US filter manufacturers (such as Pur) don't recycle their products at all...yet.

While poking around Preserve's website, I made another exciting discovery. They aren't just recycling Brita filters! Starting in January they will take any clean plastic item made from #5 plastic for recycling. This is incredibly exciting. Many municipalities (including NYC), if they recycle plastic at all, will only accept bottles made from plastics #1 and #2. That leaves a lot of plastic out! Yogurt containers, medicine bottles, soft butter tubs, take out containers...lots of these are made from #5 plastic.
The program is called Gimme 5, and collection will also be done through Whole Foods, with a mail-in option. Please check out the website for full details!

While this news makes me very happy and excited, will it change my plastic reduction pledge? No. There is a reason why REDUCE is the first R in Reduce, Re-use, Recycle, and why recycling is last. We live in a "disposable" society, using resources that aren't disposable, on a planet that isn't replaceable. Recycling is great, but it takes a great deal of energy and resources to accomplish. Using less in the first place is the way to go.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Tomorrow: Freecycle Freemeet in Flatbush!

One easy way to reduce plastic consumption is to get stuff used-- no packaging. That is just one reason why I love Freecycle. Using Freecycle online allows you to give and get individual items, and attending a Freecycle Freemeet is like going to a really great garage sale-- where everything is free! I attended one earlier this fall and scored an insulated lunchbag that I use daily.

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle at the Flatbush FreeMeet!

Saturday, November 22, 2008, 12pm - 3pm
P.S. 217 Playground (1100 Newkirk Avenue at Coney Island Avenue)
Flatbush, Brooklyn
Rain or Shine
Directions: Q train to Newkirk Ave or F to 18th Ave. By bus, take the B68 to Coney Island Avenue and Newkirk. You will find the FreeMeet underneath the scaffolding next to the playground.

WHY: New Yorkers discard some 12,000 tons of waste each day that is exported to landfills and incinerators in other states! Here's your chance to help NYC reduce waste and keep our environment clean by finding new homes for your old stuff, and getting somethings you can use in the process. Leftovers will be donated or recycled to every extent possible.

WHAT TO BRING: Bring unwanted clothing, housewares andother reusable items to share* or simply bring a tote bag to fill. Bring friends and family too! Electronics. Bring electronics to be reused, recycled and redistributed through Rattech, who will accept oldcomputers, electronic equipment, printers, monitors, CD's, toner / inkcartridges, etc. Got wire hangers? Bring 'em to the FreeMeet so we can hang clothes and recycle the hangers afterwards.

MORE INFO: (excuse our technical difficulties--the date and location on thewebsite will be fixed today)

*please bring portable items only and log on to give away furniture and other heavystuff.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Beth has a few questions.

...I have a few answers.

Q: What was it that first inspired you to eliminate plastic from your life? Was it a particular issue? News article? Experience? And when was this?

A: In late 2006 I joined The Compact, a group dedicated to not making new purchases for a calendar year. During that year I started following environmental blogs and quickly became fascinated with EnviroWoman's Living Plastic Free. Not buying anything new was pretty radical for me at the time, but no PLASTIC? Now that was radical! I quickly discovered just how easy it is to avoid buying new crap--- which in and of itself wipes out a lot of plastic. Could more changes be just as easy? EnviroWoman's blog led me to Fake Plastic Fish and Life Less Plastic, two of my favorite plastic reduction blogs.

Like a lot of people, the article "Plastic Ocean" had a huge effect on me, and I point people to it whenever they ask 'what do you have against plastic?'.

Q: What have been the 1-3 easiest changes to make?

A: Easiest: taking cloth bags for groceries, going bagless for large produce items, slipping small purchases into my work bag, avoiding new purchases, carrying a reusable coffee mug and metal water bottle.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge so far?

A: My biggest stumbling block has been produce bags for bulk items (dry beans, rice, oatmeal etc.) and loose produce (green beans, floppy lettuce...). I know how to sew, so the idea was to make them from fabric on hand instead of buying them new while I was officially part of The Compact-- it never happened. Since then, I've just been dragging my feet and saying "d'oh!" every time I get to the supermarket and forget to bring plastic bags from last time. Silly, right? There is a purchase from EcoBags in my future!

Q: What one thing would you say to encourage others to lessen their plastic consumption?

A: It is a lot easier than you think! A few simple changes will make your life easier, more aesthetically pleasing (glass containers look SO much nicer than plastic...), healthier (plastic avoidance means less processed food and no more worrying about leaching chemicals), and will make you feel good.

Q: What plastic-related issues are most prevalent in the area where you live? Are you working on plastic bag bans? Bottled water campaigns? Finding plastic-free products in your area? I'd like to get a sense of the regional challenges that plastic activists face.

A: In the last year New York City has started requiring stores to recycle plastic shopping bags and is currently considering a 6-cent fee on them, so I'd say that is the most prevalent current issue and one that I will follow in the blog. I would also like to explore why NYC recycles what it does, the history of plastic recycling in the city, and find out just where all that plastic goes. I have been a veeeery minimal part of the Take Back the Filter campaign-- mainly cheering from the sidelines!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bag Battle in Gotham?

I am heartened by the proposed 6-cent fee for plastic shopping bags in NYC. Making stores collect bags for recycling is a step in the right direction, but change won't really come until there's a good economic reason for people to stop using them, or stores to stop providing them. Is it a tax on the middle and lower classes? Sure, but only as long as it takes for us to change our habits, and that isn't long at all.

The recent Times article does bring up points that give me pause though:

Mr. Thrasher, the Brooklyn man battling the wad of bags under his sink, finds plastic bags ideal for, of all things, composting. He uses them to store food scraps in the freezer, then takes them once a week to his farmers’ market. With a paper bag, he said, “I’d worry it’d rot through.”

That is exactly what I do with my compost. I don't have a yard to make my own compost and an inside worm bin isn't an option right now, so it goes in the freezer and then to the community garden or Union Square. I suppose I could look for a big plastic tupperware when my under-sink pile is depleted.

On the other hand, this argument gets no traction with me:

There are, indeed, logistical issues that may make it impractical for many New Yorkers to bring their own reusable bags along when they shop. Most people walk or take the bus and subway, so they have no car trunk in which to carry a number of them. Because so many purchases are spur of the moment — as easy as spotting a storefront and remembering you need candles or toothpaste — sometimes the backpack, briefcase or humongous handbag that can store them are not handy.

How long do you have to live in New York before you learn to only shop for what you can carry, and have a bag big enough to stuff that spur of the moment purchase in? Come on. This is what we do.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why am I here?

Beth in the Fake Plastic Fishtank sent me. I have been following Beth's blog for a little over a year now, and a few weeks ago she put out a call for more plastic-free bloggers. I can't promise to be any good at blogging, but I can pledge to post regularly. Doing that will keep me accountable to my reduced plastic pledge.

So what exactly is my reduced plastic pledge? I'm still figuring it out. For now, it is to further reduce my use of plastic of all types, particularly the use of single-use plastics. You can't really call them "disposable" when you know they will sit in a landfill for hundreds of years!

Cutting out all single-use plastics won't be possible, of course. They have become a seemingly inextricable part of modern life. But a lot of plastic is easy to avoid, as I've discovered since starting to read Beth's and other plastic reduction blogs. And there are more changes to make, a lot more. goes!