The PLASTIC Life Part 1

Lauren Suhrbier, Mountain Parent Magazine, Carbondale 

“Plastics are probably the most difficult commodity to recycle because there is a wide variety of plastic types, and also they have a limited recyclable lifespan. It’s best to avoid plastics when at all possible, and opt for reusable containers or choose products in packaging that has a higher recyclable value such as aluminum or compostable paper. Sometimes the weight of the world in crisis can feel like too much to bare. Making small (or large) changes to our habits and purchasing choices around plastic can empower us. We want our kids to feel like they are making a difference and instill them with hope, not despair.”

~ Cindy Hall,
Pitkin County Solid Waste Manager


I want a divorce . . . from Plastic. We’ve tried therapy, “taking time apart,” self-help books and hours of “talking it out.” But Plastic just thinks it’s my soul-mate. ‘Til death do us part, Plastic and I.  Dumping plastic containers in the recycling bin used to make me feel good. Like it was enough. But now I really want the Big D.

After, eh, one week of test driving “a life without Plastic,” I realized that I am helplessly addicted. At its very best, Plastic and I are truly co-dependent. Sure, I avoid bottled water, but when I started taking a serious look at my kitchen, my shower, my shopping cart at the grocery it became really clear that the Big D for Plastic and I might not ever happen.

It’s the little things that get my goat. The pre-washed bags of spinach, the baby shampoo bottles, the wrapper on the block of cheese. The list goes on and on and on. I do not have time in my life to make homemade artisan cheese in order to avoid that plastic wrapper, and my guess is you don’t either. So what are we going to do?

In the Plastic Life Part 1, I thought I would first explore with you the basics of plastics and what happens when we recycle them locally. In Part 2 we’ll keep the discussion alive and trouble shoot some more options for breaking up with Plastic. Stay with me, it’s going to be a long and bumpy road, with some satisfying moments along the way.

While recycling is definitely better than dumping, waste managers are very clear that avoiding it in the first place (the REDUCE part of the “REDUCE. REUSE. RECYCLE” tagline) is by far the best. Yet, the RECYCLE part of this equation is by far the easiest. We have great access to curbside and pub-area recycling almost everywhere we go. It seems that working our way from back to front of this phrase is where we will start. So let’s begin with some facts on RECYCLING.

the good news  

There are companies out there being pro-active about using recycled plastic in their products. Decking, playground equipment, carpeting and “new” bottles, to name a few. Your caps can become kitchen bowls and cutting boards, car battery cases, toothbrushes and storage bins. PET plastic bottles can be recycled into fabric for clothing or upholstery. For fabric, recycled pellets are heated and spun into a very fine, soft thread. Many of Patagonia’s products utilizes recycled plastic. RePlay tableware, made of recycled milk jugs, is becoming very popular. Find it at the grocery store or Target. Kids love it and it is durable enough to go in the dishwasher.

next steps 

In continuing my drawn out divorce with Plastic, I am on the hunt for products and practices that help my family REDUCE. The separation has started with recycling, but now we are really ready to sign the papers and just see less of it.


– – – Please share your ideas for REDUCING + REUSING for the next issue of MP. Email