Wednesday, August 24, 2011

pondering plastic

Yesterday was another Holistic Mom's Network twitter party.  The topic of conversation was plastic and it's insidious presence in our homes.  It may seem innocuous but really there's more than meets the eye.  All week long as I was waiting for the twitter party I looked around my home at all of the different ways we use plastic.  I was stunned to realize that there was far more than I thought.

plastic bags | photo: Trosmisiek
Many people have given up the paper or plastic question at the grocery store and bring re-usable grocery bags.  One of my challenges these days is to not use the thin plastic bags that the grocery store gives out in the produce section. I think the time has come to make some produce sacks, the challenge is that it's not nice and see-through for the clerk.  I don't use many of them, trying to take produce by itself whenever possible; however for some things like beans, mushrooms, etc it's not really feasible.  So I'm planning on working on that to reduce my plastic usage.  As we discussed last week when talking about's one step at a time.

The expert in charge of the twitter party was Beth Terry who blogs over at My Plastic Free Life and goes by the twitter handle @PlasticfreeBeth.  Her website is full of amazing information, links and resources on the steps to a plastic free life page including this great video on making produce bags from old t-shirts.  In addition to Beth's wonderful website there is also a lot of useful information to be found at Earth 911.

BPA laden receipts | 
The startling thing for many is learning just how pervasive plastics are in our lives.  Many of us focus on BPA because that's what's in the news.  There's even a study currently underway to examine the blood of cashiers to see how high their BPA levels are because they handle receipts all day long.  Those receipts are coated with a powdery form of BPA that transfers easily (something to think about next time you eat a snack after purchasing it and handling that receipt).  As Beth points out, it's important to remember that BPA-free does not mean it's totally safe.

I also learned that chewing gum is made with polyvinyl acetate.  Seriously?  Apparently the only brand of gum currently available that is all chicle is my favorite Glee gum.  But I confess to sometimes having other gums as well.  Not anymore.  I discussed this one with my husband last night and we will no longer be buying other gum.  Turns out this will also reduce our plastic packaging because Glee only packages in cardboard.

Even more disturbing was what I learned about bio-plastic.  This is being touted as the best replacement because it is supposed to break down.  However it turns out that many bio-plastics are made with GMO corn.  Since I try to avoid GMO foods it bothers me that this product is still finding it's way into the environment.  According to one thread in the party last night some bio-degradable plastics have a mystery ingredient that helps them to break down faster.  Researching it on the internet I come up with the information that that chemical is "proprietary" and so does not need to be shared with the general public.  Other information states that it may "leave some toxic residue but the environmental impact is lessened."  This is not something that I want in my environment at all.

glass straws | photo: Wizdomseeker
Just as with last week, the subject of straws came up again.  Of course you can get glass straws from or you can purchase stainless steel straws.  What I thought was really cool was discovering this link to a tutorial on making your own DIY travel cup.  I can see that I'm going to make re-evaluating my travel container choices my second priority after those fabric produce bags.  And don't forget to carry your own travel beverage with you.  If you travel through airports it can go empty through security and then be refilled on the other side.

PlasticfreeBeth set forth a Plastic Challenge.  I'm not quite ready to do that yet although I will be paying more attention to the plastic usage around our house. After last night, and after watching the trailer for the documentary movie Bag It this morning, I'm certainly more educated and more committed to making changes.

It's 9:00 a.m. and already I've handled the following plastic:

light switches
household plastic objects | photo: cjp24
toothpaste container
dental floss container
shampoo bottle
deodorant container
mascara container
lipstick container
eye liner container
cell phone / case
supplements/vitamins containers

and probably a few other things that didn't creep into my awareness.  Whew, that's a lot of petroleum product!  Definitely need to look around and see how I can reduce my usage.

Do you have any great non-plastic tips?  I'd love to hear them.


Free Range Mama said...

Thanks for sharing. It's an eye opener isn't it? Especially the bio plastic and the bpa-free plastic. I am so sure that in the next few years we will discover that the plastic replacing the BPA plastic will be equally harmful. I am also frustrated with my food preservation methods. I love to can my food but the lining on the canning lids is BPA and when you boil the jars you release the toxins. So by canning your own food you are not doing a whole lot better than buying canned food. The only solutions are the Weck jars which are totally glass with glass lids and a rubber ring but they are prohibitively expensive.

LucyNY said...

Very interesting thanks - I've added the Bag It movie to our Netflix queue!
Free Range Mama - BPA-free is bad, they've already worked it out unfortunately. See this article:

Mira Dessy said...

If you want to can BPA free one way to do so is by using the lids from They are also reusable so the extra cost is negligible.

Mira Dessy said...

I guess I won't be making bags as these seem very reasonably priced. I'll have to stop by my local sur la table and check them out. Thanks to Judy for sharing this link: