No-Plastics October – Musings Week 2

Plastic reduction in my own little world has gone well this week. I have spent less than normal. In part because I am using up food wrapped in plastic in the freezer, but much because of truly making everything from scratch and predominantly vegetarian. My one fail this week is because I started dying my hair in August and I did buy a kit that contained three plastic bottles. I need to look where I can buy henna in different packaging. My one new eco purchase this week was laundry detergent. These strips have proven as effective as my previous detergent and not expensive at all, although a box of powder would work just as well too.

I love DIY and finding ways to reuse what I have to solve problems. As I mentioned last week, I have started to use baking soda to wash dishes with (by hand as I don’t have a dishwasher, and wanted to find a receptacle to keep the soda in by my sink. Tada, I found this old ceramic tea strainer one of 95% of my kitchenware which was gifted by friends and colleagues when I moved into my place three years ago. This works perfectly to sprinkle onto dishes and doesn’t go lumpy as I thought it might.

And here’s a bit of food porn from the farmer’s market and a couple of dishes this week.

I love how empty my recycling bag has been these past two weeks, but recycling can only go so far. Even in rich countries, recycling rates are low. Globally, 18 % of all plastic is recycled. Europe manages 30 %, China 25%—the United States only 9%. Part of the solution is to use less disposable plastic in the first place. The “zero waste” movement, which dates to the mid-1990s, is gaining favor. Hundreds of communities worldwide are embracing it—including the downtrodden industrial town of Roubaix, France, where the success of a citizens’ campaign shows that zero waste is more than an affectation of wealthy liberals.

Does my not using plastic straws make any difference faced with the global problem? I think it can. As communities act to ban single-use plastics and individual consumers reduce their usage and raise concerns, bigger actors pay attention. On other issues, like overfishing or deforestation, we have seen that big companies like McDonalds and Walmart can be sensitive to the concerns of their customers. Those global companies can be important levers in driving change and shifting to a regenerative, circular economy. Our little part can cumulatively up the pressure on these companies.

Individuals and communities thus can and should reduce their plastic usage but nothing substantial will happen really until government legislates that manufacturers be responsible for their own byproducts, they don’t generally pay their fair share in tax either. There are rays of hope on local and national levels:

  • SEATTLE BECOMES FIRST U.S. CITY TO BAN PLASTIC STRAWS AND UTENSILS – July 1, 2018
  • STARBUCKS TO DITCH PLASTICS STRAWS by 2020
  • CALIFORNIA BANS TRAVEL-SIZE PLASTIC SHAMPOO BOTTLES FROM HOTELS – to take effect for large hotels in 2023
  • in 2016 FRANCE BECAME FIRST COUNTRY TO BAN DISPOSABLE PLATES AND CUPS  new French law will require all disposable tableware to be made from 50% biologically-sourced materials that can be composted at home by January of 2020. 
  • NORWAY RECOVERS 97% OF ITS PLASTIC BOTTLES – Its trick: deposits as high as 2.5 kroner (32 cents) and machines, found at most supermarkets, that ingest bottles and spit out refunds.

Bans go way beyond recycling and tackle the issues at the source, helping to curb greenhouse gases coming from the rapidly expanding petrochemical industry that uses fossil fuels to produce plastic. In all my reading on the subject, I am convinced by far the greatest change to reducing the global plastic pollution crisis is if governments implement sweeping national policies that restrict plastic use and hold manufacturers accountable for responsibly handling waste. In the USA, Congress must pass legislation that would hold corporations accountable for handling plastic waste at the end of its life.

We can support initiatives like the 2018 Save Our Seas Act, but I need to do much more research on how I can become involved in groups pressurizing the government for change. I hope more to come in my next post when I will look more at how plastic has become environmental enemy #1 in a very short time and why.

Here’s a link to week one’s musings.

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11 Responses to No-Plastics October – Musings Week 2

  1. Hooray for you! I haven’t tried washing dishes with baking soda yet, but we do use powdered laundry detergent.

    If you’re looking for an organization that’s working to build a global climate movement, check out 350.org. The web site has a map of chapters all ove the world.

    I’m working on a web site where I can post supporting research for the middle grade book I’m writing, Turn This Earth Around: Everyday Ways to Help Our Planet. I hope to publish the web site soon. I’m encouraged by all the people (like you!) who are making an effort.

  2. Joanna says:

    JoAnn, thank you so much for reading and commenting. And I shall look up 350.org straight away. Once you have that website up an running, I will add it into one of these posts as I get as many hits on old posts as new ones.

  3. Patricia Nozell says:

    You’ve discovered one of my favorite new products, Joanna. I switched to TruEarth detergent, as I’m allergic to most scented products, travel quite a bit, and like carrying these small sheets with me for laundry on the go. I’ve also realized how much more space I have in the laundry area without the detergent bottles. Speaking of travel, did you see the NYT article yesterday on food waste & food service items on airplanes? https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/11/us/airline-cabin-waste.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share
    A fascinating read!

  4. Joanna says:

    Yes, I love the reduced space factor, and immediately thought how great for traveling too.

    Thanks for the link as I hadn’t seen this article!!

  5. Will have to check out the TruEarth products — new to me. I’ve downsized and chuckled with your creativity with things you already had on hand — have been doing the same. Could use more space in my laundry room. You are challenging me. When I was in the store the other day, I really took note at how everything is in plastic. Baking soda is a good product. Also, white vinegar in glass container are a good cleanser. I clean some of Ward’s CPAP machine with it and have used it on dishes. Ward has always used baking soda as toothpaste — he grew up using it.

    Hope somewhere in your research a story idea pops into your head for a PB or MG book. Kids are active all over the world. You could write a compelling novel.

    • Joanna says:

      Pat, I like the process you are in of downsizing. And, yes, I have been using white vinegar as a cleaning agent too. I would like to write a picture book about some of this, or maybe a novel.

  6. Love following you along on this journey, Joanna! How well does baking soda cut grease, by the way? Thanks!

  7. In Walmart (gah!) the other day with my mother and the cashier said something about no more bags at some point in the near future, but not sure if it’s a company decision or a state mandate (Delaware). Been easier to get my dad to remember to bring in a bag (They have a few in the car) than my mom! I used to use them as trash liners in the house but now just dump all garbage liner-less into the pick-up container. Not even sure if the hauling staff notice! In any case, that effort alone has oddly enough made Aaron and I far more mindful of what we are throwing away, and had the added effect of reduction, probably by half! Most definitely our purchasing choices are now part of the equation. Thanks so much for reporting on your efforts!

    • Joanna says:

      I can imagine that physical experience would impact you. I can’t do that in an apartment complex (or maybe I should check if I can). I use the paper bag from TJ’s for my trash.

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