Eliminating plastic-y. One family’s quest.

I was checking out Eco-Trash Solutions’ twitter account and came across a new follower.  @TrashfreeNYC is the twitter name of the Elliott Family, who lives in New York City.  They have decided to challenge themselves to be trash free for a month.  On their web page, they state the following:

“We are a Manhattan family of five that is going to spend the month of June reducing the plastic and packaging we bring into our city lives. If it can’t be recycled or composted, don’t bring it home!”

A novel idea, but in our modern plastic world, a daunting task.  According to their website, they “became freaked out by the trash swirl” and wanted to see if they could live a plastic/trash free life.

“For one month, we won’t buy anything that is shrink-wrapped, or wrapped in  that hard plastic, or anything that is itself plastic-y.”

They were inspired by a New Zealand couple who lived for a year in which they only generated a plastic grocery bag’s worth of garbage.  And while that is a phenomenal feat, to be sure, I suspect it will be an entirely different adventure for a family of five, living in the city.

The Elliot Family intends to control what they bring into their home, which will severely restrict their purchasing options.  Plastic is everywhere these days.  Here’s a teaser from one of their recent posts, just six days before D day:

…But in June, 95% of that store-bought stuff will be off-limits…This has been a serious topic of concern at breakfast lately.  During June, there will be no Cocoa Puffs, no pop-tarts, no Sunday-morning cinnamon buns… Is that waxy paper around a stick of butter recyclable? And yogurt — plastic! We are looking at a lot more fruit and oatmeal.

Is the Elliott family’s goal an impossible one, to bring nothing home that can’t be recycled or composted?  I wish them the best of luck.  I’ve added their website to the Eco-Trash Blog Roll and I will monitor their progress and keep you posted.

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7 responses to “Eliminating plastic-y. One family’s quest.

  1. I love these brave declarations of intent! I too wish them well, and look forward to updates. It is amazing how much packaging is used these days – for things that seriously don’t require it. I’ve just started to include “amount of packaging” as a criteria in my consumer selections. Good for the Elliots for doing this so publicly!

  2. Eric Williams

    Am I missing something, or is it that I am a CA resident. It appears that they are making life unnecessarily difficult on themselves. For instance, I am able to recycle yogurt containers (perhaps that varies by region?). In the event that I cannot, they make great Tupperware/storage…

    As well, and I am not sure on this, but that wax paper-y stuff around butter is likely to be compostable, depending of course, on its composition.

    the point being, while I fully admire the task, I hope they do not get lost in it and favor ingenuity over a rejection of modernity.

    • Eric,
      I actually think they will be getting a serious education as to what is and isn’t recyclable. I know when I did the due diligence with my curbside recycling provider, I found there were many, many more things I could recycle than I thought. On the other hand, there are definitely differences from region to region. I found that across the country, even in California, there are sometimes major differences from town to town.

      Chad M. Wall Eco-Trash Solutions

  3. I once asked an eco type online seller why their product was delivered in one of those hard plastic clamshells that are not apparently recyclable. It seemed counter to their products intent. I was told it was to meet some product safety/contamination requirements. Apparently, that was the only way to do so cost effectively.
    Food for thought…

  4. This seems like a pointless exersise. How much space does it take to accommodate America’s garbage? According to the essay, “The Eight Great Myths of Recycling” by Daniel K. Benjamin, “The answer is: not much. If we permitted the rubbish to reach the height it did at New York’s Fresh Kills site (255 feet), a landfill that would hold all of America’s
    garbage for the next century would be only about 10 miles on a side. To be more colorful, Ted Turner’s Flying D ranch outside Bozeman, Montana, could handle all of America’s trash for
    the next century—with 50,000 acres left over for his bison. The point is not that we should foolishly bury the Flying D in household waste: Both transportation costs and a spectacular piece of real estate would be conserved if the trash were deposited closer to its points of origin. The point is that far more rubbish than is
    worth considering will fit into far less space than is worth worrying about.

    • Rick,
      To me, how much room there is in holes in the ground locally or in one location is less the point. There are a myriad of complications (leaching of toxins that end up in water tables, loss of valuable materials that can never be recovered once they are buried, out gassing that is wasted and ends up impacting our atmosphere, plastic that eventually ends up in places like the pacific gyre just to name a few.)

      Discovering (as the Elliot’s have) that the U.S. opens 2,500,000 plastic water bottles per hour, that we use 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam cups every year is part of the learning that comes from this kind of exercise. By taking the effort to become aware, I discovered that my curbside recycling service allows us to recycle #1-5 and #7 plastic types, when I thought they only accepted #1-#2.

      I’m reminded of a retrospective description of the industrial revolution that brought us to where we are today, I found it in chapter 1 of the book Cradle to Cradle:

      “Design a system of production that puts billions of pounds of toxic material into the air water and soil every year; produce some material that are so dangerous they will require constant vigilance by future generations; results in gigantic amounts of waste; puts valuable materials in holes all over the planet where they can never be retrieved; requires thousands of regulations, not to keep people and natural systems safe, but rather to keep them from being poisoned too quickly; measures productivity by how few people are working; creates prosperity by digging up or cutting down natural resources, and then burying them or burning them; erodes the diversity of species and cultural practices.”

      So to me, it’s not about whether we can dig a hole, or sweep our waste under a rug or not, or even how big the rug is. It’s about making fundamental changes to how we take care of ourselves, this planet and the other species that we share it with. Fundamental changes start with awareness, that leads to education that leads to exploration of alternatives that leads to new behavior. That’s why the exercise is not, in my opinion pointless. It is part of the road to discovery and recovery.
      Chad M. Wall
      Eco-Trash Solutions

  5. Is there such a thing as landfill stock? Maybe Rick’s invested?

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