Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How's your French? PlasticLess NYC was featured (briefly) on France 5 yesterday

Thank you to the French commenters who alerted me to SOUS LE SOLEIL VERT, a 52 minute documentary about parts of the Green movement in the United States by Chantal Lasbats. You can view the documentary online here.

I was featured within the first 10 minutes of the film, in a section largely about Freegans. It may appear that I am a Freegan- while I greatly admire what they do, I am not. I took a tour they offer to the media and the general public last year. You can see my impressions of the tour in a blog post here. I encourage anyone to take that tour; it really opens your eyes to the needless waste around us every day. It will shake you up, challenge your assumptions, and really make you think. Looking online, I'm not sure if the NYC Freegan group is offering the same media tour that I took, but you can sign up or inquire with their MeetUp group here.

If you are visiting PlasticLess NYC for the first time, welcome! I hope you take some time to look around, and see what it is like to live with a lot less plastic in New York City. Be sure to see my Top 15 tips on reducing Single Use Plastics, here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Leonard Lopate discusses plastic recycling on today's Please Explain

WNYC's The Leonard Lopate show has a regular segment on Friday called Please Explain, and today's segment was all about plastic recycling, with guest Eric Goldstein, senior attorney in the Natural Resource Defense Council's New York office and co-director of NRDC's urban program. You can listen to the segment here (it hasn't been posted online yet, but should be there later today):

Monday, April 19, 2010

Found: the East Coast's very own Oceanic Garbage Patch

For over ten years now we've known about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a toxic soup made mostly of plastic waste that extends over a huge area, anywhere from the size of Texas to the size of the continental United States. Scientists have said there are probably more oceanic garbage patches on the planet collecting in Earth's other oceanic gyres, but they hadn't been documented and studied. Until now.

A group called 5 Gyres has found and documented a second great garbage patch in the Atlantic Ocean.

Fellow New Yorkers, this one is ours:
Charles Moore, an ocean researcher credited with discovering the Pacific garbage patch in 1997, said the Atlantic undoubtedly has comparable amounts of plastic. The east coast of the United States has more people and more rivers to funnel garbage into the sea.
Up to 80% of marine debris comes from land. Plastic garbage in the ocean is worse than land-filled plastic waste because it spreads over a huge area, slowly photo-degrades, acts as a sponge for other potentially harmful chemicals in the ocean (never-mind the hormone disrupting chemicals it contains to begin with...), kills marine life, and eventually gets passed back up the food chain to US. According to Moore, "Humanity's plastic footprint is probably more dangerous than its carbon footprint".

Its overwhelming, isn't it? Kind of makes you want to stick your head in the sand and say 'life's too short for me to worry about this and we're screwed, anyway'. Well excuse me, but F*** that. Here's the thing- Rome wasn't built in a day, but in comparison to Rome? The garbage patches WERE. We humans have only had this throw-away plastic mentality and industry for what, 40, 50 years? The garbage patches can only be that old then. And while it is impossible for us to go out and clean them up, we sure as hell can stop adding to them. If it only took humanity 40-50 years to develop a throw-away economy, it shouldn't take nearly that long to re-design it, so that we discard way less and the things we do discard are biodegradable, and don't harm us or the planet.

The answer isn't finding a way to clean up the garbage patches. We are way too late for that. The answer is in taking a look at our own trash cans, at the things we buy, use, and throw away. How much of your trash is plastic? How much of it is recyclable? How much can you avoid altogether? If we all do even a little bit towards reducing our waste, things WILL change. It'll be fast, and it'll be easier than we think-- if enough of us act and speak up. Business and manufacturers will pay attention. God willing, our government will pay attention--but being the realist that I am, I'm pretty sure business and industry will react first. But for that to happen, we-- we good little American Consumers-- have to act.

Don't be discouraged. Don't be overwhelmed. Do something.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

NYC to expand curbside plastic recycling?

NYC City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is introducing legislation that would expand and overhaul NYC's recycling program, including expanding the plastics that are collected for recycling. Currently the city only accepts bottles and jugs of #1 and #2 plastic- the new legislation would add "all rigid plastic containers, like those used to hold laundry detergent, motor oil and yogurt." That sounds like all #1, #2, and #5 plastic containers, whether bottle/jug or take-out container-- but I wish I could find a copy of the proposed legislation to see exactly which types of plastic are included.

It seems like the legislation has a good chance of passing, and that is good news. But I wonder- is it funded? How will it be paid for? I did see an article saying "plastic expansion that is contingent upon a new recycling facility in Brooklyn, which will not open until 2012."

Encouraging recycling and offering more recycling options- that is all great. I applaud Speaker Quinn for introducing the legislation, and Mayor Bloomberg for encouraging it. BUT- we still need more voices saying, hey, don't create so much waste in the first place. Recycling isn't the answer- it isn't even close to the top of the list. A lot of our waste, recyclable or not, is SO easily avoided.

For instance, in the picture above, if the new law takes effect you'll be able to recycle the containers on the left at curbside- but I'm guessing not the lids. And definitely not much on the right- not the Styrofoam clam shell, maybe the small plastic containers (but not the lids). As opposed to now, when you can take those #5 take out containers on the left to Whole Foods for Gimme 5 collection, OR-- and hear me out-- go to a restaurant that uses re-usable sturdy ware, sit down, enjoy your meal, and skip the waste!