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Some of you may know that I do dog rescue, which is a whole other story about the throwaway animals in our country. But my question is about something much more literal, that I have noticed since doing dog rescue, and cooking for my dogs, and taking care of a number of them at home at a time: the amount of stuff we throw away.  I am stunned at how much garbage I have coming out of my house now that I am doing this, and I would love to know how to entice companies to rethink this aspect of their packaging.

Follow me below for some examples:

I do a LOT of laundry now, cleaning blankets and towels for the dogs. The laundry detergent containers are big, and plastic. I could use powder, but I don't like how it cleans. OxyClean container, big and plastic, too.

Yogurt - I give my pups a lot of yogurt for the poor abused bellies, since most of the southern dogs come up with terrible worms. Cottage cheese, also. The containers are plastic, and big. In the garbage, about 7 a week. I try to reuse them for chicken broth I make for the pups, but they get weak after a few uses, so have to be thrown out. How else could yogurt be packaged?

I bought a flash drive to store dog photos. A huge clear plastic package for a little, bitty flash drive. Same thing for the headphones my daughter got.

Not dog related: orange juice containers. You can get the paper cartons, but some companies only put the bigger containers in the huge plastic containers. Wasteful.

Aluminum foil, sarah wrap - when they are finished, you have the box, the tube, all bulky, all wasteful.

I could think of another hundred examples, but my question is really, Do you have any ways to avoid or deal with all this waste? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Originally posted to adigal on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 07:53 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  my great-grandma used to iron aluminum foil (10+ / 0-)

    so she could re-use it again.

  •  In my neighborhood, (11+ / 0-)

    It's more like we're a recycling society.  I know we put out more recycling every week than garbage.

    I'm with you on the blister packs, but their intent is to discourage shoplifting.  I doubt you'll make much headway there.

    Maybe if we had different packaging at retail and for items ordered through Amazon and similar services?

    Would y'all just chill the hell out?

    by nightsweat on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 07:57:39 AM PST

  •  Don't you have a recycling programme? (10+ / 0-)

    All of the items you mentioned above (plastic containers, saran wrap, aluminium foil, etc.) are put in the recycling blue box, not the garbage, where I live.

    If you don't, then push your local municipality (or state) to start one.

  •  Some packaging is necessarily large (6+ / 0-)

    I bought a flash drive to store dog photos. A huge clear plastic package for a little, bitty flash drive. Same thing for the headphones my daughter got.

    Some of these small items are in large containers to cut down on shoplifting.  Unfortunate, but true.  It's harder to steal a larger package.

    And some of the jugs (orange juice and laundry soap) are recyclable.  But I'm sure you're doing all the recycling you can!  :-)

    If you want to know the real answer: Just ask a Mom.

    by tacklelady on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 07:59:54 AM PST

  •  How is plastic wasteful? (5+ / 0-)

    Most, if not all, of it can be recycled.  Do you have recycling in your community?  Once we moved into a community that permits this, we found our trash can was nearly empty on trash day but our recycling container was overflowing.

    A tip for your pup-moms: a local shelter owner I met recently gladly accepted a case of sugar-free fruity drinks from me for his dogs.  When I questioned why he'd give them sugar-free fruity drinks, he said that for some reason when he give hypoglycemic nursing pup moms a little bit of the sugar-free drink, they perk right up and their sugar returns to normal.

    Hopefully if you run into the same problems, you can take heart in this solution!

    What we don't know keeps the contracts alive and movin. They don't gotta burn the books, they just remove em while arms warehouses fill as quick as the cells.

    by Black Leather Rain on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 07:59:54 AM PST

    •  Nope, my rural community does NOT recycle (9+ / 0-)

      plastic, believe it or not. Perhaps that is where I should work to make changes.

      My new bumper sticker: Palin-Satan '12

      by adigal on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 08:03:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The problem is twofold - (13+ / 0-)

      (a)  Too much is created

      and

      (b) When you recycle plastic and melt it down, toxins are released that aren't present in other materials like metal, wood and glass.

      We should be minimizing our complete use of plastic.  In fact, I would like to see a moratorium on new plastic creation to force a major recycling of the megatons of plastic we have now.  A deposit system would help too.

      Right now, we have a giant island of plastic floating in the Pacific, choking off marine life.  It would be nice to recycle that.

      But we recycle diddly.point.squat (see video) and we're making more and more plastic every year.

      http://www.ted.com/...

      TED talks are fantastic by the way.  Check out Dr. Francis' too if you get a chance.

      I'm sick of GOP SOP!

      by xysea on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 08:05:21 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  cellulose-based plastics (9+ / 0-)

        legalize hemp, we could have all the plastic we could stand!  toilet paper, too!

        ; P

        http://www.cellobag.com/...

         

        "Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." Thomas Paine, Common Sense

        by Cedwyn on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 08:23:41 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Is that technically plastic? (0+ / 0-)

          I mean, chemically?  Or is it some plant-based resin?

          I'm sick of GOP SOP!

          by xysea on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 08:25:49 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  that's cellophane and rayon (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            mijita, EthrDemon, xysea

            an early plastic. It and other cellulose based plastics are still in use.  In fact a lot of the "bubble" packs a use cellulose derived materials, these often yellow and go brittle after some time so their not used on items that might sit on a self for years.

            Take plant fiber, treat it similar to paper making to get high purity cellulose.  Dissolve that in a mix of strong alkali and carbon disulfide. Squirt that into an acid-salt bath, then wash, finally add glycerol to keep it soft.

            It's easily biodegradable, that's a plus. Carbon disulfide is not so ecologically friendly in its production or use (escaping from the process) and it ignites very easily. Alkali production uses a lot of energy, as does acid production to a lesser degree.

            The cellulose esters, most commonly cellulose acetate or simply 'acetate plastic', are another family of plastics based on cellulose.  Once used for movie film and magnetic tape, they have the disadvantage that they easily release acetic acid (vinegar smell) and become brittle. For those applications CA has been replaced by polyester film, at large savings because you don't have to copy and dispose of tapes on a regular schedule.  CA is still commonly used for fabrics, again known as 'acetates'.

            There are several other classes of cellulose based plastics, generally biodegradable and for that reason generally limited lifespan which limits their usefulness. Most are sensitive to moisture, all are damaged by fairly mild heat.

          •  and the term plastic now means a molecule (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            EthrDemon, xysea

            built of of repeating units - a polymer - of one or more simple molecules - monomers.  Cellulose is poly-glucose, as are starches.

            The use of the term plastic came from the moldability of the polymers, plastic = capable of being shaped, it has no chemical meaning. Some can be heated and formed into shapes repeatedly, polystyrene and polyethylene are examples.  Others can only be done so once, either the heat used in molding causes them to set, or they are used by mixing precursors that then reach and set - casting resins and fiberglass resins for example.

            •  Actually from the physical/chemical properties (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Cedwyn

              "Plastic" is short for thermoplastic polymer, aka a polymer that becomes plastic at high temperature (it melts.)

              Contrast with thermosetting polymer, which is heated to "cure" in it's final shape and then will not deform if reheated (these are nearly impossible to recycle.)

              Bring the WAR home

              Starve the corporate beast, buy local!

              by EthrDemon on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 11:11:12 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  Wasteful because it's actually downcycled (10+ / 0-)

      does anyone even know where that plastic goes?  Probably not.  As I understand it, most of it is shipped overseas to be melted down into an ingot of plastic that can be "recycled" into building materials or some such.  It never can be made back into what it was.  Granted , this might be a hair better than just chucking it, but the blowback is that people think they are "recycling" which is hogwash (or greenwash) and might feel more content about throwing stuff into the bin than is merited.

      •  Yeah... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wader, adigal, EthrDemon, tegrat

        Recycling is a nice notion, and surely it's got to be better than just chucking things (at least in some ways)--but as you said, it takes energy to recycle and, as I understand it, produces toxins.  Which is why I think less use/production in the first place has to be the first and best answer.

        •  toxins (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mijita, tegrat

          depends one what is being recycled, and how. Polystyrene recycles well, as does bulk acrylic - Plexiglas. Polyethylene and polypropylene to pretty well too. Common polyesters, as in the clear water and juice bottles, does pretty well when being made into fiber for use in rugs and some other fabrics.  PVC can be, if not overheated.

          Yes, recycling takes energy. But so does cleaning reusable containers, and that takes water too. Thin plastic containers take much less energy to form and to transport than does glass, plus the breakage rate is lower.  The cost calculations are not straightforward.

      •  Exactly (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tegrat

        Which is why it's:
        Reduce
        Reuse
        Recycle

        In that order.

        Bring the WAR home

        Starve the corporate beast, buy local!

        by EthrDemon on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 11:12:35 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  check out the experiment my gf is running (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, wader

    here, turns out there's a fair amount of people who have taken up this concern

  •  Why aren't you recycling these? (4+ / 0-)

    Cardboard tube, cardboard box = recycle.
    Plastic stamped 1, 2, and perhaps 5 and 6 = recycle.

    I have one bag of trash per week, almost all from the kitchen, but 3 bags or more of recyclables.  

    Healthy Minds in Healthy Bodies, now discussing fitness Tuesdays at 6 PM PST

    by indigoblueskies on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 08:00:23 AM PST

  •  One of the things I've thought about... (11+ / 0-)

    ...is that grocery stores are going to have to start offering things in re-usable containers.  Sure, it wouldn't be convenient to carry a bunch of containers TO the store with you, but it could be managed.  Why can't we fill up a jar with peanut butter (you can already do this at some Whole Foods) or fill up a re-usable container or recyclable bag with cereal, instead of buying a new box?  You already see this over in the "health food" section of many stores--why can't it be carried over to the staple items?

    But to answer your main theme, I think becoming less wasteful simply starts at home.  Take every little step you can think of to not throw another hunk of plastic/metal/glass into landfills.

    •  That is what I was thinking - why can't I (7+ / 0-)

      bring my OJ container to the store and refill it from one of those OJ machines they have at colleges? Laundry detergent too.

      My new bumper sticker: Palin-Satan '12

      by adigal on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 08:04:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes... (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cotterperson, adigal, mikolo, EthrDemon, tegrat

        Detergent would be a huge one.  Those massive, thick plastic bottles--it would be nice to have less of those made every year.  I don't see why we couldn't just put it under a machine and have it refill our bottles.

        •  There are water filling stations (4+ / 0-)

          for people who have bubblers - works quite well.  There are many liquids, powders, cereals that could be dispensed this way - the saving could be huge as well - the cost associated with packaging is in many cases, much more expensive than the product itself.  They tried back in the late 70's / early 80's with the black and white non brand items but it never got to bulk.

          The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. - Thomas Jefferson

          by ctexrep on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 08:17:31 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  May no savings (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            mijita

            there's generally only one type of water dispenser to fill those big jugs.  But how many types of detergent are there, both powder and liquid?  

            Then there's the cost of the machines, which would have to print a label to tag what and how much you have in the container. Maintenance on all that hardware, as they'll break down.  And when they break, you can't get that particular product.

            Now there has to be a new distribution system to fill the machines, bringing 55 gallon drums in and swapping out the old one. With the current system of small containers the new group of sock is just put on the shelf space. With bulk the store faces running out of product, or tearing out shelves and building an area to store yet untapped bulk containers; meaning some brands and product classes will be eliminated.

            So the cost savings isn't quit so straight forward. Leave out the labels and you face increased sales costs, plus losses from people filling up with a more expensive product and claiming a cheaper one. Have employees dispense the stuff? That's a large part of why a cup of espresso costs so much more than home made drip coffee.

            As for foodstuffs, there are sanitary issues. A number of stores have dropped or scaled back bulk for that reason. And not a few commenters here on dkos have stated they will not purchase bulk foods for that reason.

    •  or just charge $5 a grocery bag (7+ / 0-)

      people will quickly find innovative ways to avoid buying those!

  •  I reuse as much as humanly possible. (6+ / 0-)

    We must stop being a throwaway society.  We must buy things that are built to last, not throw away.

    I recycle more than 75% of my garbage.  Even paper and cardboard.  Food scraps go into my composter.  But before I toss it, I figure out if I can use it.  I have a jar of bread ties, which came in handy when I was needing something to tie off chicken wire.   I took apart a broken table for the wooden legs, which I built a planter with (it was untreated wood).

    I keep glass jars and bottles of all sizes in my shed - and I sterilize them in my canner.  I have re-used them for homemade yogurt and kefir, or to store small amounts of milk or juice to make room in the fridge.  I reuse aluminum foil and plastic baggies.  And I all but stopped using paper towels, plates, cups and napkins.  I use the cloth variety and toss them into the washing machine.  I found out that it's actually cheaper for me to do the latter.  

    I'm sick of GOP SOP!

    by xysea on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 08:02:17 AM PST

  •  I Live In A Five Bedroom House (3+ / 0-)

    the only person in it (yeah I know, overkill). But all the homes by me are around the same size. I look at the waste put out each trash pickup day, one week of waste, and am stunned beyond words. Like 3-4 trash cans a week.

    Oh and we recycle, we pay to do it, but we have that option, and I'd say less then 20% of folks do it.

    "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotle

    by webranding on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 08:03:26 AM PST

  •  About electronics packaging (5+ / 0-)

    Since I tend to do my shopping and errands on foot, and because we use a lot of electronics (husband is a computer programmer), I try and cut down on packaging where possible.

    Whenever I buy something like a flash drive, I have the store unwrap it for me.  I figure at least this way the store can keep the "anti-theft" wrapping and I can save space in my shopping bags.  

    It's also been the case that occasionally I can't get into the packaging if I wait until I get home.  

    the third eye does not weep. it knows. Political compass: -9.75 / -8.72

    by mijita on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 08:05:08 AM PST

  •  If you can, buy local (7+ / 0-)

    For some foods - local farms don't have a lot of packaging and transportation costs associated with their goods - and many will recycle (re-use) bags, egg cartons, jars etc.  

    The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. - Thomas Jefferson

    by ctexrep on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 08:08:32 AM PST

  •  cheap laundry detergent (5+ / 0-)

    A guy I knew in the industry told me this.
    A lot of powder detergent is filler. Pour a gallon milk jug about a quarter full of powder, fill it with water and shake. Kep shaking it off and on for a day or so and then pour off the liquid as needed and let the sediment stay in the bottom...or you can pour carefully into another container to save the hassle of worrying about doing it every time. Works a treat and way cheaper than liquid detergent.

  •  buy a yogurt maker! (7+ / 0-)

    i am dying to try one, because i suffer the same thing - i love my tillamook yogurt, but can't abide the thought of all those containers.  

    : /

    it's also a useful meme to point out that in "reduce, reuse, recycle," reducing is the most important component.  more reduction = less that needs to be reused and recycled.

    another thing anybody can do is lobby companies for more responsible packaging, e.g. cullolose-based plastic and refill system models.  i bitched a tomato company right out over their ridiculous packaging once!  hahaha!

    "Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." Thomas Paine, Common Sense

    by Cedwyn on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 08:13:39 AM PST

    •  Yes...support progressive companies... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cedwyn, adigal, EthrDemon

      One example is Fresh Direct.  Their clientele in NYC demanded that they stop wasting so much packaging.  They responded with a letter to their customers and have taken a good first step in using less boxes, packing more into each box, etc.

      I don't know if they are a progressive company overall, nor do I know if their business model is particularly green, but at least they listened to their customers concerns and responded.

    •  I just recently started making yogurt (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mijita, adigal, EthrDemon

      and it is easy, cost effective and far superior to 'store-bought'.  The yogurt maker only cost about 20 bucks.  I also bought a 'yogurt cheese maker' which drains the yogurt I make into a thick greek style yogurt...incredibly cost effective as the greek style yogurt is so spendy in the store.

      If I let the yogurt drain even more to a cream cheese consistency, I use it like cream cheese or sour cream, it is low or no fat and has the benefit of the active cultures.  

      The whey that is drained off is added to my chicken feed. I give my chickens yogurt with chopped up garlic once a month to worm them naturally...they love it and are healthier.

      •  awesome! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        adigal

        go you!

        :D

        so what should i look for in a yogurt maker?

        "Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." Thomas Paine, Common Sense

        by Cedwyn on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 11:11:37 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  forgot to add (5+ / 0-)

    freecycle.org

    look up your local chapter.  

    "Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." Thomas Paine, Common Sense

    by Cedwyn on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 08:14:15 AM PST

  •  Watch this 20-minute video: The Story of Stuff (7+ / 0-)

    sos_banner

    http://www.storyofstuff.com/

    Very poignant to this subject of this diary.
    Well worth 20 minutes of everyone's time.
    Over 4 million people have viewed it already.

    The best way to save the planet is to keep laughing.

    by LaughingPlanet on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 08:19:47 AM PST

  •  unfortunately one of the reasons America (5+ / 0-)

    was and probably still is one of the wealthiest nations on earth is this whole concept of builtin obscolescence and throwaway society. All that excess packaging creates jobs and jobs is the god we worship. Of course it is unecessary but if we want wealth it is part of the price we pay.

    Anyone like me, who was born in a pre WW2 world understands exactly what excessive consumerism has wrought on all of us.

    We are going to have to totally change our mindsets and start maybe by stopping buying in suopermarkets and take our own containers to co-ops who sell bulk food, or demand it. Start one if you don't have one in your own community.

    •  I think it all started in the 50's... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      EthrDemon

      ..or in the post-WWII boom, as you mentioned.  The GI Bill and other factors created this society where everyone thought they just got to have their own little piece of paradise and drive a huge boat all over creation every day, and buy all the treasures they could fit into their home/car on a daily basis.  What a crock.  I think the city lifestyle is going to take more and more of a hold as people become aware of the inherent ridiculousness of endless consumerism and sprawl.  It's easier in a number of ways for me here in NYC not to be so wasteful.

      I'm not knocking all aspects of suburbia or judging everyone who lives there, but I don't know that it's a realistic way to live anymore.  Of course that could change as we make transportation and home energy use more efficient.  I guess we'll see.

      •  there is another huge swathe of America that is (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JimmyTheSaint

        not city or suburbs and that is rural America, and which is where i now live, after NYC and Los Angles.

        Here we tend to be more self sufficient, partly because we usually have access to more land. Where i live we do have coops and bulk food stores, we  do have a local re-cycling consciousness and a thriving Farmer's Market mentality.

        We are nowhere near returning to the frugality of the post Depression pre WW2 years but we at least are aware that we need to start living more cooperatively and communally.

        I am optimistic that gradually this consciousness will start to be a virtue instead of being viewed as a deprivation.

        Soon it will be fashionable to be poor!!!! or is that too cynical?  at least we will become more creative in our living styles.

      •  Earlier than that (0+ / 0-)

        I just read a great piece on that, explaining how consumerism was encourage amongst the masses:
        http://culturechange.org/...

        Bring the WAR home

        Starve the corporate beast, buy local!

        by EthrDemon on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 11:19:19 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Ok to start slow (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mijita

      That's a great comment, and I would add that I think it's ok to start slowly with a change in lifestyle.  It's the same with any lifestyle change - diet or exercise or shopping habits - that it can seem impossible to change the way we do things, but experts would say that starting with baby steps and working up from there is the best way to make that change for many people.  Buy and carry cloth bags for grocery shopping to start, for example.  Some grocery stores in my area give (extremely modest) discounts and others have had raffles and giveaways for people who use their own bags.

    •  How do you start a food co-op? (0+ / 0-)

      I would love to, but have no idea how to go about doing it.

      My new bumper sticker: Palin-Satan '12

      by adigal on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 09:05:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Fully reusable packaging (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    adigal, mikolo, EthrDemon, JimmyTheSaint

    The sensible (but probably unachievable in a non-centralized society) approach would be to standardize the packaging industry - define a set of standard package sizes and materials for different kinds of contents (edible liquids, non-edible liquids e.g. detergent, powders, pastes, solids etc), design them for unlimited reusability - probably means metals or hard plastics, then have a reuse program similar to the can recycling program.

    Consumers would utilize the product, then return the containers to a central location in their community - grocery and other stores would be a good choice.  Delivery trucks could then take them back to the factories.

    The containers would be expensive and require deposits (similar to soft drink cans, but much larger amounts, reflecting the actual value of the container), hence nearly all consumers would actually bother to return them.  High cost would allow the containers to be designed for cleaning and reuse.  A difference in deposit refunded between clean and dirty containers ("cleaning charges") would ensure that consumers did not abuse the reusable containers.

    This could definitely be extended to the fast food industry as well - a major source of trash.

    One problem with this idea is that the bulky containers would incur transportation costs and energy, reducing their eco-friendliness.

    This solution would not actually fly in the current economic system, because product manufacturers would complain about the loss of "attractive packaging".  But the current concepts of marketing and packaging need major rework for sustainability.

  •  I have begun (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    trinityfly, EthrDemon

    using shampoo in bar form.  I get it at the Coop and it has no wrapping, just the bar.  For the first time in my life my scalp is not itchy and my hair is not dry.  I love it and no plastic bottles.  It is Vermont Soap. I pay 2.50 a bar.

    Doubting Thomas said "well that's it, game over" and I said unto him "Oh Ye Of Little Faith! Abundant Time Remains!" And Lo! the heavens smiled upon Tomlin.

    by tobendaro on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 09:13:13 AM PST

  •  Those items are recylced where I live. (0+ / 0-)

    Most of the items you mention (plastic bottles, cottage cheese and yogurt containers, cardboard, paper) qualify for curbside recycling where I live.

    My Karma just ran over your Dogma

    by FoundingFatherDAR on Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 10:16:47 AM PST

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