No Plastic Pollution Challenge!

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The United States ranks behind Europe (30 percent) and China (25 percent) in recycling; recycling in the U.S. has remained at nine percent since 2012.

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This much plastic enters our oceans every second!

Each year over 100,000 marine animals and one million birds die from ingesting and choking on plastic. Plastics leach harmful chemicals such as DDT into our soil and groundwater. Additionally, plastic products emit millions of tons of greenhouse gases during their production phase, accelerating climate change and polluting our air. Microplastics are accumulating in our soil and water.  In spite of years of the mantra “Refuse – Reduce – Reuse – Recycle”, plastics are still a significant problem.  China is now refusing to be the dumping ground for our plastic refuse.  What will we do about it?

Earth Day is Sunday, April 22, 2018; the Earth Day organization is addressing the plastics problem with its End Plastic Pollution Campaign. A group of Upper Valley friends are educating ourselves as to what it would take to reduce plastic pollution and are committed to not purchase single-use plastic for at least one week. (April 16-22) We’ve given ourselves some lead-time to do research, scout for new options, and share what we learn via this forum.

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Losing Earth – NYT Special Issue

Sunday’s NYT Magazine is devoted to Climate Change, with aerial photographs of damage done by fires, flood, drought, melting glaciers, etc., wreaking havoc globally.  We had a chance to respond to the crisis, but did too little too late. It is a fascinating read and extremely well-written . . . and it is poignant to have the National Geographic “ads” running throughout the online piece, “Planet or Plastic? Choose the Planet”, a reminder that plastic is a fossil fuel-based product that has proliferated, even as we knew what the burning of fossil fuels was doing to our atmosphere. Read the issue

Bravo! Brattleboro Bans Single-Use Bags!

BagBan

“We know there’s a lot of folks in the community who have been really looking forward to the implementation of this ordinance and are probably keeping an eye on things out there, so we expect that we’ll hear if there are folks who are still using plastic bags,” Elwell said. “And we’re almost a week in, and we have not heard of any instances of that.”

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Dartmouth’s Green 2 Go Program

Green2Go

Takeout meals have become a way of life for busy people, and Dartmouth students are no exception. “Students like to eat outside, or sometimes in their rooms, so they buy meals to go from dining halls,” says Madison Sabol ’18. Nothing wrong with dining in dorms or al fresco, she says, but it troubles her to see so much wasted plastic. Sure, it’s recyclable, but she would rather see people use containers that can be washed and filled again.

It took her two years, but Sabol has come up with a way to help solve the problem.

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Zero Waste Stores Ask Customers to Bring Everything

 

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Tom and Katrin Helmick live in New York’s Hudson Valley region with their 2-year-old son. They cook and grow vegetables in their backyard during the summer months, bring reusable totes to the grocery store or farmers’ market, and never buy plastic bottled water. Although they try to avoid buying foods that come in non-recyclable packaging, their landfill waste bin still receives a hearty diet of disposable baby food pouches and “lots of thin plastic,” says Tom.

“When we do buy grocery store meat, I hate that it still comes wrapped in Styrofoam. That’s why I love going directly to the source for our meat from a farm nearby that is simply vacuumed-packed,” says Tom. “We find it ridiculous that three people can create so much waste,” adds Katrin. Read More

 

A Revolution in Plastic Recycling?

Evian mineral waters has partnered with Loop Industries to create an innovative plastic resin that may offer a solution to plastic waste.  They have discovered a catalyst that breaks down PET plastic with zero heat and zero pressure and can be remolded into 100% recycled plastic. Will it be toxin-free?  Stand up to heat and cold? Is this really a viable solution to plastic pollution?  Read More

 

Zero Waste

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Since the “No Plastic Pollution Challenge” this spring, I have focused on reducing all kinds of food containers in my life, not just plastic containers.  If one is aiming for Zero Waste, here are a few local resources that are very helpful:
Co-ops:

At most​ co-ops ​one​ can bring ​one’s​ own containers and buy bulk coffee, peanut butter, olive oil, tamari, hummus mix, maple syrup, honey, a variety of flours, grains, beans, rice sticks, nuts,  ​dried fruit, ​fig bars, granolas, herbs and spices​  . . .  oooh, and chocolate covered almonds!  ​Individual b​agels, scones, rolls, and muffins can be put in one’s own reused bags​. The Upper Valley Co-op has several varieties of pasta – they also carry bulk tofu. The Co-ops are a good source of unwrapped produce. Strafford Creamery and McNamara’s milk is available in returnable bottles (gotta find a use for those bottle caps!)

Farmers Markets are a great source of unwrapped fruits and veggies!
 
​Our own gardens​ are another source of zero waste foods, and the natural packaging (pea pods, cabbage outer leaves, winter squash peels) go back to the earth.

Sunrise Farm in WRJ offers ​organic ​spinach in bulk for much of the winter. They carry unwrapped King Arthur breads with brown paper bags available – one can keep filling that same bag or bring one’s own bag for reuse. They carry eggs in paper cartons and reuse th​ose​ containers when returned. Same for maple syrup – they reuse the returned glass bottles. Strafford Creamery ​organic ​milk is available in returnable bottles. Their CSA shares are unwrapped, so if one brings one’s own reused bags, there is no need for new plastic bags.

Dairy Twirl, Ice Cream Fore-U and other purveyors of ice cream offer ice cream in edible cone containers!
Some remaining challenges for me: Cheese, chips, mayo, pickles, ​catsup, ​crackers, tortillas, tonic water, yogurt​, sriracha​ – yes, we can make these ourselves . . . but wouldnt it be nice to find less labor-intensive solutions?
​What have you found helpful?​

Good News from around the World!

  • baglady
  • Australia is banning plastic bags. Dozens of countries have already imposed bans or taxes on single-use plastic bags, including the UK, France, China, and the Netherlands. Kenya has perhaps the harshest law: those who violate the ban face four years in prison or a fine up to $39,000. any major cities and states around the world have implemented plastic straw bans, including Taiwan, Seattle, and Vancouver. https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/02/australia/australia-plastic-bag-ban-intl/index.html
  •  The Indian state of Maharashtra, where Mumbai is the capital, has banned plastic packaging — bags, Styrofoam, takeout containers, even cutlery. The goal is for all of India to do the same by 2022. While other states and municipalities in India – and around the world – have banned single-use plastic bags, Maharashtra’s ban one of the most far-reaching. most far-reaching. https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/07/09/626210905/an-indian-state-bans-plastic-bags-straws-and-more-will-it-work
  • Rwanda has banned plastic bags for years and is considered one of the cleanest countries in the world.  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4619748.stm
  • Plastic bags have been banned in Bangladesh since 2002, after being found to be responsible for the 1988 and 1998 floods that submerged most of the country
  • Hawaii has banned single-use plastic bags at store checkouts.
  • California has banned single-use plastic bags. http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-plastic-bag-ban-anniversary-20171118-story.html
  • Plenty of other places have chosen not to ban plastic bags, but to discourage them through financial means. There have been taxes on plastic bags since before 2008 in Italy, Belgium, and Ireland, where plastic bag use dropped by 94 percent within weeks of the 2002 ban. In Switzerland, Germany, and Holland, the bags come with a fee.
  • And in our own Upper Valley Community, the co-ops all have incentive programs for bringing your own bag.  (Upper Valley Co-op offers a five-cent discount for each container one brings (ie. for buying produce or buying in bulk.)