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.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Week 3: The plastic poop glove

I have a dog who poops on a daily basis. And I know all you dog owners out there (especially ye who obey the 11th Commandment: "Should it not be yer own yard, ye shall pick up after your dog.") Can I get an "amen" for plastic grocery bags? Given the fact that I don't have space to compost Hugo's doo-doo nor do I have the slightest desire to collect 365 bags of poop in my guest room for this experiment, I had to come up with an alternative. In addition, I am not collecting my total garbage effluent, so I needed to come up with an alternative for kitchen garbage bags too.

I got onto poopbags.com and bought my annual supply of kitchen and poop bags for the year. They are not without sin to be sure--they are made from corn which is technically better than a human-made polyethylene terepthalate, but I have no idea where the corn comes from. The product is "BioBag" and they claim to use non-GMO starches and a material known as Mater-Bi which is a trademarked product of an Italian company called Novamont. I went to materbi.com, but was not able to activate a lot of their links, so wasn't able to learn too much about it. On the box, it says it is a product of Norway. The company will only source corn from countries that are GMO-free, so that rules out acquiring a US corn supply. Alas, the bags make a long journey of approximately 3,500 miles (guesstimating from Oslo). They may be able to claim that no polyethylene is used in the production of the bags. So then...what--their machines to fabricate the bags run on biofuels and contain absolutely no plastic parts? And what about transport? That's a lot of fossil fuels trailing behind that 18-wheeler dashboard and plastic-coated cockpit. One step at a time, I guess.

This brings me to my ultimate justification for the time being. Most of the garbage in Boston goes to an incinerator in Ware, MA. So, I would rather have corn smoke rather than plastic smoke billowing out. However, this justification has expired because I am in Beverly and have yet to discover where our trash and recycling goes. If it goes to a landfill, I'm not sure it matters either way since corn and plastic and everything else are mummified rather than broken down in order to protect our groundwater supplies. So, how do I keep the poop out of the bags all together? Well, I have known about pet waste composters for a few years now and would LOVE to know if anyone has had first hand experience with these. I found a good step-by-step on how to make your own here. However, my issue, like many in the Northeast is that I live in a multi-family (aka, multi-opinionated) dwelling. What seems like a fantastic idea to me may likely raise the eyebrows and tempers of my neighbors. Therefore, until I get land of my "own" I will stick with BioBag unless anyone else has any suggestions.

I'll close with 2 questions: How much more resourceful and innovative would we be if we were forced to deal with all of our waste where we live and work? How would you change your habits if you went from NIMBY to YIMBY?

17 comments:

Becca said...

Hey Sunnye! How are you doing? I wanted to tell you I think your blog is great! I hope you do not mind, I sort of borrowed your idea a little and assigned my high school advanced English students a homework assignment over the weekend to keep a "Plastics Journal" - observing and monitoring their own use of plastics. I think it was really eye opening for them and created some great discussions. Anyhow, I am going to show them your blog, and I might even offer extra credit or bonus points if they visit your site and give you comments on your work. Is that ok with you? They are all great kids, and we are talking a lot about the environment this quarter. We`ve talked a lot about taking action to help our environment and I think your blog will inspire them :) Take care Sunnye, Hasta Luego!

Love and Light,

Becca

Sunnye said...

Becca! I am thrilled at the possibility of your students getting extra credit to read my blog & comment! Woo-hoo!! If there are any topics that they want me to cover in particular regarding the world of plastics, please let me know. I'm open to requests...

Thanks and so great to hear from you...

Rodrigo said...

Well this is interesting, how everything we use, eat, see, touch, hear or feel has or had something to do with plastic, if it is not made of plastic, the machine that processed it, or the package, or the bag that keeps it is made of plastic.

I still wonder what would be a good way to replace all plastics once for all, I have heard that wood resines, combined with other degradable materials make something like plastic, not so resitant or flexible, but at least it is a degradable option that does not polute the environment, well, not in such way as plastic.

But, one step at a time, as you said, all this matter of plastic, I guess that is something that will change slowly and step by step, until someday we would not use it in the same way as we do now, but that won't happen soon, so I would rather do everything I could to help environment in a low-profile mode until I finish my studies.

Interesting points of views by the way, and hello to my teacher from your thirsty-of-extra-points Rodrigo

seeya -Rod

Sunnye said...

Hola Rodrigo,
Thanks so much for reading! You know--your generation has the very real potential of turning things around. Have you ever heard of the field called Materials Science? Look it up--I think you might be interested...How did keeping a Plastics Journal change your perspective?

historia said...

Hello Sunnye,
Your blog is very interesting. At the first time that Teacher Rebecca told us about "The Plastic Journal" i started thinking about all the plastic i use a day. It is a big quantity of plastic per day and even more per year!

This article about dogs' poop is interesting for me. I have 2 dogs and it is always a problem to pick up that poop every day either in the yard or in the street! To pick them up we use plastic bags. So we use plastic bags to pick up poop located in the yard and in the street when i take them for a walk.
Doing this activity EVERY DAY will waste around 1460 plastic bags a YEAR. It is interesting to have a poop composter but in my own case i don't have a place to have one because my yard is made of cement.

Besides everything i think that your project is amazing and i would like to learn some tips . I am sure a will use them and I will help you to expand them over people I know.

Bye =)

Geraldine said...

My name is Geraldine not historia. Sorry

Alonso said...

Hello!

I have already read all your posts and seen your videos and I'm amazed of how we are wasting a lot of plastic without really thinking about it. Even small things like the contact lens, that a lot of people use daily, are made of plastic, and a lot of plastic is used there, so if a lot of plastic is used in those little things, how much plastic do we waste in every package of food we eat daily? how much plastic we use in every toothbrush, bottle, tennis, clock and cellphone we use daily? Everyone of us uses too much plastic daily.

While writting the "Plastic Journal" I realized that almost everything in our lives has a lot of plastic, starting with the plastic fibers in the mattress we sleep at, then the toothbrush we use every morning, the bottle where the milk we drink in the morning is, and... I could continue all day, because the objects made of plastic are a lot, so we SHOULD care about that and stop wasting too much plastic.

It's nice to see that there are people like you who really care of the lot of plastic we use daily and try to do something against it. I hope more people follow your example and think about the consequences of wasting a lot of plastic, and start doing something to stop all this plastic wasting and help to stop the pollution from getting worse; personally, I will try to do it.



Best regards,

Alonso.

andrea said...

Hello Sunnye (:
This blog is a really good idea!
I was surprised when I heard about the plastic journal, because it's a whole year and maybe it's difficult but you're making your part to help the planet, and that's awesome.
I was surprised with the information of the contact lenses, I've never thought about it before.
And about the poop bags,I think that is the best option, even if they use machines made of plastic or gas for their trucks, it helps a lot.
It's a great thing what you're doing, keep it doing it ;)

juan said...

Hiii Sunnye!!


I think that this article is very interesting because if we really realize all the bags we use is made of plastic, and a bag made of corn is woow, this could avoid pollution, disorders in the house, because almost all the bags of plastic get holes and all that, not only by poop also by food in the kitchen i use a lot of bags of plastic and is very difficult to get it out of the waste basket.

I suppose that a bag made of corn is harder and more difficult to get holes and scratched, like you said when the garbage goes to the incinerator it makes so much pollution, and with a bag made of corn i think that it would be awesome not polluting so much.

The corn i think that if we could replace it for all the plastic that we use it would be better for the planet.

When I started doing my "plastic journal" i realized that i use so much things made of plastic, and i thought, ooh it can't be!!, and since I am doing the plastic journal i use less plastic, not eliminate the use of palstic because there are things that are needed, this article also put me to think on how i could help the planet.


Best wishes!!

Juan..

Omar Fernando said...

Hello Sunny

I’ve seen your blog, and I think is pretty interesting all this stuff you are doing, I have heard some things about Materials Science, from what I’ve heard, is a field that investigates the structure of the materials, using nanotechnology, applying the care of the environment, for example making a material more biodegradable, so it contaminates less.

When the teacher told us to make a plastic journal, first I thought that I was not using too many plastic, but then I realized that most of the things we commonly use are made of plastic, it was an interesting activity that made me open my eyes that we are living in a synthetic world.

Our generation has the power to make changes, and I think we must start changing the way of thinking of the people. We must do something because we only have one world, one planet that we will leave to our children.

Rent In Roslindale said...

Sunnye,

The poop!! It does not stop!!

We bought a dog poop septic system thingy and I am in the process of installing it. It requires a hole 14" around and 48" deep. Last weekend, I dug down 40" before I had to stop. Tomorrow if the rain stops, I am going to go for the last 8". 48" is deeper than I first thought!

I was never bothered by the number of bags I was using -- since there always seem to be some around. I wanted to get it based on the sheer volume of the poop we have been packaging and shipping off to the curb. (Maybe I'll keep a year's worth of Fenway and Tessie's poop in the guest room.)

I will keep you posted on (1) how well the system works and (2) if we can train the dogs to poop in the hole itself.

Jim

earthlygirl said...

Love the idea of the plastics journal.

Not as excited about turning all our plastic bags into corn bags, though. Growing corn for bags, just like growing corn for fuel, just like growing corn for feed, is never a good idea. The environmental and economic impacts of that can be very great. What we can be doing more with bags is re-using them. As far as poop bags go...I like the burying and composting idea.

I have opted out of being responsible for furry friends.

waldiR said...

woa sunnye =D
your work is really interesting
I would never imagine all the plastic we use for everything.

I am one of teacher becca´s student and when i was doing my "plastic journal" I realize that many of us could not live without plastic, I mean for example people who use glasses, they need them to see, and mostly of them are made of plastic. The computer where I am writing now is made of plastic too, the cars, the TVs, mostly everything.

Checking your blog really started just like another assignment to gain extra points, but now seeing all the interesting information and great stuff about plastic and its consequences in our world, I think I’m gonna check this page a couple more times. ^^

Congratulations for the info
and thank you for open us the eyes about what we are doing with this mortal material; plastic.


best wishes :P

waldir :D

Adriana said...

Hi Sunnye! =)

I found this blog very interesting.
Thanks to the plastic journal assigment, I realized how many plastic we really use, I didn't thought it was that much.

And now, I can't imagine a world without plastic. Almost everything has plastic! I think it's time to make a change, and start finding ways for reusing things.

I think every school in the world, should have a program,where teachers can motivate students to make a change to our world. Because we only have one and we need to take care of it.

You are doing an amazing job!!

A lot of greetings from Mazatlán,
Adriana (:

May & Otter's Adventure said...

Hi Sunnye,

PoopBags.com here.

Thanks so much for the mention! Yes; the tall kitchen bags are produced in Norway. However, please remember that our main product line - the green-color poop bags - are made in the USA. In the perfect world, we would love to have it all sourced locally. We are doing as much as we can to make it happen. Does this help?

Please remember, too, that plastic comes from a non-renewable resource, oil.

Additionally, we love that you agree with us that change comes less from words and more from actions.

Thanks! PoopBags.com

Sunnye said...

Poopbag person!!
I was so excited to get your response! I have the green kitchen bags, but the poop bags are black. Are the black ones made in Norway? I didn't know that there were locally sourced poop bags. Are they on your website?
I completely appreciate what you are doing and we have to get away from plastic somehow and I applaud poopbags.com for taking a brave step in trying to find alternatives.

paijahvoo said...

Hi Sunnye, So sorry for the 6 month delayed response. I should set up some sort of alert.

Anyway...back to the issue at hand...

The green kitchen bags and the black poop bags are made in Norway. Yes; the green poop bags (I know, confusing) are made in the US and on our website. You have the option to choose black or green.

Thanks for the props! This gives us affirmation that we are doing the right thing.

Take care!

PoopBags.com