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4 ELIMINATE DISPOSABLE PLASTIC WASTE

This action focuses on eliminating the use of intentionally manufactured disposable plastic products through using alternative products.

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why?

eliminate-disposable-plastic-waste Pie ChartWe live in a throw-away society. As seen in the graphic in the waste overview, 42% of total waste is plastic. Although 30% of this is recyclable, 12% of America's annual waste stream are plastic products which are manufactured to be thrown away.

Annually, the US produces 15 billion pounds of plastic. Since the 1950's, plastic usage has increased tenfold every decade so that in 2001 the average American used 223 pounds of plastic. It is estimated that our average yearly use today is 326 pounds. Every hour Americans use and discard 2.5 million plastic bottles, totaling 22 billion a year. ($20 a Gallon, Christopher Steiner). This plastic is either land-filled, incinerated (releasing toxins) or is swept into water bodies, eventually ending up in locations such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch-an area the size of Texas located west of Hawaii where ocean currents will hold it for millions of years (or more) until it gradually degrades (Steiner).

Plastic's benefits are also its downfall. It is one of the most durable materials known to man. Many types of plastics have yet to degrade and have half-lives of millions of years. Every bit of plastic ever created still exists, except for a small amount that has been incinerated, releasing toxic chemicals. Durable and waterproof, many types of plastics are ideal material for weatherproofing buildings and can be found in almost all conventional building materials. What to do with all of this plastic once its useful life is over is a major problem to be considered. Many types of plastics, especially PVC which is a main plastic used for building materials, cannot be safely incinerated because of the toxins it will emit. In the same way, land filling these plastics will ultimately result in toxins leaching into the soil and getting into precious fresh water supplies. Finding a way to contain this toxic, immortal material may be one of the only options for dealing with it safely.

This action focuses on the best way to deal with disposable plastic waste: don't use it in the first place!


how to do this action:

STEP 1: EVALUATE

For the initial Baseline tracking week participants will be collecting all the disposable plastic waste which is used. Many products have plastic containers, but this action focuses on plastic products which are manufactured to be disposed of. Possible objects could include:

Plastic shopping bags, saran wrap, disposable razors, plastic shower loofah, zip-lock bags, plastic tampon applicators, maxi pads, diapers, face scrubs with plastic beads.

STEP 2: INVENTORY

Make a list of all the plastic disposable items which you came into contact with over this week in one column. In the next, come up with alternative buying habits or reusable methods which can accomplish the same task. For example:

  • LEFTOVERS
    Instead of putting leftover produce or meals into plastic bags, use tupperware.

  • SHOPPING BAGS
    Bring a reusable bag

  • SHOWERING
    Purchase a razor with removable heads instead of throwing the whole razor away each time. Use a natural sea sponge instead of a plastic loofah.

  • BEAUTY PRODUCTS
    Many exfoliating beauty products use small plastic beads to scrub away dead skin. Choose an alternative made with natural materials such as jojoba seeds.

  • FEMININE HYGIENE
    Most tampon applicators/wrappings and maxi pads are made of plastic. Choose tampons wrapped in paper products. Instead of using maxi-pads purchase reusable washable feminine pads. They are more comfortable and save money.

  • DIAPERS
    Instead of using plastic diapers, choose reusable cloth.


what will be measured?

KEY QUESTIONS

QUANTITATIVE QUESTION: How many types disposable plastic waste were you able to eliminate from what is typically used in your lifestyle?

QUALITATIVE QUESTION: How does the experience of eliminating disposable plastic waste from your life affect your happiness, convenience, health and costs?

BASELINE WEEK TRACKING

QUANTITATIVE
During the baseline tracking week before the project begins, participants choosing this action will collect/inventory all disposable plastic waste which is collected throughout a week.

Use the corresponding spreadsheet (WST4_BASELINE) to track the type and general quantity of disposable plastic waste that you create as well as ideas for what behavior or other items could be used in place of this item to completely eliminate this waste.

QUALITATIVE


Qualitative Scale

Using the above scale as a visual, rate each of the following criteria on the spreadsheet (WST4_BASELINE) as it relates to your current disposable plastic use:

  • 1. SATISFACTION/HAPPINESS
    (Overall, how much enjoyment or dissatisfaction do you get out of doing and completing this behavior?)

  • 2. CONVENIENCE
    (How easy/difficult and accessible/inaccessible is this behavior for you to do and complete?)

  • 3. HEALTH
    (How healthy/unhealthy and safe/unsafe does this behavior make you feel?)

  • 4. COST
    (How much does this behavior cost? Use positive numbers for being above average and negative numbers for being below average and zero for being average.)

IMPLEMENTATION PHASE TRACKING

QUANTITATIVE
Use the corresponding spreadsheet (WST4_QUANTITATIVE) to track items that you found to be impossible to eliminate and what they where used for.

QUALITATIVE
Part 1 - Ranking


Qualitative Scale

Using the above scale as a visual, rate each of the following criteria each week on the spreadsheet (WST4_QUALITATIVE). Your answers should not be rated in comparison to your baseline week, but in general as a reflection of how you are feeling.

  • 1. SATISFACTION/HAPPINESS
    (Overall, how much enjoyment or dissatisfaction do you get out of doing and completing this behavior?)

  • 2. CONVENIENCE
    (How easy/difficult and accessible/inaccessible is this behavior for you to do and complete?)

  • 3. HEALTH
    (How healthy/unhealthy and safe/unsafe does this behavior make you feel?)

  • 4. COST
    (How much does this behavior cost? Use positive numbers for being above average and negative numbers for being below average and zero for being average.)

Part 2 - Blogging
Keep a narrative log of your experiences as you implement this action and how it has affected your life. Some of the following questions might be helpful as you reflect upon your experiences.

What tasks or functions were most difficult to accomplish or find replacements? What other lifestyle habits changed due to the elimination of disposable plastic food waste? What made it difficult to stay committed to this action? Did you come across other side benefits of completing this action, such as finding new ways to recycle other things in your life that you had not before?


resources

ACTION SPREADSHEETS

The spreadsheets referred to above can be found in the Excel file at the following link:

WST4_Eliminate Disposable Plastic Spreadsheet

If you prefer to enter your responses by hand, printable PDFs of each spreadsheet can be found at the following links (at the end of the project, all data will have to be entered into the Excel spreadsheet):

WST4_BASELINE
WST4_QUANTITATIVE
WST4_QUALITATIVE