Student challenges to reduce plastic

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By Beth Delagi
Senior Staff Photographer

While sitting in class discussing today’s plastic waste epidemic, I raised my hand to brag about how I never use single-use plastics only to look down to see my empty Chobani single-serve yogurt container and plastic spoon. That morning, I set a personal challenge to stop using single-use plastics for one week.

DAY 1: WEDNESDAY, MARCH 27

My morning started early. I left the house with my re-usable travel coffee mug and stopped at Target after dropping my 14-year-old son and his carpool off at school.

I had some time to kill before class, and I realized that I had not eaten breakfast. Roaming the aisles for something that was high-protein and low-sugar, I chose the yogurt, not considering the single-use plastic packaging. The container had a No. 6 recycling symbol on the bottom, but I later learned my town does not recycle No. 6.

My eyes are now wide open to how much single-use plastic I use.

Lunch was a Subway sandwich at Brookhaven College. I refused the plastic bag and put the sandwich in my backpack, hoping the paper didn’t leak sauce.

At home, I ate some leftovers that had been in the fridge in a sandwich baggie. I put the used baggie in the trash. 

I have a cat and dog and scoop their waste with bio-degradable bags. I go out of my way to purchase these bags and never use the newspaper-plastic sleeve that most people use.

DAY 2:  THURSDAY, MARCH 28

At the grocery store, I did not buy olives from the olive bar because of its plastic containers they are sold in. And I thought twice about the broccoli because of the plastic bag. I decided on pre-packaged green beans because they were already in plastic, and I didn’t have to put them in a bag.

I brought my own reusable bags to the grocery store. They live in my car, even though I sometimes forget them.

I ate cheese and apples for lunch and wanted to put the extra piece of cheese in the fridge. I didn’t want to use a snack-size zip-close bag because if I wrapped the cheese in aluminum foil it would go unseen and uneaten, then be thrown away and wasted. What’s worse?

That night, leftovers from dinner went into glass storage containers.

DAY 3:  FRIDAY, 29

Why does the newspaper come in plastic bags? At least you can recycle those bags.

After my husband and son took all the leftovers in the fridge for their one-night getaway to our ranch, I threw out old food I found in zip-close bags in the back of the fridge.

I gave the dog’s pills to my husband in a zip-close bag.

My zip-close bag obsession was starting to become obvious.

DAY 4: SATURDAY, MARCH 30

When you stay home all day it’s easy to avoid using single-use plastics. But going out is another story.

My daughter-in-law bought me a glass of wine at the Winspear Opera House. It was served in a plastic cup with an awesome lid, like the sippy cups my kids used years ago. Sipping wine while watching Ali Wong perform stand-up comedy was fun. She is laugh-out-loud funny. I didn’t finish my wine, but I didn’t waste the cup.

I was proud of myself for not tossing the cup in the trash. When I made it home, I rinsed it out, only to find that it too was a No. 6 plastic cup. I put it in our junk cup drawer. Maybe I’ll use it again later.

DAY 5:  SUNDAY, MARCH 31

Sundays are very quiet for me. I read the newspaper, walk the dog, do laundry and sometimes shop for groceries.

I didn’t use any single-use plastic. I did take a plastic foam cup of water from Brookhaven Country Club – not plastic, but still not recyclable.

DAY 6:  MONDAY, APRIL 1

When I packed my lunch for school, I put my peanut butter and Fluffernutter sandwich in aluminum foil instead of a zip-close baggie. I recycled the foil and brought home the reusable spoon, which I had taken from my kitchen.

DAY 7:  TUESDAY, APRIL 2

Today was a home day for me.

I still use biodegradable bags for the dog’s and cat’s waste every day. I recycle the plastic bag the newspaper comes in every day. I keep a reusable grocery bag by my back door and put all plastic bags into it to take to the grocery store to recycle. Our town does not recycle that type of plastic, but I make sure that I don’t throw any of them in the trash. I am constantly pulling them out of my trash when someone forgets.

I picked up the dry cleaning and the plastic covers over our clothes reminded me of how much plastic we use daily.

At dinner, I lectured my family about reducing our plastic use, and we all agreed: Old habits die hard.