Thursday, December 27, 2007

Avoiding Plastic Entirely-Is It Possible?

I am afraid the answer is no-you cannot avoid plastics entirely and live a modern life. You probably knew that. But can you reduce your use of plastics? Absolutely.

I searched the web and could not find much practical advice on reducing our use of plastics beyond recycling and avoiding plastic bags. These are easy and obvious things which, dare I say it, are not going to do much about our consumption of plastic. The amount of plastic used in grocery bags is so small a percentage of the whole there are no figures on it. Is it still worth doing? Yes.

I see this journey to living a life of few plastics as having several parts. I'll start with categorizing plastic usage.

1. Disposable plastics- these are plastics which are used once and cannot be recycled. These include plastic bags from food items such as frozen foods, dried fruits, cheese, candy, bagged chips and other junk food, inside cereal boxes, the plastic strip on frozen juice, the plastic windows on pasta boxes, etc. Cellophane and plastic wrap on everything from Cd's and DVDs, books, games, toys, toilet paper and paper towels, appliances, etc. Some plastic containers also are not recyclable such as cake covers. This could also include Styrofoam and plastic containers if you cannot find a place to recycle them.

2. Recyclable plastic containers: Food containers, oil and brake fluid containers, cleaning product containers, buckets, etc. Tin cans also all have plastic films inside.

3. Usable plastics from necessary consumer items: I include needed computers, necessary cars, appliances such as a refrigerators or hot water heaters, telephones, and medical supplies in this list. Some would not. Plastic plumbing, electrical supplies, windows and doors, etc are also on this list, but there may be alternatives available.

4. Usable plastics from unnecessary consumer items: I would include most toys, Cd's and DVDs, fun cars, carpeting, plastic furniture, plastic accessories for home and personal use, TVs, hair driers, curling irons, cameras, fish tank equipment. Multiples of necessary appliances such as phones, computers, cars, etc are included here.

I think that trying to cut out all plastic is too much. It makes the problem so huge we get discouraged and stop trying altogether. My first goal is to cut out most of category 1: disposable plastics. If we can do this, the rest is comparatively easy.

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