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Katherine at ReadyMade is trying to make it a week without using plastic, and coming to terms with the issues that a restriction like that illuminates. After her first day, she had a lot to think about, and I liked her set of questions:

• What material exactly are the “man-made soles” of my shoes made out of?

• Are rubber bands made of plastic?

• What did meat used to be packaged in for sales and serving—before, say, World War II? When did plastic come in for meat? What is meat sold and stored in in other countries?

• Is there any place in this city where I can buy some raw meat without its being packed in plastic?

• Are the little stickers on fruit made of plastic?

• How can I store vegetables and fruits in my refrigerator and not use plastic?

• Is there any viable alternative to plastic garbage-can liners for my kitchen?

• I buy a lot of foods like rice and nuts and beans that come in plastic bags. Are there ways to get and store these in other types of packaging?

26 thoughts on “A Week Without Plastic

  1. I’ve been looking into going plastic-free for my garbage liners. The best I’ve been able to come up with in my design phase is drawstring bags made of cotton that I would empty out over our dumpster and then wash. This would also lead to the washing of the garbage pail more often. Heck, I might as well kill two birds with one stone and just use the pail bag-less and clean it between each dumping.

  2. Simple solution to the veggie and fruit storage – don’t use anything! It took a long time for me to trust my mom-in-law that the bins for fruits and veggies work a whole lot better if you don’t leave things in the plastic bags. If you’re using veggies and fruits regularly, then nothing’s going to spoil. We use one bin for high moisture produce, and the other for everything else.
    btw, your fridge is plastic coated, has plastic drawers, plastic seals… you can’t escape it, unfortunately. But cutting way back on using it is fantastic.

  3. In the days when meat was purchased fresh from a butcher, instead of pre-packaged, it would be wrapped in ‘Butcher Paper’, a white waxed kraft paper. You might still be able to get meat paper-wrapped at a specialty butcher.
    and rubber bands are mostly made of natural latex rubber (made from tree sap).

  4. To avoid plastic packaging on meat, trying buying from an actual butcher. You can probably find one at a farmer’s market, if there’s one nearby. Also, the higher end grocery chains often have a butcher’s counter as well as the pre-packaged meat. Where I am, at least, they generally wrap the meat in heavy (waxed maybe?) paper. You may end up having to pay a bit more for your meat, but you’re probably also getting better cuts.

  5. I assume you mean non-industrialized countries, or meat storage without plastic.
    In Siberia, I saw butcher shops where the meat storage system was a metal hook in a wooden wall, maybe with a blanket hung over it to (in theory) discourage flies.
    Most of the non-industrialized meat is stored as a living animal, or is cured (like salt-curing) or dried.

  6. We used to use paper bags to line garbage cans when I was a kid. Veggie waste was composted. And my mom cleaned the garbage can more often.
    Butcher paper was used for meat with a piece of a kind of waxed paper . Delis had this for meat etc, too.
    Beans and rice can be stored in glass canisters or canisters.
    I’m pretty sure a lot of shoes have recycled soles. I know some running shoes do.

  7. “How can I store vegetables and fruits in my refrigerator and not use plastic?”
    As mentioned above, I never even thought that using anything was good. My fruit and vegetables spoil faster when surrounded by plastic. As for the lettuce, I wrap it in a kitchen towel that is slightly humid.
    “Is there any viable alternative to plastic garbage-can liners for my kitchen?”
    Here in Europe (Belgium) they sell bags made out of corn… totally biodegradable.
    “I buy a lot of foods like rice and nuts and beans that come in plastic bags. Are there ways to get and store these in other types of packaging?”
    The corn bags mentioned above can help. If you buy rice at a bigger retail store, you might find it in carton boxes, or even in cotton bags. Can you buy your nuts and beans in a store that sells them by the pound? Usually, they wrap it in paper bags…
    Very good initiative! Keep the good mood in it!
    Nancy

  8. I haven’t used plastic liners in my garbage can now for several years. I bought a garbage can (one of the cylindrical metal ones that has a lid you open by pushing a pedal with your foot) that has an inner pail that you can remove.
    We take this out to empty it and give it a quick rinse with the hose when needed. If it gets really gross I’ll usually spray it with some vinegar and then let it sit in the sun for a while (sunlight being one of the best disinfectants around).

  9. For the past year I have been shopping at the smaller, family run markets near my house instead of going to the supermarket(which I hate.)
    I do not need plastic bags for my veggies and fruits, I just and carry them home in re-usable cloth grocery bags and give them a wash before using them. Most people here in Toronto have made the switch to these bags in stead of plastic. The city recently passed a bylaw which forces businesses to charge 5 cents per plastic bag, so most shops sell reusable bags for a dollar or so.
    As for meat, both of the butchers I visit regularly wrap our meats in wax-covered butcher paper.
    As for bulk food like dried fruit etc, my bulk food store has plastic tubs which I wash and re-use every week, so I guess that’s still using plastic, but at least I’m not throwing it away every time.
    If you really want to go plastic free and be more environmentally friendly and responsible about the way you live, stop shopping at the big grocery stores! If nothing else, the food (especially produce and meat) from supermarkets can never compare with the stuff from the little markets.

  10. I use a mesh bag with a zipper (linguire wash bag) for produce. Bulk items like beans can be stored in mason jars once you get home. It keeps them fresher for longer and you know what you have. I like the way all my jars look lined up in my pantry. I guess you could try buying them from the bin and using your own cloth bag or paper bag to bring them home before you jar them.
    If you have a local butchery, you can order meats to be packaged without plastic. My mother buys a cow from a friend and has it packaged this way a few times a year. Sometimes just asking for no plastic at the meat counter will work.
    The ‘natural’ grocers and farmers markets are more likely to be helpful than the big box stores.

  11. For bulk goods, like beans, flour, rice, etc., I use nylon bags I bought on Etsy. I got mine from user Kootsac, but a quick search for “nylon bulk bag” got me users alohaokaaina, LoveForEarth, and moocowmomma (among many others!), all of whom appear to sell those kinds of bags. Quite handy!

  12. Two years ago I tried to go two weeks without aquiring any new plastic. It wasn’t all that difficult (except for the business trip to London). But then again, I was not too dogmatic about it. And I had a lot of plastic bags lying around to use for my trash. By the end of the experiment I started running out, though.

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Becky Stern is a Content Creator at Autodesk/Instructables, and part time faculty at New York’s School of Visual Arts Products of Design grad program. Making and sharing are her two biggest passions, and she's created hundreds of free online DIY tutorials and videos, mostly about technology and its intersection with crafts. Find her @bekathwia on YouTube/Twitter/Instagram.

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