Monday, August 16, 2010

Plastic Covering the Planet

So, the good news is, now that we compost, we generate very little trash.

The bad news is, most of the trash we do generate is plastic.

Plastic bread bags, plastic tags on bread bags. Plastic bags that come with our New York Times. Plastic shrink-wrapped around boxes of tea for God knows what reason.

Plastic around milk containers. Plastic rings encircling glass bottles of jam and peanut butter. Hello food producers!! We're buying glass for a reason.

Now I'm not a crusader against all plastic. I love Fake Plastic Fish, but we all have our battles to fight, and I'm not ready to add plastic to mine. We go shopping several times a week because I go through fruit literally that fast on my low cholesterol diet. Because of that, we shop at Whole Foods which has the advantage of being four blocks away from our apartment. The berries all come in plastic containers, and we buy plenty.

I buy the pre-packaged organic baby carrots because they're an easy, healthy snack. And the pre-washed organic spinach because, frankly, if the spinach isn't pre-washed it's a lot more likely that I just won't eat it. Plus, the plastic keeps the vegetables from spoiling prematurely.

But even with all that plastic that I'm not willing (yet) to do without, there still seems to be so much excess plastic ... plastic we could get rid of. Plastic that I'm flummoxed is there in the first place. Like the box of tea that is shrink-wrapped in plastic, and then when you open it, you find out that inside the box, each INDIVIDUAL TEA BAG is also wrapped in plastic.

Seriously, is there some pandemic of unsanitary tea that I don't know of? (I no longer buy this brand.)

Plastic is piling up ... in our apartment (literally, for whatever reason my boyfriend sees fit to keep all the New York Times bags like we're suddenly going to come up with a use for them), in our landfills, in my mind. The other day, one of my contacts fell off in the sink, and because I was getting rid of them anyway, I almost let it go down the drain. And then I realized ... "Oh wait. That's ... plastic." And with visions of endangered fish choking on my contact, I scooped it back up.

Saturday, at the grocery store, my boyfriend reported that he stared at the milk for several seconds, trying to figure out if he should buy the organic milk in the plastic container or the non-organic milk in the paper container. Unable to deal with this Sophie's Choice, he fled from the dairy aisle and found, to his relief, that I had already picked up the milk: organic in plastic.

One more plastic container to add to my heap of plasticized guilt.


knutty knitter said...

Thats what our rubbish looks like too! There are not many choices in some areas - its plastic or go without and then get unhealthy because your diet is practically zero.

I reuse what I can but still seem to end up with a rubbish bag full every couple of weeks (there are 4 of us).

Not fair!!

viv in nz

Kelly S. said...

Put the plastic bags up on freecycle, anyone with a dog who does not get plastic grocery bags would love to have them....need something to scoop poop least that way they have a second use...

Mary H said...

I live in a small town and shop at the only grocery store that carries organic vegetables. The non-organic vegetables sit out all bare and natural-looking while the organic vegetables all seem to be individually shrink wrapped. This blows my mind. I can sympathize with your boyfriend's meltdown over the milk selection.

Chile said...

Yep, here too. Plastic is a big part of our garbage .... which has to be hauled to the transfer station encased in ... you got it, plastic garbage bag.

I try to keep plastic use down, too, but sheesh, it's everywhere!

Lee said...

We're doing all we can to limit plastic use, but it's a hard, uphill battle.

When I find a product I just can't find an alternative to that is packaged poorly (i.e. in plastic) I contact the manufacturer and complain.

Sure, its a start, but if more people do this, manufacturers *will* change.

Rosa said...

As soon as you make one thing better, everything else looks worse. You didn't even notice the plastic before, when it was covered with food waste. Our trash is exactly like that - pull out the recyclables and the food, and all that's left is single-use non-recyclable plastics.

The crazy thing is that a lot of things are shipped/wrapped in plastic even though the plastic makes them go bad faster - like mushrooms.

Two years ago we joined a CSA that bagged up each individual kind of green and vegetable inside the box...I don't know who thought the market for local organics was the same as the market that wants everything in its own plastic bag.

Chia-Yi said...

I can definitely relate. It seems too massive a problem to tackle all at once. I recently bought some solid shampoo bars from Lush, and plan on making this a permanent lifestyle change to cut down on plastic bottles. It was something I'd been meaning to do for a long time, and I finally went out and got them this week. I hope to post about it sometime soon, but wanted to share this with you :)

ps. i had a friend in high school who used the NYTimes bags to cover his cast when he had to shower. I hope you don't get hurt, but it's one idea!

Crunchy Chicken said...

I think you need to sneak over to Beth's and leave your plastic on her doorstep. On the other hand, you might give her a coronary, so never mind...