Folks, this is about my "consumption" of plastic over the next year. I'm looking at what I have, what I buy, and why I seem to need this hundred and fifty year old man-made concoction more than my mother's fried chicken.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Week 1: Medicine & Mascara

A friend at work suggested I come clean about something. And I agree. To be sure, I am a "reductionist" (if I may pilfer this word for a new definition) in that I already avoid buying plastic when I can. I am not one of those who feels "good" when I toss something into the recycling bin because the garbage mentality is still the same: out of sight, out of mind. It doesn't keep me from thinking about my consumption. It only helps ease the blow of throwing stuff out & most of us really don't know for sure if our recycling is just being mixed with the trash in the end. It happens--don't kid yourself. So, just keep in mind that this collection is coming from a person who is already a little plastiphobic.

All that said, I'm still a little shocked by my plastic collection over the past 7 days (see photo). I was trying to multiply the pile by 52 and I started sweating a little. (What the bleep am I doing?)
It appears that most of my plastic consumption this week came from my food choices and only one item (sunglasses) was not packaging of some sort (see photo).

This week got me to thinking...about medicine & mascara. With my grandfather in the hospital in his last days and all the other people who have been to hospitals, what kind of experience would it be without plastic? I think about the time I was rushed to the hospital in the Marshall Islands due to severe dehydration, and I can't help but wonder what kind of life I would be living if the needle for my IV didn't come out of one of those super sanitary plastic packs. I mean, plastic has done wonders for safety in the medical field, right?

And then there's mascara. On my Jetblue flight from Austin to Boston, I forgot to fill up my trusty water bottle between security and the gate. A 4 hour flight with no water? I succumbed to the 6 oz. water bottle they offered (from an imaginary source known as Tap Springs) as I couldn't see myself sneaking off to the bathroom to drink from the tiny pump sink. I waved off the cute little bags of snacks & cookies. It's just so hard to say "no thanks" when they shove it gently in your face. And then, just when I thought the temptation was over, a sweet flight attendant smiled and handed me a complimentary plastic package holding a pink plastic tube of...mascara. That's right--the dude handed me make-up. Does anyone know what that's all about?

I'll end with one last story. Today I went to a popular coffee shop, ordered an apple bran muffin & a coffee with no lid (I had forgotten my mug). The happy barista frowned apologetically and informed me that he was required to put a lid on the cup to protect both of us from burning ourselves. He chirped a quick joke: "This is (coffee shop name), not Hooters--we don't go topless here!" (When did Hooters go topless?) I laughed & sighed "OhhKaay" and then he put the coffee on the bar, faked like he was going to put the lid on, winked at me, and threw the lid in the garbage with an "oops!" (Sigh.) I thought about asking him to fish it out for me, but I wanted to be able to show my face in there again, so I shrugged and walked out--topless and all.


Bekah said...

So, do the sunglasses count as plastic consumption if you use them? Or is it just general things that are newly acquired, even if it doesn't end up in the trash right away.

Sunnye said...

I would call the sunglasses a "multi-use" item as opposed to everything else in the pile that is designed for one time use and disposal...

Wing-Sy said...

Hi Sunnye!

I'm excited to read your blog (but really sorry to hear about your

I've been having more and more guilt over my plastic use this past year. My lifestyle seems to encourage plastic use: I work long hours so I tend to go for fast food, restaurant and even home cooked food options that involve the use of more plastic. I started growing tomatoes on my porch in April - good because it's less packaging than store bought - but all of my gardening containers are made of plastic. Will I use them forever or will I throw them away when they get damaged or are no longer useful? I work in a company that uses a lot of plastic: in the lab - from pipet tips to sterile plastic containers to the wrappers for all the sterile needles and syringes we use. Reusing is not a good idea because we are making medical products but my company does not recycle. Having worked here, I realize how much the medical industry relies on plastic to protect patients. I brought in my own eating utensils and mug so I use less of the disposable kind but even I am tempted sometimes by the convenience of the plastic forks in the employee cafeteria.

I guess what I am trying to say is that you have tapped into something that I've become really neurotic about. I can't look at the plastic containers I use without thinking of them sitting in a landfill forever but I can't think of an alternative and I feel more and more distress over it every day. Am I crazy?

Jives said...

Wow. This is intense already. I can't wait for the vlog tour of the plastic pile.

earthlygirl said...

Grrr...I have felt your frustration at the coffee shop in a similar fashion at the local Subway. I ask for simply the sandwich wrapped, no napkins, drink with no straw or lid. They are so pre-programmed and used to wrapping and throwing the sandwich into a plastic bag with napkins everytime, that I have to catch them as they do...even though I just said it!

Great blog site Sunnye, love the work you're doing. I will be sharing with others on