Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Plastic Guilt

Teddy standing next the the offending cups
So I am pretty much certain I will now be labeled as the "weird" mom on my son's T-Ball team!  You know, the one everyone thinks is a little off .

As we were cleaning up so that the next 2 teams could play their game I noticed several moms picking up all of the plastic cups that the kids had gone through and putting them in a plastic bag.  These are 5 and possibly 6 yr olds (not sure if everyone is 5 on his team) so they got a new little cup every time they got a drink.  There are 10 players on the team and there were easily 20+ used cups. 

The cups were just used for water.  I cringed as I saw them cleaning it all up because I knew they were going to toss them in the trash.  Before I could stop myself I blurted out 'don't throw those in the trash I can recycle them!" and then, in a futile attempt to make it "better"  I said "I just can't stand to see any plastic go in the trash, it makes me feel guilty"  YE-AH, that last statement so did not help!

I do though, I have serious plastic guilt.  If I see anything plastic on the ground while we are out and about I will pick it up and take it home so I can recycle it.  I recycle every piece of plastic possible in our own home and really try to avoid buying anything packaged in plastic that cannot be recycled.  I am the lady who rinses (and yes even washes with soap if need be) out plastic baggies, cups and plastic wrap so it can be recycled.

I have been recycling for almost 3 years now but its only with plastic that I am so hard core.  If I see paper or a soda can on the side of the road I can walk on by and not even give it a second thought.  If its a plastic water bottle I just can't do it.  I have tried to make myself keep going and its almost like an obsessive compulsive need.  I just HAVE to pick it up, I can't leave it there.

It's all Oprah's fault too!  It was seeing an episode on Earth Day, April 2009 that showed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that did this to me.  I had been recycling for about a year at the time (a little less than as I didn't start until after my first daughter was born) but this episode and the images they showed kicked my recycling into high gear.  Before that I was a very laid back wishy washy recycler, sometimes doing it, sometimes not.

What is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

image credit- google images
If you did not see the episode of Oprah I mentioned above (click on the link for a snippet of it), the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a huge area of the ocean in which garbage has accumulated overtime.  It is carried there by the oceans currents and then compounds and builds upon itself.  More than 90% of the patch is made up of plastic!  Plastic water bottles, bags and even diapers.  It is now estimated that the size may range anywhere from 700,000 square kilometres (270,000 sq mi) to more than 15,000,000 square kilometres (5,800,000 sq mi) That's 0.41% to 8.1% of the size of the Pacific Ocean. (size facts quoted from Wikipedia).  Or roughly double the size of Texas (although some suggest its as large as the continental USA).  It stretches from the coast of California to the coast of Japan at its widest point   It is estimated that at its deepest point the trash descends into the ocean by as much as 90 feet. 

Sadly the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not unique, every single ocean has their own garbage patch, the Pacific patch is just the largest and most well known of the bunch.

Now, when I see people throwing plastic away I picture it floating in the ocean, choking a sea turtle and killing marine life so I have to go and fish it out of the trash.  GASP!  Yes, I have fished others plastics out of the trash!  It was only once and it was a water bottle on top of the trash but still, I dug in the trash and took it home with me!  I keep plastic bags in my car just for this purpose.

I have also been known to sneak out bottles from family and friends houses when they are not looking!  So far no one has caught me but I know I will be so embarrassed when they do.

Curse you Oprah!  First you give me a serious case of plastic guilt and then you go and retire on me!!

What can you do about it?

Please, PLEASE recycle your plastic!  I live in the sticks, I do not have the luxury of having my recycling picked up at my curb each week.  I must gather it all up, load it in the car, drive it to a recycling center and sort it all myself.  I do this WITH 4 kids!  With gas as expensive as it is I only do this about once every 2 weeks when we go do our big grocery shopping as the store we shop at is near the recycling center.

You can also try to avoid buying things that are overly packaged in plastics.  Skip the small individual water bottles and either buy a jug or even better a filter for your tap and a reusable water bottle to use instead.  Avoid anything that's prepackaged into individual servings.  Sure, it may be convenient but at what cost.
We do buy some single serve items such as cheese for the kids but I make sure to recycle all of the plastic from each individual stick.

Skip the plastic bags at the store and use reusable instead.  Most places sell them for $1 or less now and if you are particular;y crafty you could probably even make your own with scrap material you have on hand.

Say no thanks to the plastic straws.  Plastic straws come in just under plastic bottles and shopping bags as the largest cause of plastic waste.  Opt to drink straight from the cup or you could even buy yourself some stainless steel straws.  If you do get a straw rinse it out and recycle it once you are done.
Upcycle things that cannot be recycled, only certain types of plastic can be recycled.  For all the rest try to find another use for it.

image credit- google images
Jellyfish caught up and tangled in plastic
Think it doesn't affect you so why should you care? 
To quote Fabien Cousteau (who is the grandson of undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau) from the Oprah Show: 
"The pesticides that you spray on your dandelions run off into the oceans and end up in the food chain, which ends up back in our plates.  It's a closed system. Everything's connected. We're all connected with the planet in very fundamental ways."  he also went on to say "You wouldn't let a child open up a cabinet under the sink and start tasting the chemicals down there so why would you dump those chemicals down the drain and have them end up on your plate, which you then feed to your child?"

"But Plastics aren't pesticides or chemicals" you say?  Plastics are made up of chemicals and as they break down they release those chemicals into the water.  Small fish eat the plankton that is floating in the plastic chemical water (if the poor fish don't just eat the plastic itself).   Bigger fish eat the smaller fish.  We eat the bigger fish and those chemicals find their way right back into out bodies and the bodies of our children.

Surely there is someone else out there who also has a serious case of plastic guilt!  I cannot be the only one jumping at a chance to take home the plastic water cups form their son's T-Ball game.  Can I?

this plastic guilty mama,


  1. I feel the same! I haven't bought anything plastic in about 3 months...except for one pair of flip flops (and I was guilty about that) and we're getting a new computer and I'm already freaking out that it will come in all kinds of horrible styrofoam!!!

    Wish we could have coffee (stainless steel cups or glass mugs) some time and comiserate!!!!

  2. Yes, I do this, too. My kids love pointing out plastic (and other trash) around so we can take it home. And I don't let a piece of plastic out of my home without doing my best to give it at least one good reuse. Sometimes, when I look around and I see the one-use plastics in EVERYTHING, I feel overwhelmed by the destruction that is just totally off-hand. No one even thinks about it (except a few of us "weird" moms at the T-ball games, I guess)

  3. My mom has SO done this at my brother's baseball game!!!!

  4. YEAH! So glad I am not alone hehe. Camileta, how funny your mom also did it at a baseball game :)


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