Tuesday, October 16, 2007

New plastic invented

Announced today in the international journal Science, the new plastic membrane allows carbon dioxide and other small molecules to move through its hourglass-shaped pores while preventing the movement of larger molecules like methane. Separating carbon dioxide from methane is important in natural gas processing and gas recovery from landfill.

“This plastic will help solve problems of small molecule separation, whether related to clean coal technology, separating greenhouse gases, increasing the energy efficiency of water purification, or producing and delivering energy from hydrogen,” Dr Anita Hill of CSIRO Materials Science and Engineering said.

“The ability of the new plastic to separate small molecules surpasses the limits of any conventional plastics.

“It can separate carbon dioxide from natural gas a few hundred times faster than current plastic membranes and its performance is four times better in terms of purity of the separated gas.”

Full article here.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day

Today is Blog Action Day, which is what prompted this experiment. I want to list 5 things you can do to minimize the use of plastic in your everyday lives.

  1. Use your own grocery bag. There are many reusable bags entering the market every day. Keep one in your car, your purse, backpack, or by the front door. Make it a habit to grab it each time you go to the store. Many stores even give you a few pennies of a discount if you bring your own bag, plus you won't have to find a place at home to store all of the grocery bags.
  2. Recycle. This is one of the easiest things you can do.
  3. Compost. This step may be harder for some, but is pretty easy. Rachel Ray keeps a bowl on the counter while preparing delicious meals. Make that bowl into a container with a lid and you can easily store it under the sink when not in use. We use a Rubbermaid container and take it out probably twice a week, disposing of the waste into the yard waste container. Because we recycle and compost, our trash container actually stays in our kitchen for up to 2 weeks before we empty it. This cuts down on trash bags and smell.
  4. Buy in bulk. When you buy in bulk, you save not only money, but reduce packaging. Keep glass or plastic storage bins at home for bulk items such as flour, sugar, and spices.
  5. Be aware. Look at how much you use plastic and see if you can reduce it. Do you really need to place apples in a produce bag? Can you take the produce bags back to the store to reuse? Do you really need a plastic bag to place your deli sandwich and juice into after purchase? That plastic bag most likely ends up in a trash container at the office 5 minutes later, right?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

What to do with plastic?

Ivylanedesigns has a great use for empty food cartons: notebook covers. This one is only $7.

Brown Cow is concerned about their plastic packaging. According to their website:

We use plastic containers for our yogurt, because glass containers, with their heavier weight, use more energy and produce more global warming gases than plastic. And the manufacturing of paper containers creates dioxins, which are some of the most toxic chemicals known to man and are considered by the Environmental Protection Agency to have no safe level of exposure. Paper containers must also be plastic-lined, which makes them non-recyclable in a mixed-paper recycling stream.

We used to package our yogurt in high-density polyethylene (HDPE) #2 cups, because we thought this was the most recyclable material. But we learned that many recycling centers that generally accept HDPE #2 plastic for recycling, don’t recycle wide-mouthed #2 yogurt cups, because the wide-mouthed cups have a melting point that’s different from other #2 packaging. Our #2 yogurt cups were ending up in landfills.

The manufacturing of our polypropylene (PP) # 5 cups requires less resin than that of #2 cups. So less energy (electricity and gas) and fewer resources are used to produce our PP #5 cups. And because they have thinner walls, our #5 cups make less waste than #2 cups.

They also suggest mailing the cups to them directly for recyling if your local recycling facility is unable to handle them.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

First response

Today marks 30 full days since we started the project. Coincidently, I received a response from Amtrak regarding their recycling policy.

Thank you for your e-mail.

Amtrak has implemented recycling programs on several of its train routes but it has been a challenge to implement successful and sustainable programs on all of our equipment. We do have a task group that is working on extending on-board recycling programs. We also plan to work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on their recommendations for mobility based recycling. You can find more information about this program at: http://www.epa.gov/recycleonthego/.

Amtrak considers recycling one of the key elements of a successful pollution prevention program. In 2006, we did recycle the following materials:

  • 2,192 gross tons of scrap steel
  • 517 gross tons of metal turnings
  • 111,410 gallons of waste oil
  • 21,175 pounds of the ARRIVE magazine
  • 5, 350 pounds of batteries

We would appreciate any additional comments you could offer on recycling
programs. We are trying to do better.

Once again, thank you for writing. We hope to serve you in the near
This is fantastic. I wonder what other feedback I could prompt from other companies.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


Sunsweet now offers individually wrapped prunes for your enjoyment. Each individual wrapper is made of plastic.

Honestly, do we need more plastic in the world? Is a little bit of convenience worth the impact on the Earth?

(I haven't been posting a lot lately. I've been wiped out with a cold.)

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Bring your own bag

Safeway gave me $0.03 off my total because I brought my own grocery bag.

Sweden's IKEA will charge US customers five cents for disposable plastic shopping bags in what the international furniture giant said on Wednesday was a first step to ending their use altogether. IKEA said the decision to stop giving away free bags to customers aimed to reduce the estimated 100 billion bags thrown away by all US consumers each year.

From 2002: Shoppers in the Republic of Ireland are to be taxed on their use of plastic bags from Monday. A government order will force all outlets to charge their customers nine pence (15 cent) for each bag they use.

Paper or plastic? Not anymore in San Francisco. The city's Board of Supervisors approved groundbreaking legislation Tuesday to outlaw plastic checkout bags at large supermarkets in about six months and large chain pharmacies in about a year.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Bulk items

I took our old dish soap bottle to Madison Market and filled it with bulk dish soap that only cost $0.12 per ounce.

Why haven't I done this before?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Wish List

We have a few upcoming purchases on our "wish list" when this project comes to an end. As conscious as we are about plastic and the impact it has on the environment, we're trying to be a bit picky about our choices. The first three items that I will purchase first will all be for my bicycle.

  • REI has a collapsible water bottle that is apparently made with a plastic that does not leak chemicals into the water, even after repeated use. I like the idea of this water bottle also for the ability to roll the bottle up for storage in my backpack.
  • Red bicycle light.
  • Front bicycle light.
REI has a selection of rechargeable lights that would cut down on batteries ending up in the landfill. They are expensive and bulky, though I consider my life to be worth it. Sure, I am being a bit dramatic, but I ride on the road and need every available way to attract the attention of motorists. I am asking opinions on a cycling forum that I am a part of to see if anyone has an opinion on rechargeable lights.

We also are in the market for a new mattress. The majority of mattresses are not great for the environment, containing toxic chemicals and plastics that end up in the landfills. There are some options out there though.
They are definitely more expensive than conventional mattresses, but the cost can be reduced if we end up with a box frame that would support just the top mattress. This also raises the question about what we would do with our old mattress. Some stores will take your old mattress away as a service. Those mattresses just end up in landfills. Ecobedroom (linked earlier) states:

We recommend that you contact you local Salvation Army and ask them if they would pick up your old mattress for you. Some customers have found additional local charities that would also like you to donate your old mattress to them - missions, homeless shelters, abused families, foster care, etc.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Plastic Chart

Thanks to Apartment Therapy, I found this handy Plastic Chart from The Green Guide.

This chart shows some of the common plastic items in a home that are likely to leak phthalates into our food and thus, into our bodies.

Also from The Green Guide comes this tidbit about bottled water:

...the plastic used in both single-use and reusable bottles can pose more of a contamination threat than the water. A safe plastic if used only once, #1 polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) is the most common resin used in disposable bottles. However, as #1 bottles are reused, which they commonly are, they can leach chemicals such as DEHA, a known carcinogen, and benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), a potential hormone disrupter. According to the January 2006 Journal of Environmental Monitoring, some PET bottled-water containers were found to leach antimony, an elemental metal that is an eye, skin, and lung irritant at high doses. Also, because the plastic is porous you'll likely get a swill of harmful bacteria with each gulp if you reuse #1 plastic bottles.

While single-use water bottles should never be used more than once, some reusable water bottles simply shouldn't be used. The debate continues over the safety of bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone-disrupting chemical known to leach out of the #7 polycarbonate plastic used to make a variety of products, including popular Nalgene Lexan water bottles. New studies keep cropping up that don't bode well for BPA, demonstrating that even extremely low doses of the chemical can be damaging. Recent research has linked the chemical to a variety of disorders, including obesity and breast cancer, and one chilling 2007 study, published in the journal PLoS Genetics, found that BPA exposure can cross generations. Pregnant mice exposed to low levels of BPA led to chromosomal abnormalities, which possibly cause birth defects and miscarriages, in grandchildren.
Scary stuff. I have an eye appointment, and will have to come back to this subject (and The Green Guide) later!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Brown-bagging it

Lunch On The Go Food Storage Container.

Two small containers can be used for vegetables, pasta or fruit. They sit on top of the ice pack keeping them cool and fresh.

Made with non-leaching #5 polypropylene plastic and no phthalates, this is a safe alternative when glass just won't do.

I broke my plastic water bottle today. It dropped from about 5 feet and hit the tile floor pretty hard, causing a break in the plastic. I can't replace it until mid-October though.