skip to main content

→ Top Stories:
Clean Power plan
Safe Chemicals

Kathryn McGrath’s Blog

Counting My Plastic Waste: Week 2

Kathryn McGrath

Posted July 10, 2009

, , ,
Share | | |

Two years ago Beth Terry decided to stop using plastic and began chronicling her saga on a blog, She recently issued a challenge to readers to collect all their plastic trash for a week and submit photographs and tallies (the results are posted here). Inspired and curious, I decided to keep track of all those bits of plastic refuse.

Here are the results of my second week cataloging and saving all my plastic waste. Despite the long list, it's a big improvement over last week's results.
Week 2 of my plastic waste

1 bag of feline pine cat litter
2 shopping bags
4 small plastic bags, 2 plastic molded forms, a software cd, a hang tag and a plastic security tag from my new camera1
molded plastic form from scissors
1 plastic cover for the father's day card I bought several weeks ago but still didn't mail on time
1 #6 plastic cup from a club
1 plastic cup from brunch at a friend's house
1 tiny ziploc bag and plastic hanger that contained extra buttons
1 plastic planter
1 herb marker
1 broken clothespin
2 ziploc bags
1 bag that held coconut
2 #6 containers and plastic wrappers that held shiitake mushrooms
1 plastic top and seal from a box of raisins
1 plastic bag that held muffin mix
plastic wrap from cheese
1 Soyjoy wrapper
1 licorice wrapper
1 fruit leather wrapper

1 Via Coco tetra pak
3 envelopes with plastic windows
1 broken #5 deli container

Plastic waste

The first week of the challenge I had 19 bags and this week I'm down to 6 bags (excluding the camera's packaging). This week's plastic waste was far lighter and compact than last week's, check out the photo. Much of this waste was purchased or in use before I started the plastic challenge but I have to take full responsibility for buying a new camera and a box of Via Coco last week and accepting two plastic shopping bags.

Again this week, the bulk of my plastic, in weight and in number of items, was from food packaging. It's surprising how much of food packaging is not just plastic but the almost never recyclable #6 plastic, polystyrene. That's the same type of plastic as Styrofoam, which I'd never knowingly buy. From now on, I'll get my shiitake mushrooms at the farmer's market.

The scissors were from the office supply closet. The plastic packaging is ironic since according to the package, the handle of the scissors is made from recycled plastic. The father's day card was made from recycled paper but wrapped in a protective plastic sheath.

Now about the cat... his litter and his food come in heavy plastic bags. He and I are both pretty picky about these things. I want a cat food without a lot of unhealthy grains and a nice smelling, light weight, renewable (if not sustainable) cat litter. Feline Pine is made from Southern Yellow Pine which is grown on tree farms. Allegedly I could compost the sawdust litter at the end of the week but I don't think my neighbors would go for that. The litter is lightweight, so the energy required to transport it is less, and a bag lasts me about a month. But I'd be happy to hear about alternatives.

Share | | |

Comments (Add yours)

TaraJul 30 2009 10:44 AM

Good news! You actually can recycle plastic bags; both the light supermarket kind and the heavy plastic clothing/electronic store kind. You can even recycle the plastic packaging of toilet paper and paper towels. The catch is that you have to bring it to a store. I do it at my local Whole Foods Market, but some Stop & Shops, Shaws and other locations accept bags as well.

Check out locations & more info at:

Unfortunately, you're still out of luck on the polystyrene and the food containers, but at least if you get stuck needing a plastic bag, you can recycle it with just a little extra effort.

Keep up your great work - I'm very impressed by how you're cutting back on plastic. Inspiring!

Join the Conversation

Comment on this post:

All pertinent comments offered in the spirit of civil conversation are welcome! Off-topic comments, commercial spam, obscenity and other rude behavior are not, and will be removed. We are also required to remove any express or implied statement endorsing or opposing any political party or candidate for political office. Valid email addresses are required. (NRDC respects your privacy; we will not use, lend, or sell your email address for any reason.)


Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit

Feeds: Stay Plugged In