Archive for the ‘Plastic’ Category

Service of a Drop in the Bucket: Another Move to Heal the Environment Just to Make Us Feel Better

Thursday, February 27th, 2020

At the end of the month New Yorkers won’t be getting “single use” plastic bags from grocery and other stores.

I put quotes around “single use” because I use these bags for many other things. If I have leftovers I first wrap them in aluminum foil and cover the package in one of these bags, instead of a new one, so the food doesn’t leak in freezer or fridge. I also use them to hold wet garbage that I toss down a shoot in the garbage room.

I wrote the topnotch, smart apartment building manager to ask if he was going to alert the tenants about garbage protocol so they don’t use paper bags [which New Yorkers will now get from stores at 5 cents each unless they have their own bags] to send wet garbage down the shoot. These would drip on hallway carpets and mess up the shoot as contents break out of the weakened wet paper on the trip down as many as 38 flights.  I could tell he thought I was nuts and told me to buy plastic bags. I’ve lived here a year and haven’t bought a single one for garbage.

Articles about this environment-saving move report that there won’t be any more plastic bags but don’t mention that some put them to use and what to use instead. I heard a promo on NPR about a crisis for dog walkers who use the bags to pick up after their pooches. When I had a dog, that’s what I used.

Here are my objections:

  • I bought garbage bags when I lived in a house. They are of a far heavier plastic than the single use variety so where’s the savings to the environment?
  • Many NYC apartments have microscopic kitchens. They don’t have room for standard size trashcans. The small bags that fit the small cans are hard to come by—I haven’t found a box.
  • I ordered a cartridge for my printer from Staples because they didn’t have my brand in the store. It arrived in a large box with inflated plastic bags to keep it from rattling around. Speaking of waste! See the photos above and below. There are far more impactful changes to be made in my opinion.
  • A stack of single use plastic bags are easy for a deli or bodega to store. Paper takes up far more space.
  • Car owners keep a pile of bags in the trunk. Few Manhattan dwellers shop for groceries with a car. Returning home from work someone with a briefcase doesn’t usually have a bag in which to store a quart of milk so they’ll buy a paper bag which will translate into more voluminous garbage and ensuing energy to dispose of it.
  • We take home rotisserie chicken in large plastic containers with plastic domes. Like the big deal restaurants made of substituting paper for plastic straws, this move is another drop in the bucket with more PR than actual impact on the environment.

What do you think? Do you toss single-use plastic bags or put them to use?

Service of Refills: Do Consumers Have the Time & Money?

Monday, January 28th, 2019

Photo: pinterest.com

I found fault with the hullabaloo over the so called huge benefits to the environment when businesses announced they were banning  plastic straws in the post “Service of the Last Straw,”—literally too little in the plastic litter wars.

I perked up reading Saabira Chaudhuri’s article “The World’s Biggest Brands Want You to Refill Your Orange Juice and Deodorant–P&G, Nestlé and others try to curb plastic waste; Tropicana in glass bottles, Tide in metal cans.”

Chaudhuri reported: “Refillables once dominated industries such as beer and soft drinks but lost out to convenient, affordable single-use containers. In 1947, refillables made up 100% of soft-drink containers by volume and 86% of beer containers, according to the Container Recycling Institute, a nonprofit. By 1998 those figures dropped to 0.4% and 3.3%, respectively.”

She added that the refill business exists but is niche, done by some grocery stores and entrepreneurs largely

Statewide Refillable Bottles Photo: kcts9.org

in shampoo and detergent businesses.

The trial will include PepsiCo’s Tropicana OJ in a glass bottle and Quaker Chocolate Cruesli cereal in stainless steel. Some of P&G’s 10 participating brands include Pantene shampoo in aluminum and Tide in stainless-steel.

In addition, Chaudhuri wrote: “Shoppers who the companies select for the trial will be able to order hundreds of products—including Nestlé’s Häagen-Dazs ice cream and Clorox Co.’s wet wipes—from a website for home delivery. Products arrive in a reusable tote with no extra packaging. Once finished, users schedule a pickup for empty containers to be cleaned and refilled. They can sign up for a subscription-based service that replenishes products once empty containers are returned. TerraCycle will handle delivery, returns and cleaning.

Photo: pinterest.com

“The products will cost roughly the same as the versions in single-use containers, but users will also have to pay a deposit of $1-$10 per container. Shipping charges start at roughly $20, decreasing with every item added.

“Susan Collins, head of the Container Recycling Institute, said high deposit fees could be a barrier to entry for many consumers. ‘It sounds like it’s only meant to attract the most green, virtuous shoppers,’ she said.

I’d add that customers who look for sales are also out of the loop.

“TerraCycle hopes to bring big retailers on board so that customers eventually buy and return most of the products in store or online via retailers, lowering the project’s costs and expanding its reach,” Chaudhuri concluded.

If shoppers don’t have a doorman or house staff or if they aren’t retired, who will accept the packages and what about ice cream sales shipped in summer? Will the shipping and container costs impact the success of these initiatives? Can we go home again, to the middle of last century, when refills in certain product categories were standard? Will a sufficient number of customers, spoiled by taking three seconds to toss out a bottle or container, make the time to wash out each container and prepare the package to ship it back?

Photo: etsy.com

Service of the Last Straw, Bar None

Monday, March 26th, 2018

Photo: the nibble.com

I love sipping from a straw: Always have. Straws are associated with happy drinks and times. On hot summer nights my mother made scrumptious ice cream sodas for dessert which we’d sip through straws. A whiskey sour with a straw makes a celebration of an ordinary Saturday night.

To read they may be an endangered species because they are considered a “‘gateway plastic’ in understanding the pollution problem,” makes me sad. They come in cheery colors. The paper ones, in mostly stripes, cost a fortune and disintegrate. Bars that use metal straws claim customers take them. One company makes biodegradable plastic straws. Wonder how much they cost.

Photo: hanfordsentinel.com

The gateway plastic quote above, by actor Adrian Grenier, was in Cara Lombardo’s Wall Street Journal article, “The War on Straws Is Coming to a Bar Near You.” Given the years since I first heard plastic bags were to be banned in NYC and still they are not, I may not have to say “bye-bye” to straws anytime soon.

Grenier started a #stopsucking social media campaign and “The Scotch Whisky Association and the makers of Absolut vodka and Tanqueray gin have announced plans to ban plastic straws and stirrers from their events.” Bacardi also nixes swizzle sticks. Pernod has deleted them from images, according to Lombardo.

She also reports that they are banned in some cities and in some bars you have to ask to get one like during the NYC water shortage when wait staff would confirm that you wanted a glass before automatically bringing one.

Photo: pinterest.com

One source estimated that we use 20 billion plastic straws annually. “Mia Freis Quinn, a spokeswoman for the [Plastics Industry] association, says the plastic straw’s detractors should focus on finding ways to recycle and recover them. Plastic straws, she says, play vital roles in everything from her children’s class projects to personal hygiene. ‘My dentist says if you’re not drinking water, you better be using a straw.’ The American Dental Association suggests using straws to prevent tooth erosion, recommending using a straw ‘palatally,’ placing the end behind the teeth.”

One straw proponent, fearing all the communicable diseases around, won’t drink from a glass in a restaurant if he’s not given a straw because he doesn’t want to touch a rim “other mouths have touched.” Another wondered how we’d drink milkshakes [a favorite food group] without them. To be able to drink a strawless frozen margarita a third “learned to tilt the glass to prevent blended ice from spilling on her face.”

Straws are nothing new. Lombardo wrote that the Sumerians used metal ones as early as 2,500 B.C. When I was a kid I was puzzled by the ones you’d get in bars in Europe that were actually made of straw. They were so thin and delicate you had to concentrate to extricate liquid from them.

Would you miss plastic straws if they were prohibited? Considering the huge amount of plastic used in packaging and bottles alone, do you think that barring straws is little more than a symbolic gesture in the face of the gigantic pollution issues we face? What do you like—or dislike—about them?

Paper straws. Photo: ebay.com

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