Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dear Plastic: Please Go Away (or: The Plastic – Fiscal Year 2010-2011)

People often wonder how I live zero-waste; the following is likely the highest contributor. So, please read on and enjoy – after all, that’s what it’s all about.

The Good

If you’ve been following this blog, or you know me personally, you’ll know that I made a commitment to move towards living zero-waste after seeing The Clean Bin Project (about a year ago now). I finally got around to sorting my ever-collecting soft and rigid plastics.  Though potentially odd-sounding to some, I must say, it was really fun and induced nostalgic-like feelings – as it reminded me of sorting my Halloween candy after a long night of trick-or-treating, especially with the crisp fall air and the vibrantly coloured leaves, preparing for their yearly transformation.  Oh nature – how you amaze me so.

But honestly? Nothing beats the pleasure of visually experiencing how much waste, in this case, plastic, I prevented from ending up in a landfill, or more often than not, an animal’s home. Moreover, that plastic will be recycled. And, according to what I read on the Return-It Depot website, “recycling plastics uses about 1/3 less energy than manufacturing new plastic.” An additional energy savings - bonus!  Bottom line, it feels good to be part of the solution. Try it out, I dare you :)

Most people would assume that, in storing plastics for that long, my house would just be FULL! And, while you can see form the photos that there is an absolute mess of plastics in my living room, after sorting it, you’ll also see that they sure do clean up well. They compress so much so, that you can store a years’ worth on the top shelf of a tiny laundry closet (I live in a small apartment), and no-one’s the wiser.

You can see from the photos, below, that massive cloud of plastic turns into three small bags when compressed. So, it’s not like you have to hoard loads and loads, all the while fumbling around in a sea of plastic (though perhaps sadly ironic, that so called “figurative” sea, literally does exist, now, in nature) each time you open your closet….or be worried about what your guests might think of you when you open the door to hang their coat up – everyone’s seen that show about hoarders – we don’ t want to be that person.

I’ll let you in on a secret- you’re not! No-one will ever judge you for being conscious of what you consume and put back into the environment. That is, seriously, something to be proud of. You are taking an active role in your existence here on earth, and that to me is nothing but admirable. It’s all about shifting mentalities – and it’s happening, slowly but surely.

Styrofoam and the soft plastics

The rigid plastics

The banana is there for a size reference....

Unbelievable. The height of the coffee table.

Easy to store.

As a some-what aside I’m actually proud of my plastic pile (well, I'm sad at how much plastic I still consume but you know what I mean)– if guests came over, I’d gladly show them how easy it is to  prevent this stuff from ending up in unwanted areas. Keep it till you can reap it i.e. take it to the proper depots. Though I realize that me being proud of such things is perhaps an oddity, it’s an oddity I’m okay with, and an oddity soon to become regularity.

The Not-So-Good

While I prevented a significant amount from simply being thrown away, and saved some much needed energy – it made me realize - I’m just one person – and look how much I accumulated! Moreover, I am one person that consciously tries to avoid plastic – what with specifically choosing my bread from Cobs Bread so I can bring my own cloth or paper bag, bringing my own containers for take-out or meats in the grocery store, using cloth bags for groceries, and mesh produce bags, and ensuring I never leave the house without my “eco-kit” comprised of to-go cup, water bottle, bamboo utensils, multi-purpose container, or if I forget - simply waiting to purchase something until I can consume responsibly….to name a few – so where is it all coming from?!?! And if I’m one person, a conscious consumption person, what the heck are people who don’t care consuming? And more importantly, their tossing it in the landfill, not recycling…. – eek! This needs to be rectified, stat.

I’ll be honest – slash, you can see from the photos – I buy Amy’s burritos that come in plastic wrap, and those Happy Planet (irony?) soups – dang, definitely two things I need to axe, fast (any alternatives? I’m all ears…or eyes) – it’s a convenience thing. Ah convenience, you’ve snuck up on me again. Why does everyone like you so much?

Despite my love for quick dinner options, I look at all the other plastics and their not strictly composed of those items…so it really makes me wonder – how am I accumulating all of this? Why plastic! Why must you plague me so?

I will reason with this fact: this is all the plastic from one year. Over that year I’ve slowly figured out more ways to reduce my plastic consumption –so, of course plastic during the beginning would have been accumulating faster – and in theory, it should be slowly decreasing. As such, I will do this same “plastic audit”, if you will, for the next fiscal year.  I’m very interested to see what the outcome will be! My goal – because having measureable goals is fun– will be ½ the plastic!  

The Food (Plastic?) for Thought

I have been wondering for a while now – why can’t we add a deposit fee on plastics/packaging? So, in addition to going to the bottle depot each month, or whenever one goes, we could also go to the “plastic depot” and get money for our plastic. Plus, this type of monetary incentive would mean that those who are picking up stray bottles around the city to make a few extra bucks, can also pick up stray plastics. Imagine how clean our streets, and consequently our environment, would be! That makes me happy. Can we make this happen? I think so.

I just want to point out one thing – I know someday I will look back at this blog and think “wow look how proud I was to have saved that much plastic, I only have 1/8 of that amount now (if anything at all) and everyone’s doing it! My my how times have changed” – just as it wasn’t too long ago that you’d go grocery shopping and no-one had re-usable bags. Here’s to change, the good kind!

The Action

I encourage everyone to try to save their plastic,s if you live in a place where your city does not accept them, and take them to the proper facilities. Some municipalities are accepting softer plastics in their city-wide recycling (Calgary, Montreal), Vancouver is a bit slow on this one but we’ll forgive them – since we do have alternatives like Pacific Mobile Depot.

Let’s take responsibility for what we produce, put it back into the system so it can be turned into something useful, and feel good about doing it!! I assure you this – nothing beats the feeling of knowing you’re helping preserve our wonderful, biologically diverse, ever-magnificent world.

And now, to end off with a wonderfully composed, inspirational remark, one of my favourite quotes:

“The number one thing – is do one more thing. Let’s do one more thing that isn’t sustainable, and change it to sustainable, and just don’t stop.” (Brian Burke - The Clean Bin Project)

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