Sunday, August 9, 2009

Week 38: Clearing out my Plastic Cache

This won't be pretty, and it won't be complete. I've been slacking, and letting some plastic things consumed outside the home slide. A half-n-half container here, a birthday cake fork there... Hopefully getting this load of plastic stuff off my chest and out of my house will make it easier for me to stay on top of things and make better choices, which lets face it, is all about planning ahead.

First off, the biggest item. AN ENTIRE REFRIGERATOR/FREEZER. It stopped working sometime over the July 4 weekend. Our super (who is great by the way, one of the best I've had in 10-plus years of NYC living) checked it out, conferred with his repairman and determined that it was cheaper to replace than repair. I don't know what the cost comparison was, and since we rent it wasn't my decision to make. But I'm counting it was part of my plastic tally, since it was mine to use. Here are pictures of the old refrigerator and tape/packaging from the new refrigerator. There must have been a lot more packaging, but this is what arrived when they installed the new one. The 2nd picture also has the broken kick-plate from the old refrigerator. The good news is that since I've been avoiding plastic for a few months, there wasn't a lot of plastic of mine that had to be thrown out- or food, for that matter. My roommate is a different story. The poor guy had gone shopping recently and was away over the weekend. I was out a lot too and didn't notice the thing had shut off for a day and a half. Not a pretty picture!

Now, to sort out the rest. Food packaging is probably the largest category.

- Pirate's Booty bag and Whole Foods tiramisu cake liner. I had a little party in the apartment last week and these were brought by guests. Do I turn away delicious gift food with plastic? No! Most friends know about my plastic avoidance and try to not give me any. Bless them. My aim is to do this project without being an asshole or losing friends, so if I can mention it in a non guilt-trip inducing way I do. If not, not.

- Bottles. Corn oil (have replaced with a glass bottle of canola oil), mayonaise (will try making from scratch one of these days), syrup (will replace with REAL maple syrup eventually; am using jams to put on French toast and pancakes for now), corn syrup (had this for YEARS for some candy making project, never use it, tried using it up various ways but was disgusted with the results, threw out the rest), tonic water (I've heard tonic is available in cans, which though lined with BPA is less plastic...not sure which is the better choice though), cod liver oil (an experiment- I'm not much of a fish eater. If I want those healthy fish fats this is probably my best option, but even with a good brand flavored with lemon it didn't become a habit). The bottles will go to curbside recycling and caps to Aveda for recycling.

- Bug traps. I found six more, left from my previous roommate. In the past couple of months the only bugs I've seen are the occasional centipede and a few disturbing 'water bugs'. That is what my super calls them. I call them HAFRs, for Huge Ass Flying Roaches. I don't think these bug traps would do anything to the HAFRs (in fact the apartment was recently visited and treated for them, which had absolutely no effect!), and with all the rain this summer it is easy to understand why they are around and getting inside our ground floor apartment. I've been dispatching them with the wand extension on my vacuum cleaner. I'm ruthless that way.

- Various caps and lids. Crisco, vanilla bottle, olive oil cannister, balsamic vinegar bottle, a few other things I don't recall. The 2 rigid threaded caps go to Aveda for recycling and the rest go to the trash. As far as replacing these items with less plastic, I had the Crisco around for a long time- probably bought for pie crusts. I use butter now. The other items were on glass and metal containers for the most part.

- Chicken broth Tetra Brik and blueberry clamshell. I prefer homemade chicken broth, but still have a few containers from Costco to use up. I knowingly purchased the blueberries in a plastic clamshell because I couldn't find them in a paper container at the store and didn't feel like delaying my purchase. I might be doing more of that in the future-- letting go of a little guilt to buy good food with some plastic. This week I did get blueberries at Union Square green-market in a paper box with plastic netting and rubber band- a little less plastic. But getting them took planning and I'm not always very good at that. I'd rather strive to be a little less perfect and remain sane! Tetra Brik gets recycled curbside, blueberry clamshell goes to the trash.

- Plastic wrappings and bags. Pocket tissue bag (I had a cold, then bronchitis, and took this from my roommate), plastic wrap from a hunk of Parmesan (maybe I can get it cut and wrapped in paper if I go shopping during the day and ask nicely at the cheese counter, but this hasn't happened yet), a couple bottle neck wrappings, plastic wrap from a pack of butter blocks from Costco (future butter may not be purchased in bulk to avoid that wrapping- but am I really avoiding plastic? After all, it probably comes wrapped that way before the store puts out boxes for display...), candy wrapper, one plastic bag that I've forgotten the contents- possibly related to the new refrigerator. All go to the trash.

- Scrubby sponge. Not food related, but kitchen related. I'm now using a hand knit washcloth for most things, and the scrubby side of another sponge for hard jobs. When that sponge goes, there are some scour pads under the sink that I've had for a couple years. They're still made from nylon though. But I already own them, and they're big so I cut them in smaller pieces to use-- we'll have them around for a long time yet. Beth at Fake Plastic Fish uses a copper scrubber, which looks like a good option when we finally use up the nylon scour pads. Old scrubby sponge goes to the trash.

- 6 bar code stickers. Also kitchen related. I purchased several dark colored washcloths to use for wiping down table, stove and counters in the kitchen. I didn't notice the plastic stickers until later. Yes, I COULD use perfectly good rags I already own for these jobs, but the store was going out of business, they were cheap, and they look a little nicer...I gave in.

Now, on to the rest--

- Two dental floss containers. Finally, these are used up! Now I'm using EcoDent Vegan Floss, which comes in a cardboard box. Plastic floss boxes go to the trash.

- Two eye drop vials. As mentioned before I have an eye condition. Sometimes I need a lot of drops, sometimes not. Trash.

- A plastic spoon, two cocktail straws. This is a representative sample- there was more. Especially on a recent trip to Kansas for my 20th high school reunion. I ordered a number of gin & tonics- they came in a glass, as opposed to a plastic cup of beer- and mentioned 'no straw' but the bartenders always forgot, or would remember too late and take the straw in my drink or about to go in my drink and throw it away. Sigh. I guess I should stick to wine, but I DO like G&Ts in summer. There was also a very fun late night trip to the Chinese take out where we had many a rushed lunch during high school. It was just as fast and as greasy as ever-- and everything came in Styrofoam with plastic utensils. I just went with it.

- Plastic from a junk mail envelope. I don't tally most window envelopes. Curbside recycling will take envelopes even with plastic windows. Now, I know that plastic doesn't get recycled. Beth at FakePlastic Fish does a good job in this category and even tries to get companies not to send them. This is an area of improvement for me. But I did save one plastic envelope because it was just so disgustingly huge, from American Express Publishing. I've since written and asked them not to send me offers-- we'll see what happens.

- Eye shadow applicator and package. Last one! I use my make up brushes for eye shadow now. They are washable, durable, and do a much better job. Applicator and package to the trash.

- Hotel and sample shampoo/conditioner bottles and packets. I was using up my last bits of shampoo and conditioner before trying a 'no poo' experiment. Was. There will be a future blog post about this. I'm taking this packaging to Origins to see if they will accept it for their recycling program.

Whew! That is it for the cache o' plastic that was in my kitchen. There's a smaller cache still to go in my bedroom. More to come.

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