I gave up plastic for one week. I survived, and you can too.


S T. PETERSBURG – Pushing my wobbly procuring cart down the aisles of Dealer Joe's, all I noticed was the slippery shine of the plastic.

Shining in floor beef. Embracing lettuce curves. Strangling the peppers.

It was the evening earlier than embarking on a week-long problem to keep away from single-use plastic, and the whole lot felt contaminated. Even the objects in cardboard bins (cereals, Earl Grey tea and frozen turkey burgers) hid plastic luggage.

Looking for a dinner with out plastic, I felt responsible.

I used to be hungry too.

"Technically I haven't began but," I advised myself as I watched Gouda's wedges, locked in a rattling film. "Tomorrow I might be a special lady," I believed as I threw a bag of pork buns in my cart.

The problem

A Waste Administration employee pulls plastic luggage out of a machine. The set up stops eight instances a day for scheduled untangling. [Tracee Stockwell | Times]

My fascination with rubbish started earlier this summer time, after I visited the native recycling plant to report what can and can’t be recycled. I couldn't cease desirous about the thick layer of plastic luggage wrapped across the arms of the machines … or how the employees needed to crawl inside these machines to chop the hooks no less than eight instances a day.

Individuals attempt to recycle merchandise like cups and utensils with good intentions, however brittle plastics like this typically don't flip into new objects. These plastics, along with components equivalent to soiled containers that can’t be recycled, find yourself being in a landfill or floating in our waters.

READ MORE: What do you have to recycle and what actually occurs to you? We toured a Tampa Bay Waste Administration plant to search out out.

I imagined a distinguished reel of my very own waste: each time I "forgot" my reusable luggage in Publix. Searching for plastic utensils as a result of I had been too lazy to throw a fork in my lunchbox. Having fun with foolish teas from a plastic cup by means of a thick plastic straw pierced by means of a sheet of flimsy plastic.

For per week, I promised to keep away from single-use plastic merchandise. If I may reuse or recycle an merchandise, it could be good to purchase it. In any other case, he needed to discover a means round it. My objective was to appreciate how a lot plastic I used to be losing and uncover how you can stay with much less waste.

I set 5 challenges:

  1. Cease utilizing plastic utensils.
  2. Use a reusable cup in a espresso store.
  3. Take my leftovers residence in a reusable container as an alternative of a take-out field.
  4. Alternate plastic disposable razors for a steel security razor with recyclable aluminum blades.
  5. Purchase meals in a bulk retailer and keep away from disposable plastic.

Some issues appeared easy. I already use steel straws as an alternative of plastics, so how troublesome wouldn’t it be to make the identical trade with forks and knives?

Others appeared extra daunting. What number of containers ought to I take to a bulk retailer? How a lot would this effort price? And finally, how apparent wouldn’t it be that I had no thought what I used to be doing?

One week. With out plastic (largely).

Decided to not repeat the disgrace spiral of my Dealer Joe, I created a survival equipment with out plastic. I appeared for containers round my residence, placing Tupperware, outdated paper luggage and glass jars in a large reusable bag. This may stay within the trunk of my automotive, and I’d be ready.

To keep away from utilizing disposable cups in espresso retailers, Instances reporter Gabrielle Calise saved a steel espresso thermos in her bag all through the week. [GABRIELLE CALISE | Times] [Tampa Bay Times]

Some issues have been simple. I introduced steel cutlery to my desk within the newsroom. My glass water bottle and my steel espresso thermos got here in every single place with me. I resisted the intuition of grabbing a drink alone at a celebration and as an alternative borrowed a cup from the host's closet.

Meal planning, nonetheless, felt unattainable. Virtually the whole lot in my freezer was contaminated, wrapped in wrappers, luggage or disposable bathtubs. It felt unhealthy to toast sliced ​​bread from a plastic bag or chew the granola bars on my desk. Within the retailer, I left the meat off my procuring record, since it’s higher for the surroundings and I didn’t have time to discover a butcher who provided sustainable packaging. Most processed meals within the central aisles have plastic containers, so I restricted myself to vegetarian recipes equivalent to candy potato and carrot soup and lentil and lemon curry soup.

One Saturday afternoon, I arrived at Kenwood Natural Produce in St. Pete. The waste-free retailer sells objects freed from plastic containers, equivalent to shampoo bars and steel straws, in addition to native greens, fruits and honey. I purchased two reusable luggage and stuffed them with onion, garlic and candy potato. My buy was solely $ 7. If I had come earlier within the day, I may have conquered my whole procuring record. However a juicer had crushed me carrots and lemons. Far I went to Publix, the place the one plastic-free carrots have been smaller … and nearly twice as costly. A minimum of I didn't make any impulse purchases within the snack aisles.

My meals for the week, equivalent to oatmeal in a single day with contemporary peaches, took longer to assemble, since I didn't have the comfort of any prepackaged objects, however I felt more healthy.

Native natural vegatables and fruits bought at Publix and Kenwood Natural Produce in St. Petersburg. [GABRIELLE CALISE | Times] [Tampa Bay Times]

Consuming out posed its personal challenges. Taking my very own thermos to a cafeteria was simple. Resisting the urge to order Uber Eats throughout a storm after I was hungry was tougher. I waited for the rain bullets to drizzle down, feeling responsible simply considering of styrofoam and packages of utensils that will come inside a plastic bag. After I lastly walked to a close-by Vietnamese restaurant, I requested for pho, understanding that leftovers would are available a thick take-out cylinder that I may reuse.

Every little thing was deciphered later that week at a sticky Waffle Home stand someday after midnight. Hungry after an evening of partying with some buddies, I wasn't even desirous about my problem after I positioned an order. Then got here the waffles, every coated with a small plastic cup with whipped cream. I watched in horror as anybody else on the desk smeared salty, creamy and unfold on their waffles with out hesitation. I had by no means wished butter a lot, however there was no different to particular person cups. Nobody answered my pleas to share.

My toast additionally got here with a person serving of jelly, so I didn't eat it. It could be a waste to throw the bread, however getting a take-out field was out of the query. Sleepy after my syrupy syrup, the Tupperware sitting within the trunk of my automotive appeared miles away. So I wrapped the toast in a serviette.

"Are you going to feed the squirrels?" Our waitress requested.


Private hygiene posed one other problem. I skipped the pharmacies in favor of Sans Market, a zero-waste pop-up store within the downtown St. Pete & # 39; s Baum Avenue market. Patrons can refill the containers with liquid components equivalent to sunscreen and laundry detergent. I picked up a $ 7 compostable bamboo toothbrush as a result of my plastic appeared tough across the bristles. I additionally purchased a brick of shaving cleaning soap, since I wanted a thick paste to shave with an aluminum razor.

Sans Market sells bamboo toothbrushes. Not like their plastic counterparts, these could be composted. [GABRIELLE CALISE | Times] [Tampa Bay Times]

READ MORE: Zero waste in St. Pete? New retailers take root: The Refillery, Sans Market and Kenwood’s Natural Produce

A security razor with 5 starter razor blades could be bought for lower than $ 20 in CVS. Don’t forget the shaving cleaning soap. [GABRIELLE CALISE | TImes] [Tampa Bay Times]

As a Lebanese-Italian particular person dwelling in Florida, I rapidly undergo disposable plastic razors. A double-edged steel security razor is extra sustainable, and recyclable razors price lower than 30 cents every.

Nevertheless, the industrial-looking deal with and the dearth of moisture strip terrified me of skinning my pimples. I watched YouTube movies harassed earlier than becoming a member of forces to attempt it for myself. I used to be in a position to grasp the brief and gradual strokes and not using a nice lack of blood. Success.

My chilly sweats got here again later within the week whereas looking in bulk. I loaded my automotive with jars and Tupperware earlier than driving to Fortunate's. I weighed all of the containers in order that the cashier may subtract their weight. After I lastly discovered the primary article I wished, oatmeal, I couldn't discover a method to pull the lever. I felt like a nasty actor in an infomercial after I lastly sprayed oatmeal all around the ground.

It was troublesome to have an actual thought of ​​how a lot I used to be shopping for, particularly since my assortment of misfit containers have been of various sizes. I ran out of tall containers and needed to put natural carrots within the take-away plastic tub of the Vietnamese restaurant. The carrots jutted out and the bathtub saved delivering my cart.

Reporter Gabrielle Calise introduced a wide range of containers to the Fortunate & # 39; s Marketplace for bulk purchases and wrote the load of the containers on the tops of every. [GABRIELLE CALISE | Times] [Tampa Bay Times]

Tall containers of lentils and oatmeal got here out at a couple of {dollars} every. Espresso was additionally cheaper. The cashew nuts have been about what I anticipated. However a small jar of pistachios coated in chocolate got here to $ 12. I felt so silly to see the quantity seem on the display.

"These have been far more than I believed," I mentioned. "May you set them again?"

The cashier checked out me with out understanding. “You already touched them. Legally, we must throw them away. "

"Okay, I'm sorry," I mentioned. I used to be too ashamed to look her within the eye after I dialed my pin quantity and pulled my luggage from the shop.


I welcomed him on the finish of the week. I used to be uninterested in feeling responsible for slipping and being pissed off by the plastic shock. The style and texture of my $ 7 bamboo toothbrush jogged my memory of a soaked palette stick.

I used to be additionally uninterested in shaving with a security razor. My delicate pores and skin misplaced the moisture strips on my outdated disposable razors. I hurried, ending with little bloody pricks up and down my legs.

It had been a irritating experiment. However it had helped, in my week with out plastic, to recollect a sure bottle of Q-tips that I had seen in Sans Market.

The shop had unintentionally ordered an organization that packed cotton, biodegradable, Q-tips with out plastic … in small plastic luggage.

"Oops! The plastic has hit once more," learn an indication subsequent to the Q-tips. "Nevertheless, errors occur."

Even wasteless professionals generally make errors. When Sans Market workers realized {that a} Q-tips order arrived in plastic luggage, they turned the expertise into an improvisation lesson. [GABRIELLE CALISE | Times] [Tampa Bay Times]


I’m a single particular person with out kids or pets, so I didn't have to fret about material diapers or cleansing canines with out plastic. I additionally had all my purchases refunded by the Tampa Bay Instances.

Nonetheless, this week was troublesome. All of it took extra time and thought. I could not maintain all these modifications, however this gave me a greater thought of ​​what habits I may incorporate into my life-style.

I wasted much less meals, however loved my meals extra. I needed to plan my meals upfront as a result of I couldn't depend on having a pre-packaged meal or snack. When every ingredient mattered, I found that I wasn't shopping for issues for which I didn't have a plan. The contemporary merchandise have been scrumptious, and I ate all my leftovers as an alternative of letting them rot within the backside of my fridge.

Even after I was attempting, my hardest and single-use objects appeared out of nowhere. I took a Tupperware container to an Indian restaurant in case I used to be left over, however my dinner got here out in a cardboard field. I needed to inform the server that I didn't need a plastic bag to hold my leftovers thrice earlier than he left me alone. And when a pal provided me iced espresso early on a Sunday, I wasn't even desirous about plastic. I felt like an fool when he appeared with Starbucks in a plastic cup.

Individuals attempt to provide you with plastic merchandise on a regular basis. Properly-meaning cashiers looked for plastic luggage earlier than I even took out my pockets. The useful waiters tried to drive me to hold bins to remove. A barista served my tea in a plastic cup despite the fact that I mentioned it was "round right here" (Luckily it was within the Black Waste cafeteria, which wastes nothing, so the cup was compostable).

Tricks to scale back the consumption of single-use plastic

  • Anticipate the usage of plastic and put together accordingly. Preserve reusable objects in your desk, backpack or automotive to scale back plastic.
  • Don't attempt to do it suddenly. Going to chilly turkey could be daunting. As an alternative, concentrate on going with out plastic incrementally. "Make extra acutely aware shopping for choices however begin one room at a time," mentioned Rachel Clemtson, a Sans Market worker.
  • Be taught what you actually can and can’t recycle. Every municipality is completely different, however we made a easy information for Tampa Bay residents.
  • You don't have to drop a ton of $ to get began. Bamboo cutlery kits, luxurious reusable paper towels and different waste-free objects look cute, however you’ll be able to obtain the identical impact by reusing objects you have already got.
  • Avoid the central aisles in grocery shops. It’s probably that processed meals are packaged in plastic.
  • Native store. Objects like sliced ​​bread are onerous to search out out of plastic luggage in supermarkets, however you could find them in native markets and native bakeries. You'll have higher luck getting meat wrapped in paper when you go to an area butcher.
  • Do you may have plastic objects you’ll be able to't stay with out? Exchange an ecological model. It’s a must to decide up trash or decide up canine poop with one thing. If the usage of plastic appears inevitable, go for a compostable model or product of recycled plastic. Supporting merchandise like this together with your cash helps firms that share this mission.
  • Be type to your self. That is an imperfect course of. You do not need to delete all of your favorites. The plastic will seem even if you’re attempting your finest to keep away from it. What issues is to scale back the place you’ll be able to.

Native firms and organizations dedicated to the trigger.

St. Petersburg

    • Sans Market It’s a waste-free life-style retailer that sells private hygiene objects, bulk cleansing provides and extra.
    • Kenwood Produce affords contemporary native merchandise in a retailer with out packaging.
    • Black Crow Espresso Co.The 2 areas in St. Pete divert no less than 90 p.c of their waste from landfills by means of recycling and composting.
    • The Refillery sells objects equivalent to sunscreen, insect repellent and laundry detergent. Convey your individual container to fill or use yours. Each Wednesday, Refillery teaches a special DIY recipe that buyers could make on the retailer and take residence.


    • Reload He marks himself because the "trendy milkman," who sells spare components for natural family merchandise.

A number of location

Did I go away some good native companies? Do you may have tricks to scale back the usage of plastic? Let me know within the feedback or ship me an electronic mail.

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