Thursday, January 1, 2009

Plastic Tally, Week 6

Here is my plastic tally for last week, including Christmas and air travel to Kansas City:

- Fork & wrapper from Whole Foods
- bag from Bed Bath & Beyond, fork, re-usable Ziploc container
- milk carton
- plastic curly ribbon for wrapping gifts
- thread spool
- various shared soda bottles, cracker and chip bags during the Christmas holiday

The fork & wrapper from Whole Foods were mentioned in an earlier post. The Bed Bath & Beyond bag, Ziploc container and fork were acquired before midnight mass on Christmas Eve. I sang at two different churches that evening and didn't make time to grab dinner, so a choir member brought me some delicious turkey and stuffing from the party he hosted that evening. I was and am so grateful! But yea, it came with plastic. I stashed the fork in a kitchen drawer with a whole bunch of other plastic utensils. That will be a project for the future- figuring out what to do with them. The Ziploc container will get plenty of re-use; it is the perfect size for sandwiches. The Bed Bath & Beyond bag was re-used for my flight Christmas morning to Kansas City, holding a box if baklava that leaked honey during the flight. After that the bag was used once more to pick up dog poop, resulting in four uses for one bag. I feel OK about that.

I took my Eco-bags with me to buy fresh produce for the big family dinner on the 27th. I didn't mention them, just whipped them out at the store and went looking for produce that wasn't swathed in plastic. The young cashier seemed a little confused, but didn't say anything. So there you have it-- Eco-bags work just as well at a HyVee in Kansas City as they do at New York and Astoria grocery stores.

The milk carton is paper, lined with plastic on the inside and outside. Happily it is recyclable in NYC! --placed in the bin with metal and #1 and #2 plastic bottles. I wanted to be sure that this was really the case, so a couple weeks ago I used the contact form at to ask about milk cartons. Here is the answer:

Thank you for contacting the Department of Sanitation Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling.

Milk cartons & juice boxes (or any such cartons and aseptic packaging for drinks: ice tea, soy milk, soup, etc.) are categorized as beverage cartons and should be recycled along with your Beverage Cartons, Bottles, Cans, Metal & Foil recyclables < >.

* Empty and rinse containers before recycling. Place all together in CLEAR bags, or in any bin labeled with blue recycling decals < > or marked "BOTTLES & CANS".

* Remove caps & lids. Place METAL caps & lids in the recycling bin; put plastic caps & lids in the garbage. [NOTE FROM JULI: plastic caps can be recycled through Gimme 5 at Whole Foods, at Aveda stores, or at the Park Slope Food Coop!]

These recyclable beverage cartons require special processing to separate the layers of valuable paper, foil, and plastic used in their manufacture. That’s why these items are included in your bin or Clear plastic bag with bottles, cans, metal & foil – so DSNY can bring them to a materials recovery facility (MRF), which sorts the different types of recyclables and forwards bales of each commodity to separate recyclers. For more info, please see our answer to the Frequently Asked Question, What Happens to Recyclables? < >.

Paper and Cardboard is a separate stream of recyclables. Please see What and how to Recycle in New York City : Paper and Cardboard < > for more info. Please note: Do not include wax- or plastic-coated paper with your paper and cardboard recyclables. Also, do not include food-soiled paper.

For more information, please see What and How to Recycle in New York City < >.

I hope this information is helpful. Thank you for your interest in recycling.


Brian Magoolaghan
Public Education and Outreach Specialist

I wrapped my Christmas gifts with The New York Times and curly ribbon. The ribbon was plastic, but it has been hanging around for several years and isn't recyclable so I used it up. No plastic tape was needed or used.

The thread spool came from one of my Christmas gifts: a silly frilly 50s style apron made entirely with materials from my craft stash. No new purchases were necessary, a nod to my Compact past. The floral print fabric was formerly a curtain in one of my college apartments (very Sound of Music or Gone With the Wind). It was originally a cotton/poly yardage purchased from Walmart in Manhattan, KS. I don't remember where the lace came from, probably leftover from another project. The finished apron came out really cute if I do say so, and was a big hit!

There will be more empty plastic thread spools as my stash is depleted. What kind of plastic is it? If it is #5 and had the number imprinted, it could be recycled. Hmmm. Letter writing opportunity. Spools could be made with compressed recycled cardboard pulp, don't you think? Past that, manufacturers could at the very least put a recycling symbol on the spool.

There is another letter writing opportunity related to my trip to KC. Airport drinking fountains saved me during the trip since I forgot my water bottle at home. Even if I'd had it with me, it would have been filled at fountains past the security checkpoint. Well the Kansas City airport does not have water fountains past the security checkpoints. The airport wasn't designed with post 9-11 NSA needs in mind. Public toilets and water fountains are on the outside ring, and after 9-11 small security checkpoints were constructed at each gate grouping. Restrooms were added past the checkpoint a year or so ago, but not water fountains. Instead, there is a vendor selling snacks and bottled water. This is just wrong.

New rule- if I am a guest in someone's home, do I make a fuss by bringing up my plastic pledge? No. Well, maybe. I will make a point of not bringing plastic to the party, and will avoid using a plastic cups, plates and utensils. But if the host provides food and beverage that comes packaged in plastic, it won't be refused. Because that would be pointlessly rude, and I like soda, chips and crackers just as much as everyone else! Is this self righteous and hypocritical? Probably. Making others feel guilty and bad with my personal plastic pledge is a valid concern. It is not unlike being a proselytizing religious convert-- not someone you want to invite to a party.


John Costigane said...

A belated Happy New Year, Juli.

I hope you enjoyed the festive singing. Have you appeared on YouTube at all? It would be excellent to see an example of your singing.

As for being a bore in waste reduction, achieving the personal goal is a good first task. With experience, you can then take on the wider challenge.

Juli said...

Hi John,

I don't have any YouTube clips, but you can hear me singing briefly in this Money Makeover segment from The Today Show:

It aired on Sept. 15, the day that Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy. The invitation for a Money Makeover from Jean Chatzky came from my participation in the Compact (not buying anything new). Jean really helped me get things in order; I came out with health insurance, a rolled over 401K (that is still losing money but is at lease re-allocated) and a plan. All are things I knew I needed, but it took that extra push to accomplish them.

Dr.Rutledge said...

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