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Posts Tagged ‘recycling’

Last night my sister Priscilla did a house concert here. She told Queen Berta and King Pippin.  It’s an excellent story, and she told it very well.  We had about 30 people here hanging on her every word.  I can’t be objective, because she’s my wonderful sister, but everyone appeared to enjoy it very much.

We had food and drink beforehand, and a bit afterwards.  For the first time, we had hardly any trash after a party.  

A couple of years ago a friend gave me two dozen wine glasses, so we used those, along with some ugly plastic cups I’d like to use up and never buy again.  

Last year I bought some extra dessert plates on closeout from a kitchen store in Kansas City, thinking I’d resell them on eBay.  I decided to keep them instead – they match all my other dishes – and so we used those instead of paper.  

(I have a stack of styrofoam plates that somebody brought to a potluck.  I’m too embarrassed to use them, so they’ll probably live on forever at the back of my pantry.)

I almost used paper napkins, but instead I went through my cloth napkins and came up with a respectable pile to put on the table.  I know, I know, it takes energy to wash them, but they don’t go in any landfill.

The kitchen trash can was not even full afterwards!  I’m very pleased.

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Hehehe. Remember my keyboard techno-whine? I gave the keys to my friend D so he can make stuff out of them. He took them home in a resealable plastic bag. So that’s what it was for!

underwear bag with keyboard keys

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I got TurboTax in the mail, unasked for. “Try FREE before you buy!” I’m not even going to open the box. Why did they think I wanted this? If I wanted it, I’d go to the website and download it instead of buying a CD. The box is hard plastic wrapped in clear plastic. The CD is, of course, plastic. Maybe I need to become some sort of folk artist and use all this unwanted stuff, because I sure hate to throw it away. Remember those hats made of beer can pieces crocheted together? How about a CD vest? Or giant earrings? They do make good coasters, but I don’t think they’d work as plates.

Speaking of which, I got a cast iron plate for the stove that allows you to get even lower heat. It’s about the size of a CD. The instructions said not to cook directly on it. OK, no problem. I was thinking of making a grilled cheese sandwich on it, but now I won’t.

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This is really just an ad for another website: http://www.storyofstuff.com/

It contains a 20-minute movie about the stuff of the world – its creation, sales, and removal. Watch it, weep, then do something.

So I think I’m doing the right things, and then I realize I am not. I went to Target today and bought stuff. Our toaster oven has lost its little brain and thinks all toast should be black. I replaced it with a snazzy new toaster oven. Did I really need that? I bought three rubber boot trays to put under the bench in the mudroom. Not really necessary, just a useful item to keep things clean.

The more I pay attention to plastic and its relatives, the more I see. Right now I’m in guilt mode. Maybe I can get more positive.

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What’s the deal with sheets? I bought new sheets recently. (Tip: Don’t get the cheap 100% cotton sheets from Target. They don’t have decent hems and are very lightweight and rough.) They came in those plastic um, box-shaped “bags” with zippers. Are they recyclable? Who knows? The zippers would seem problematic. Are they reusable? Not really. When you get grocery bags, many uses arise. These sheet bags, or boxes, don’t lend themselves to any immediate use. I’d have to make up a use for them, which is silly.

Comforters come in these too. Fortunately, I found and bought two comforters, one for the guest bed and one for Willie’s bed, that were just wrapped with a ribbon, like a present. No plastic except for one tag-attacher.

The sheet bag-boxes are just more junk to go into places like the North Pacific Gyre. Where else?

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Oh, not really the wastebasket, because I’m putting this stuff in the recycling, but little better. (Where does that stuff go? Ultimately to the North Pacific Gyre, I know.)

I’d like to write a funny, lighthearted post about our silly dog and maybe something about how my foot is improving. But good golly.

I ordered some new sheets. OK, it really is time to quit ordering stuff and having it shipped in, at what cost to the environment I don’t even know. But (whine) I couldn’t find what I wanted in town, and this great mail order company had the sheets I wanted. (end whine)

That’s my bad part.

Then, the sheets were backordered in some strange way so that I got 3 separate packages, each plasticked, each trucked in separately. Two arrived on the same day. The other one the next day. That’s their bad part.

I like this company. I imagine this issue has something to do with their computer system, which doesn’t take into account that you could, say, hold all the packages backordered to arrive the same week, and send them together. I might write to them about it.

Eyes rolling back in head . . .

Maybe next time I’ll be light and funny.

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I don’t want you to think I’m asking for a pat on the back about how much we recycle or reuse when I write about what’s in our trash. I’m really looking at how much perma-junk our household of two reasonably careful people is creating all the time. We’re pretty good about reusing plastic. We’ve used the same cereal containers for about 10 years (acquired during a bad grain moth infestation). I reuse every plastic food bag as long as I can, until it gets holes in it or is too dirty to reuse.

This morning I had cranberry relish and Swedish crispbread, both being stored in Rubbermaid plastic containers. I made the relish last night, so in our wastebasket we now have two bags that cranberries came in, and a plastic apple bag with holes in it (not easily reusable). I threw moldy bread into the compost, and threw out the bag. I usually drink an Emergen-C, which comes in a little foil envelope – thrown away. We buy our coffee in bulk, using paper bags that are practically family heirlooms. I ran out of hair conditioner this morning. The bottle went in the recycling. How much plastic can we recycle? It’s still there, just in different form. Our newspaper comes in a blue plastic bag every day. Those go in the recycling. I wonder if I could get the carrier not to use a bag. I doubt it, but I can ask.

I went to Target but didn’t take my own bags. I made the checker consolidate, but I still walked out of there with two plastic bags. And what was in them? A plastic bottle of oil. A plastic spray bottle of environmentally gently all-purpose cleaner. A bag of sugar, yay, biodegradable! Mascara in a plastic tube, blisterpacked to cardboard for easy display and theft prevention. A new throw rug with a non-slip rubber backing (OK, 4 rugs so I can see which one looks OK) – what is that backing made of? Two plastic bottles of dish soap (2 for 1 sale). From the natural foods store, I brought out one plastic bag each of apples and oranges.

Oh gosh, there’s more. I find this critically important, and I can’t see how we’re going to fix it.

Take a look at the video below, Alphabet Soup, about the double-Texas-sized floating trash mass in the North Pacific Gyre. It’s horrifically fascinating.

Or look at the LA Times series on the altered ocean.

I’m going to go make chicken soup (chicken in plastic, broth homemade but stored in plastic, noodles in plastic).

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Throwing things away

I’m lazy. Willie had brought home a big box full of leftover Wheatfields pasty items after he worked on Saturday. He worked at Wheatfields from January to August, and although he loves the stuff, he’s also sick of it. So he didn’t eat any. I’m not sick of it, so I ate my share, and Rick ate some too. But here it is Tuesday, and the remainder is bricklike and unattractive.

I picked up the cardboard box to toss it out. It contained crumbs, a partial scone, and part of another unknown pastry item, maybe an apple thing. I thought “I’m just going to throw this whole thing away. The heck with recycling and being conscious of the environment.”

Then I got it out to the garage. I could perfectly easily put the leftover food bits in the compost instead of in the trash barrel. And if I did that, the box could just as easily go in the cardboard recycling. So that’s what I did – pastry in the compost, box in the recycling.

This time I did the right thing (although more later on the recycling business), but many times I have just consigned things to the landfill when with a few minutes thought I could at least make a more conscious choice in how I dispose of my detritus (=junk).

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  • The turkey came from a nearby farm, in a plastic bag. Coulda been worse.
  • The green beans came in a plastic bag from the grocery store, which wasn’t reusable.
  • The potatoes came in a plastic bag with holes in it, which wasn’t reusable. I should have bought them in bulk and bagged them myself in cloth.
  • Priscilla made the bread. We put the leftovers in a plastic bag. I can reuse that one. Typically I get 3-5 uses out of a bread bag.
  • Gravy – no plastic involved. And by the way, putting a layer of carrots, onions, and celery under the turkey makes a wonderful base for gravy. I’d never done that before.
  • I have to confess to making stuffing from a bag. I wonder if those cellophane-ish bags are biodegradable. I used sage I got out of the garden.
  • The pecans for the pie came in a plastic bag. The chocolate for the pie was wrapped in paper, as were the flour and butter.
  • We put all the leftovers in plastic containers. I have reused those about a million times.

All told, not too bad, and no worse than a typical day.

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Plastic again

I went to Costco today. They’re good about packaging in one way, because they reuse old grocery boxes, or nothing, to pack your stuff in at the cash register. But on the other hand, there are loads of items that are more blisterpacked than normal, like Oil of Olay, and vitamins. You end up wrestling to get your new purchases free and then throwing away a big gob of plastic and plasticized cardboard. I can see why they use plastic to package multiples of one thing together, but why the single bottle of Glucosamine and Chondroitin, which already has a double-sealed top?

That cardboard! Does it degrade if it’s encased in a film of plastic? I bet not.

There are a lot of other ecological issues to worry about, and hardly anything to feel good about (e.g., paper bags use up lots of fossil fuel in the making, more, apparently, than plastic bags). So I guess for the time being I’m picking this one. I’m just going to keep paying attention to the trash I generate.

Last night we had a piece of beef tenderloin for dinner. I had bought a big huge one from Costco, cut it in three pieces, and froze two of them. It came in a big cryo-vac (read plastic) bag. I put it in two more plastic bags. I cooked the beef, and put the leftovers in a (reusable, at least) plastic box. We also had mashed potatoes. Yay! The potatoes came in all their nakedness from the Merc. Same for the broccoli. We had Lindor truffles for dessert. Cellophane wrapping, plasticked paper bag. (Incidentally, the Merc puts most of its deli items in cardboard boxes, not plastic.)

I know, this seems boring. And if I keep doing it, it will become quite repetitive. But if I don’t look at these details I’ll keep acquiring and throwing away more and more of this stuff. IT NEVER GOES AWAY!

I want everyone to pay attention to this. For one thing, unless you live a totally austere existence out in the woods somewhere, you’re going to be using and throwing away plastic. So if we all start paying attention, and complaining or buying less-packaged items, maybe manufacturers will respond by using less. Am I being naive or overly idealistic?

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