Living zero waste is second nature to me, but my attempt to go plastic free for a day didn’t even last until noon. I knew eliminating plastic would take some thought, but figured it would be easy enough for one day. My family is used to refilling shampoo bottles, using bar soap in the kitchen and banning Ziplocs. I was up for the challenge. After all, I practically do this for a living so how hard can it be?
A simple gift (made of plastic)
My first plastic-free errand was to find a gift for a friend. We have a lovely bakery within biking distance so I sent my daughter out to pick up a paper gift certificate. When she returned with a plastic gift card in her hand, we felt defeated. More than 75 million pounds of PVC from plastic cards heads to landfills every year. What I didn’t do (but maybe should have done): returned the card. What I did do: emailed the bakery with my feedback and vowed not to get a gift card there again unless they switch to paper.
A local newspaper (wrapped in plastic)
Not soon after, our local paper landed in our driveway. If rain is forecast, every paper in our community is delivered wrapped in plastic. We usually read the news online to avoid the waste associated with delivery, but in this case we don’t even order this paper; it is delivered to every household regardless. What I did: contacted them directly to discontinue the paper. We love the paper, but we don’t love the plastic. We’ll read it online.
An organic apple (with a plastic sticker)
Then I was off to the market and what I thought would be an easy place to avoid plastic. I bring my own produce bags, use my own containers for prepared food, and purchase in glass wherever possible, but I forgot that practically every piece of produce is stickered. A Swedish supermarket has a solution: by using natural branding on all of their avocados for one year, they’ll save 135 miles of plastic 1 foot wide. I love the idea of marking produce with a laser instead of a sticker, and I also enjoy the farmers’ market for plastic-free produce. At the grocery store, however, produce with plastic stickers is pretty much unavoidable. Going plastic free for a day was becoming a challenge.
A glass bottle of milk (with a plastic cap)
Next, I realized that our delicious glass-bottled organic milk has a plastic cap and a plastic seal; both go into our recycling bin but I have a feeling that they don’t meet the recycling requirement in our town. The refillable glass bottle is a throw-back to the good old days, and an amazing improvement from plastic milk jugs, but alas the disposable cap and seal are nonetheless plastic.
A receipt (coated in plastic)
Last, as we checked out at the market, we were asked if we’d like our receipt. The cash register prints it regardless, so if we decline a receipt it goes in the recycling. Because receipts are commonly coated with plastic BPA, they not only pollute our environment, but they also contaminate paper recycling.
Our attempt to go plastic free for a day barely lasted a few hours. If you’re inspired to try it, please let us know! We’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions. Lauren Singer said that living completely waste-free is impossible, but she also said that it is possible to take huge steps toward reducing one’s waste in as little as a single day.