Garbage 201: Plastic

Knowledge is power and once we know better, we should probably try and do better.  Now that we know the answer to the great Paper or Plastic? debate, lets learn a little more about plastic so we can make some better choices with it.

Before I start talking about the crazy amount of plastic pollution in our landfills or the health dangers plastic poses, I thought we should start off on a good plastic note.  The history and invention of plastic is very interesting and the reason why it was invented is very dear to this animal lover's heart.  You see, plastic came about as an alternative to elephant's ivory, tortoiseshell and horn.  And plastic bags were a successful alternative to paper shopping bags in an effort to save trees back when they were mainstreamed. 

Plastic really is awesome when you think about it, and its qualities are amazing.  But, as with anything cheap and convenient, it comes with a price.  Plastic is made from fossil fuels and is not biodegradable, our landfills are full of it.  Our oceans are full of plastic, too.  Ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?  It's a HUGE mass of plastic garbage in the Pacific Ocean the size of Texas.  And plastic poses a health threat as well.  Additives that go into plastic during the manufacturing process, such as BPA, leach into our bodies, food and water.  And the alternatives they use instead of BPA are possibly even more harmful than BPA.  It is estimated that 90% of our adult population has chemicals from plastics in their bodies. What about our kids?  Our babies?  Scary. 

I now know enough to be certain of two things.  One, we want to rid our home of plastic.  Two, we cannot possibly rid our home completely of plastic.  There's too much and it's everywhere.  But we can try!  We can get rid of the plastic that comes in direct contact with our food and water.  We can get rid of the plastic that we know emits chemicals in our home.  And we can choose reusable shopping bags instead of paper or plastic.

We've already started what we're calling the Plastic Purge in our home.  It was inspired by a book written by Mike SanClements.  Over the weekend, we purged our plastic cups, plates, food storage containers, utensils and shopping bags.  We are replacing them with non-plastic kitchenware.   I ordered most of the replacement items on Amazon, and the SSL Family Dad went through my shopping cart to make sure everything was made in the USA.  If you want something REALLY challenging to do on a Friday night, try ordering kitchen gear not made with any plastic parts and made in the U.S.A. 

Once I started looking into non-plastic alternatives, I was shocked at how many options there are if I just looked hard enough.  We are also doing away with Ziploc bags and plastic wrap.  Later on, I will be sharing just what we're going to be using now instead of plastic, what we purchased on Amazon, as well as some items we picked up at our local thrift shop.  We have talked about this for a very long time and are very excited for these changes in our home. 

For those of you who were like me about two years ago, thinking this is a bit extreme, I ask you to keep an open mind and ask questions.  Don't just take my word for it, find out for yourself what is best for you and your family.  Almost always, the fastest and cheapest route is usually not the best, healthiest or safest option.

Garbage 101: Ways to Reuse Paper Waste Around Your Home

In our first Garbage 101 article, we discussed it was best to keep paper and other biodegradable materials out of landfills as much as possible.  We are lucky enough to have a recycling service that picks up our recyclables every two weeks, but we really try to reuse as much of our paper waste as possible before we even consider recycling it.

It all starts with our recycling bins where all of our paper waste is sorted.  We added labels to the bins for the girls.  We even had a LANDFILL sign on our trash at one point.  It was a good reminder to us all.  

The trick to sustainability is viewing your trash as a resource instead of garbage, and we have found lots of re-uses for paper around our home.

Cardboard makes great landscape fabric.  It keeps the weeds out, just lay the mulch right over it.

We have had a problem with rabbits eating our new bushes and trees.  So we reuse our paper towel and toilet paper rolls and wrap them around the base.  It has worked like a charm!  The SSL Family Dad has a post and video on this topic.

After we have weeded out the boxes for landscape fabric & storage, and the paper towel rolls for the trees, we then shred everything else.  But first we separate the glossy paper out.  The non-glossy paper and non-glossy boxes are shredded separately and used for the outdoor compost pile and worm bin.  

The glossy paper and boxes are then shredded and soaked in water for up to a week so that it all breaks down.  The SSL Family Dad then takes that soggy paper mess and turns it into paper logs with this paper log maker that he burns in our outdoor wood burning stove.  We use this stove to heat our pool in the summer and heat our garage in the winter.  

Here is the contraption my wonderful husband put together for the shredding and soaking of glossy paper.  He mounted our old paper shredder on top of a 55-gallon barrel that he cut in half.   Yes, we're weird.  And yes, some things around our house are weird.  But because marriage is all about balance, I would like to think that I balance things out and keep things from getting TOO weird around here.  (Let's just not ask the SSL Family Dad about that, okay?)