Beth is the author of the popular blog, My Plastic Free Life, where she chronicles her life without plastic. She recently released her new book, Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too. I saw Beth again at BlogHer in New York City this year and after the conference had the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her intriguing, plastic free life and her new book.
Actually, I had been wanting to write a book about my experiences after about a year of deciding to try and live plastic-free, but honestly, fear got in the way. I was afraid that I couldn’t write the book that I envisioned in my head — that it wouldn’t be as effective as I wanted or that no one would want to publish it. I had lots of mental hurdles I had to jump every step of the way. But it was very important to me to write a book and not just keep the information on my blog for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to be able to reach people who don’t read blogs but like to browse actual bookstores. I couldn’t have done that without a traditional publisher. And second, I wanted to take all the information I’ve gathered over the years and distill it down into a format that would be organized very logically and would be easy for anyone who wanted to reduce their plastic consumption to follow, no matter how far along that path they are.
What are the three most shocking items that contain plastic?
The one that shocked me the most was chewing gum. Most chewing gum contains plastic in the gum base — even “natural” chewing gums like Glee.
In the beginning, I was surprised to learn that almost all paper and cardboard that contains food or liquids is lined with plastic — like plastic milk cartons, ice cream containers, coffee cups, frozen food trays — if the paper is leak-proof, it is lined with plastic.
And third… hmm… facial scrubs. Many facial scrubs contain tiny polyethylene beads for exfoliating your skin, and those beads just get washed down the drain and into our waterways.
I’ve seen you in action Beth and I have to say that I’ve never seen anyone as dedicated and passionate as you about becoming plastic free. I’ve always wanted to ask if you are truly plastic free? Do you have any plastic in your life?
Oh, I absolutely have plastic in my life. When I committed to stop acquiring any new plastic, I didn’t say I would get rid of the plastic I already had. The only things I gave away were plastics meant to hold food and drinks. I don’t want to eat or drink out of plastic because of the hormone-disrupting chemicals and other additives that many plastics contain. But I still use a computer, mobile phone, and lots of other durable plastic items. I just don’t buy them new, and I try to maintain and repair the things I already have to make them last as long as possible. Also, there are still some disposable plastics I can’t avoid–like prescription bottles, for example. I keep all of that plastic and tally it up and post it on my blog each week.
What are your thoughts on recycling? How can we make it a better system?
First, recycling should be a last resort after we have reduced our plastic consumption as much as possible. Recycling is problematic because first, it doesn’t close the loop. For example, a plastic bottle generally gets recycled into something like polar fleece or carpet or other polyester produce, so virgin plastic must still be used to create new bottles. Second, most of our plastic recycling is shipped overseas to countries like China, where it is processed in some environmentally-unfriendly ways, and third, plastics can only be recycled so many times. When plastic can no longer be recycled, those non-biodegradable molecules linger in the environment virtually forever. Plastic recycling is necessary, but we should first focus on turning off the spigot of new plastic products and packaging.
If someone wanted to cut back on plastic in their home what are the top three ways you would suggest tackling becoming plastic free?
Start with the low-hanging fruit: What are the changes you can make that are the easiest and will have the biggest impact? For me, that was giving up disposable plastic shopping bags and bottled water. I got my own reusable bags and a reusable stainless steel water bottle and developed the habit of bringing them with me wherever I went. And I didn’t let myself off the hook when I forgot them. I even carried out produce in my shirt one time when I forgot my bag!
Second, take a look at your plastic waste for a week and see what your personal plastic footprint is. You might consider joining the Show Your Plastic Trash Challenge. That way, you can decide what areas are most important to focus on.
Take it step by step and don’t try to do everything at once. I repeat this throughout my book. It’s better to be methodical about it than to get overwhelmed and give up. I didn’t get to where I am overnight. It takes time, but it also takes commitment.
What do you think? Could you live plastic free?
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