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  • Jenny Hill

Plastic Free July Scorecard: Kind of Ugly

Quick! How many single-use plastic bottles are bought around the world EVERY MINUTE?

One million.

How has Plastic Free July been going for you? It has been tough for me. I didn’t think of it as a bold move when I took the pledge to avoid single-use plastic items while writing our July 8 blog post. I did not realize how terrible I would be at carrying it out either.

I did pretty well at home and taking food to work. I have lots of glass jars and food storage containers. I figured out I had the right size plates to fit over most of the bowls I might otherwise cover with plastic wrap…who knew?

It was when I traveled out of town over the weekend that things started to get ugly.

V8 Fiasco

On July 16 I was in a grocery store and about to grab a single-serve V8 juice bottle and realized it was plastic. In my mind, I could see a counter tick over for 999,999. Mis-step avoided, hooray! And I remembered I used to buy small cans of V8 in a six-pack or eight-pack. No problem! I love V8 and have no problem winding up with more cans.

But guess what? I ALSO wound up with more plastic packaging–those cute little recyclable cans are sheathed in plastic!

“OK–well, tomorrow would be another day,” I thought. “ I am resilient! I am smarter now!” The next day I found myself shopping with my 91 year-old father at a Co-op in a nearby city. We were buying ready-to-eat stuff at their deli for our dinner.

And so I was focused on what my Dad and I were going to eat, not how it was delivered to us. I selected a delicious-looking green salad with salmon and a cookie that had been baked on-site. Some of you already know the punch-line to this, right?

“OK, Jenny,” I coached myself. “You will just need to reuse that plastic clam shell. Berry season is coming up. You have lots of leftovers.” Still, I was resistant. I have no problem reusing little scraps of paper–why do I have so much resistance to reusing plastic?

Here’s the answer that came to me: “I don’t want to eat food out of plastic.” And I have a cupboard full of GLASS (albeit some with plastic lids) containers to use for my leftovers. Some are just jars I’ve saved from other things I bought and some are containers purchased to be containers.

I would rather eat food stored in glass than plastic containers. So why did I buy plastic in the first place? Because please show me a deli or grocery store anywhere that DOESN’T use plastic.

OK, but just for July I was supposed to choose something else. I kept trying.

Another Day, Another Plastic Fail

Fast forward to Thursday, July 21 and I am at a conference for work. At the start of the day there was some food and beverages. I passed up the single-serve yogurt in plastic. I virtuously took banana bread because there was a paper plate to put it on. Then I got my beverages–water and tea, both in disposable cups.

Do I even need to show you the photo?

I had poured the water and sat down with it before I realized IT WAS A PLASTIC CUP.

Luckily, tomorrow was another day and the “Schedule Send” email I wrote for myself (Thank you, Gmail) arrived right on time so I did not leave my house without a mug from home. I used it for BOTH hot and cold beverages all of Friday.

Finally Some Progress

So now I will carry a non-plastic cup with me in the car (along with my “travel” silverware). Knowing I will carry those things feels like progress. Real progress, of course, will be remembering to use them.

Like having a non-plastic cup with me in my car at all times, I realized I could keep a handy stash of plastic bags for re-use–like at Farmer’s Markets.

But I don’t know if I have the nerve to go into a “regular” grocery store or co-op and pull out a plastic bag I brought with me out to fill with produce. I picture how I would feel if I saw someone else do that. But is it any more “germy” than so many other interactions we have?

The need to reduce the use of plastic is something that needs to be addressed by both personal and community-wide actions. This was my initial delve into personal actions. Watch this blog and for other HDT events and information on more steps we all can take. And please let us know what areas you’d like to learn more about…we can become smarter together!

Brighter Note–Plant Pots

To end this post on a brighter note–do you have plastic “plant packs” that you bought at a garden center or used at home to start seedlings? Here are two suggestions to keep those out of your trash bin:

  1. Home Depot will take them! They have a plant pot recycling program.

  2. Offer them to someone who you know will use them for another season: a friend with a green thumb or a local vendor at your Farmer’s Market.

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