06 January 2014

Plastic, Again

You can crush glass or melt aluminum and make another bottle or can, and it takes a lot less energy than making either from scratch.  But did you know that you can't recycle a soda bottle into another soda bottle? 

You can recycle the plastic into a fleece jacket or plastic wood-like composite that in turn can be used to make deck flooring or picnic tables, and that takes less energy than starting with raw crude.  The promises of recycling aside, all those soda and water bottles are single-use items.

The mantra of environmentalists has long been "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle."  Recently, though, people have been adding a fourth "R," "Refuse."  We need to refuse plastic packaging as much as possible.  Yet it's almost inescapable, unless maybe you make

Vegetables, for one, don't need to be packaged in styrofoam.  If your local supermarket does it that way, have a little chat with the manager, and then write a letter to corporate.  A lot of other supermarket food comes packed in plastic.  Farmer's markets, CSAs, and coops are an alternative, if there's one in your area.

For things like yogurt, ketchup, peanut butter, and mustard, I don't know of good alternatives.  Making your own is a possibility, but for most of us not a feasible one.

Iced coffee doesn't require a single-use plastic cup.  Make your own at home, or get a reusable container, preferably made out of double-walled stainless steel, which will keep your cold drinks cold and your hot drinks hot and can double as a water bottle when not filled with coffee.

When did all the laundry detergent manufacturers switch over to liquid detergent packaged in plastic, rather than powder packed in cardboard boxes?  Besides the unnecessary plastic packaging (and probably not either #1 or #2, which are the only types that most communities accept for recycling), the water mixed with the powder drastically increases the weight, and therefore the energy required for shipping.

Consider switching back to powder.  If it doesn't work as well, let me know.





Another big source of plastic packaging is personal care items: liquid soap, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, toothpaste.  Some of these are available in non-liquid forms packaged in paper.  Others are difficult.

So, do me a favor and think about it.  Is there one thing you can do to refuse single-use plastic packaging in your life?