Ban the Plastic Bag! But What Do I Do with my Pet Poop?

Cats

I have one cat. This is what I have been doing for years: I cut a paper bag in half, (I recycle the top part) and place the bottom part next to the litter box and scoop daily. Every 3 days or so I fold the top and dump it directly inside my outdoor trash container. That way I am only trashing 1 paper bag a week. I know this is not the perfect solution, but this is the one that works for me using the least amount of waste and zero plastic. The paper bags I use are made with post consumer recycled content.

Dogs

I don’t have a dog but this is what some of my friends with dogs are doing: Bring a large piece of folded newspaper every time you walk your dog,  scoop your dog’s waste with a large piece of newspaper, make a little “tamale” and then throw it in the garbage. If you prefer plastic, take a look at my plastic bag drawer. I keep all the clean bags from newspapers, bread, pasta, nuts, produce, etc. You can start collecting them too; simply grab one of those bags when you head out to walk your dog. Scoop your dog’s waste and toss it in the garbage.

What about biodegradable bags?

Those are not a good idea if they are headed for the landfill. There’s no oxygen in landfills, so nothing biodegrades there. It is best not to buy something new; just reuse some paper or plastic bags as mentioned above.

Plastic-Filled Oceans

More than 250 million tons of plastic is produced around the world each year. About seven million tons of it ends up in the world’s oceans, according to some estimates. In the Pacific Ocean, scientists have found alarming amounts of trash, mostly plastics. They have named the area The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Scientists have collected up to 750,000 bits of microplastic in a single square kilometer of this area, that’s about 1.9 million bits per square mile. Even the Arctic Ocean that has long been considered to be the most remote and secluded region of our planet is polluted with plastic.

Most of this debris comes from plastic bags, bottle caps, plastic water bottles, and Styrofoam cups. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade like wood or cardboard. Animals are dying because they are eating plastic and because they get tangled up in the trash. Disgustingly, we are also consuming our own waste when we consume fish, since scientists have found plastics in fish’s stomachs.

This has to stop. We as individuals can make easy changes. One important action is to stop accepting plastic bags at retail stores, especially at grocery stores. Bring your own shopping bags to your grocery store. If you forget them, you can ask them to put your groceries in cardboard boxes. All grocery stores have plenty of those lying around. Fill up your car with re-usable bags. Carry one or two bags in your handbag or pocket. Try to purchase as little plastic as you possibly can, recycle all the plastic you bring home properly, avoid disposable products. Participate in beach clean up days. Spread the news, educate your children and please do care!

Microbeads are Hurting Fish and Humans

Our daily routines are causing more than eight trillion plastic microbeads to enter aquatic habitats every day in the U.S. alone, according to a study published in the September 2015 edition of Environmental Science and Technology.

These plastic microbeads, designed to exfoliate, are about the size of a pinhead and can be found in toothpaste, body wash, facial scrubs, and soaps. When used, they go down the drain. Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to treat them, so they end up in our nation’s waterways. Once they are in the water they are eaten by fish and other aquatic organisms. Once ingested, toxins absorbed in the plastic transfers to fish tissue. These pollutants move up the food chain when these organisms are consumed by larger predators, including humans.

In December 2015, President Obama signed into law a bill entitled, “HR 1321, Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015”. The bill prohibits the manufacturing of products containing plastic microbeads after July 1, 2017 and prohibits the sale of these products after July 1, 2018.

In the meantime, please consider discontinuing the purchase and use of products containing microbeads in your home.

Say No to Plastic Bags

Plastic bags are very problematic. They are made using non-renewable resources, either petroleum or natural gas. They take huge amounts of energy to manufacture, transport across the country, and recycle. They don’t break down in landfill sites (due to lack of oxygen and light- nothing does), but over time they release dangerous chemicals. They’re incredibly difficult to recycle, causing problems such as blocking the sorting equipment used by most recycling facilities.

Dolphins, seals, sharks, flamingos, seagulls, pelicans and other animals and birds have been found dead in large numbers due to plastic bags.

Some towns in Massachusetts are passing laws banning the use of single-use plastic bags in retail stores. But until that becomes the norm, one of the easiest ways to reduce plastic in your life is to fill up your car and your handbag with reusable bags. The more you do it, the easier it gets.

I love the Whole Foods Market reusable bags for my grocery shopping. They are made from recycled plastic bottles and they are washable. In my handbag, I always carry one or two reusable bags from Ikea, the ones that fold into a tiny ball so I am almost never caught unprepared.

Stylish To-Go Containers

Drinking water from plastic bottles or coffee from polystyrene (styrofoam) cups not only is a big environmental problem, it is not good for our health. Plastic leaches hormone-like chemicals into your beverage. New research indicates that BPA-free plastics are not better. BPA was replaced with bisphenol-S, which is just as harmful.  Polystyrene contains styrene, a suspected carcinogen and neurotoxin that leaches in contact with hot liquids.

Even traditional paper cups from most coffee shops including Starbucks are lined with a petroleum-based plastic.

Thankfully we have options. Most coffee shops carry ceramic mugs if you ask for them. I know most Starbucks do offer mugs to their customers and they will even give you a credit towards your purchase.

We are starting the habit of bringing our own stainless steel mugs to coffee shops. When we forget them, we ask for a ceramic mug. And instead of buying overpriced plastic water bottles outside, we fill up our stainless steel or glass bottles with filtered water at home. If you have to buy plastic bottles outside, please recycle them properly to make sure they don’t end up in the landfill or worse, in our beautiful oceans.

Say No to Styrofoam

It is unfortunate that some businesses are still using Styrofoam, a very unhealthy material, also called polystyrene. Many restaurants and some coffee shops will pack their take out items in polystyrene. No matter how it reaches you, this is the right way to dispose of it: If your Styrofoam has the #6, simply wash the container (if needed) and place it in a box in your basement or attic and make sure it doesn’t break apart, because they will only take parts marked with #6. Please note that ReFoamIt doesn’t accept packing peanuts. Once you fill up your box with clean foam all marked with the #6, you can bring it to one of these locations near you: www.refoamit.com. Some municipalities have on-going events and some others have single days events.

Please do not place this material in your trash bin or in your recycle bin. It doesn’t belong there.

Update 2016: ReFoamIt is closed for business. After a lot of inquiries, I was able to find a new place that can recycle Styrofoam:
Polyfoam Corporation
2355 Providence Road
Northbridge, MA 01534
Hours: Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm
Please, bring only clean foam, marked with the #6, no packing peanuts can be recycled here.

Crochet mesh shopping/produce bag

This is a fun and easy way to make your own produce bags. Courtesy of Brigitte Griffin.  

Hook size 2 for the small bag, 4 for the big one.

Use yarn that is sturdy and machine washable, sock wool is a good choice for the small bag.

If you use a bigger yarn and a hook 4 you get a much bigger bag. Too big is not a good idea because it expands so much and the groceries weight it down extremely (better for the beach or other lightweight bulky stuff).

ch=chain

ss=slip stich

sc=single crochet

hdc=half double crochet

  1. Circle: Make 8 ch, join with ss into ring.
  2. Circle: 11sc into ring close with ss.
  3. Circle: 1 hdc into every sc from 2th circle, close with ss.
  4. Circle: 2 ch, then between every hdc from 3th circle 2 hdc close with ss.
  5. Circle: start loops. 4 ch, 1 sc in every SECOND hdc from 4th circle. You should have 22 loops.
  6. Circle: 7 ch, 1sc in every loop from 5th circle.
  7. Circle: 9 ch, 1sc in every loop from 6th circle.

Continue with 9 ch, 1 sc in every loop until desired size appr. 25th circle.

Upper border: take yarn double, 4 sc in every loop close with ss.

Handles: Single yarn, 50 ch, jump over 6 loops 20 sc another 50 ch jump over 6 loops and crochet 20 sc.

2 circles with sc.

Finish and fasten off.

Ask me if you have problems: brigitte.griffin@hotmail.com.