Vanisle_BC
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Plastic avoidance & alternatives

With reports of widespread & alarming contamination by plastics and plastic micro-particles, I keep pondering how to reduce my usage and be more Eco-friendly in general. It seems near impossible to get much of the plastic out of my life without becoming an off-grid hunter-gatherer, and I'm a bit long in the tooth for that.

What strategies do others use or suggest for cutting down on the use of plastics & other contaminants (and ultimately their manufacture) in gardening - or life in general?

Right now my single puny effort revolves around making wood seedling trays instead of the standard (and flimsy) black plastic ones. So what "Eco-friendly" paints or sealers can I use to waterproof the wood; what "organic" glues that are also waterproof and strong?
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applestar
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Re: Plastic avoidance & alternatives

Have you looked at Bioshield products?

Also, for Waldorf early childhood/pre-school wooden toys, we used 1/2 boiled linseed oil and 1/2 natural beeswax blend to finish them, which made them tough and water resistant.

...wondering if you need to glue seedling trays together ... isn’t it OK for them to be gappy and leaky? I believe it’s better to use non-corroding screws rather than brads or nails... not that I’ve ever made any — not handy enough, but have looked at many many plans and instructions over the years dreaming... :>
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Plastic avoidance & alternatives

We all have to pick our battles. Personally I don't worry so much about the plastic trays for seed starting, because I re-use them for many years. What I am most concerned about is single use plastic:
  • I don't use straws in restaurants, just drink out of the cup.
    I take cloth bags to the grocery store
    I bring tupperware with me to restaurants for leftovers
    I try to buy things with as little plastic packaging as possible


Other suggestions about avoiding single use plastic?
Last edited by rainbowgardener on Wed Apr 11, 2018 4:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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gumbo2176
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Re: Plastic avoidance & alternatives

As for glues, there is "hide glue" made from processing animals and it comes in granules, flakes and sometimes flat sheets. It needs to be heated to about 140 degrees F in a designated glue pot or a double boiler(preferably one that you don't want any more) and it is applied hot to the joints with a brush or other tool.

I think the closest you will come to a commercial type sealer is one that is latex based instead of oil based. No chemicals are needed for cleanup of your brushes, rollers or sprayer as it will clean up with water and soap as opposed to an oil based product that needs mineral spirits or other paint thinners to clean up you equipment.

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applestar
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Re: Plastic avoidance & alternatives

Oh speaking of latex based, we used latex based cork floor tile adhesive when we did our baby’s nursery. We wanted all VOC- and additive free. There are different formulations.

We used a sealant to lock in/slow down outgassing of chemicals in the new plywood, which we stored for a month or more first before sealing and using. BTW, for the seedling trays, my favorite idea so far is cutting up and using new or recycled dog-ear cedar, redwood, etc. fence slats.

I haven’t looked in a long time so I don’t know what’s available out there now, but keywords to search for products with would be chemical-free, VOC-free, healthy home, green building, multiple chemical sensitivity....
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thanrose
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Re: Plastic avoidance & alternatives

You can make paleo type glue from birch sap or pine and spruce saps. Takes some work, is not pretty and clean, but worked on Viking ships, Celtic, too I think. I did it as a kid, but don't remember much. I think my bros were making primitive lances and arrows and needed more than buckskin to secure the points. They tapped the trees, while I tended the fire to cook down the sap.

You can also hold stuff together with pegs if you don't want to use nails or brads or screws.

My view on plastics and recycling in general is evolving. The fact that we are here on this board is indicative that we are less significant consumers of plastics than many others around us. Really. Disheartening.

My sister uses cleansers with those plastic micro beads that are turning up in volume in the Pacific Gyre. (But she does use her own shopping bags.) Also does a lot of take-out, and lot of single portion sized stuff at the grocery store. Reuse of many plastic containers is good, but my Brother in law is washing out his plastic sandwich bags, which my sister secretly throws away. They also insist on putting stuff in the recycling bins that shouldn't be there. Detergent bottles, caps on bottles, pizza boxes, Styrofoam, plastic wrappers, and those air pillow package fillers, etc. All theoretically recyclable, but not in their area. I've tried education with them but they are resistant. To each his own.

Back in the 1920s, my mom and her sisters would carefully peel the thin foil from the thin waxed paper that wrapped their occasional sweet treat. Those shreds of foil would be recycled in a huge barrel, that a man in a horse drawn wagon would pick up every few years.

Reuse of current household plastics: I do keep the random plastic bag and use it for household trash or for wrapping very wet garbage, or for covering shoes when needing to cross puddles. I also will line the potting surface for a short time to keep the inevitable slop over off of the wood. And use them for transporting plants in my car.

Measuring medicine doses in about 30 oz. cups, I'll reuse my own for sorting stuff or isolating stuff like weird seed collections. (From woods walks, perhaps) Also use them for testing seed viability. I love the larger plastic domes from take out that can be a cloche for seedlings. They also can be vented a bit more to make them somewhat a deterrent to squirrels or birds pecking at seedlings. I'll peg them to the ground with a random twig.

Plastic forks or other utensils have also been used as spikey squirrel deterrents, as plant name stakes, as dibbles, and with my other interests.

Plastic jugs I've used for potting, for scooping, for washing, for natural material collecting, for funnels, for paint or chemical mixing, and some for squirrel baffles. Unfortunately, I don't actually use enough plastic jugs for the uses I have for them.

Very seriously, it's rare for me to even throw away a plastic kitty litter pan. Once I determine it's too stinky/stained/scratched up, I wash it and bleach it and toss it outside in work area for whatever use I find. With all that sun and rain, it no longer smells like kitty litter and is a practical size for mixing small batches of concrete or soil mixes, or collecting various items like rocks and shells that are in the plant beds. My cats don't even recognize it years later.

Oh, and bird seed and other stuff is sometimes coming in these woven plastic bags. That's recyclable #6 which has lots of interesting applications as a shrink plastic, but is also useful for a semipermeable tarp/windscreen/sun shade for temporary application.

Black plastic plant pots will usually be picked up by someone cruising by if you set them out on the curb. They are not supposed to be included with our recycling, no matter what my sister tells you.

When dumpster diver/metal recyclers pick up largish appliances, they can use a lot of the stuff in some way, but generally plastic housing is just trash. These are people who will separate the ferrous bolts from the aluminum handle and peel the copper from the coils, and use acid to extract the precious metals, but there simply is no really practical use for the excess of plastic. Some of it could technically be recycled, but city services typically don't want the housing from microwaves or the spin column from a washer when you have these in quantity. One here and there is okay.

Speaking of DD, I'm on the lookout for another washer drum with all the perforations so I can build a small composter.

gumbo2176
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Re: Plastic avoidance & alternatives

applestar wrote:Oh speaking of latex based, we used latex based cork floor tile adhesive when we did our baby’s nursery. We wanted all VOC- and additive free. There are different formulations.

We used a sealant to lock in/slow down outgassing of chemicals in the new plywood, which we stored for a month or more first before sealing and using. BTW, for the seedling trays, my favorite idea so far is cutting up and using new or recycled dog-ear cedar, redwood, etc. fence slats.

I haven’t looked in a long time so I don’t know what’s available out there now, but keywords to search for products with would be chemical-free, VOC-free, healthy home, green building, multiple chemical sensitivity....
Latex based products have come a long way over the years. I painted the entire outside of my house last year and used only latex paint for the topcoat in a semi-gloss formula that has just a touch of sheen to it and is very good at allowing dirt to be washed off easily since it does have a bit of a slick surface to it. I live down the street from a park used for softball games at least 5 nights a week and the guy that takes care of it will get out there and drag a heavy leveling screen all around the dirt infield to flatten it and get it ready for games and when it is dry, the dust kicked up is incredible. It makes it hard to keep the windows open when the wind is blowing my way. Can't dust fast enough.

DarrenP
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Re: Plastic avoidance & alternatives

The key to cutting out/down your plastic use is cutting out single use plastic, as rainbowgardener has said. As well as the suggestions made above, try containers in your freezer instead of freezer bags; even take containers to the butcher's to bring home your meat in. Here in Australia, most shops supply plastic bags to put your fruit and veg in, so my wife made cloth bags with drawstrings instead. We have reusable coffee cups we take in the car, instead of buying a throwaway cup with a plastic lid. Use a drink bottle instead of buying bottled water. We have changed our shopping habits to avoid as much plastic packaging as possible.
In the garden, avoid the plastic stakes and poles, and plastic pots. I know they are not single use, but there is little that is in the garden. I actually use old yoghurt containers as seedling pots, because it's making the most of a plastic item. I use old coffee jars and other plastic jars with lids to store seeds in.
So it's not just about cutting out the plastic, but making the most of the plastic I do use.

ronbart
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Re: Plastic avoidance & alternatives

I use metal cake pans from the dollar store for seed starting trays. They are rigid enough to handle easily and are small enough to be able to put blocks under them to adjust different seedlings to the right distance from the grow lights. I have used them for three years and they still look new.

Vanisle_BC
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Re: Plastic avoidance & alternatives

ronbart wrote:I use metal cake pans from the dollar store for seed starting trays.
Thanks ronbart. So simple, the dollar store; why didn't I think of it - especially when I'm already using plastic :( ones I got from there (they warp.) And thanks to all who suggested various other opportunities for re-use of plastic items .

But of course my futzing with tray types is just whistling in the wind if I consider all the plastic I - and others - consume. What about poly tunnels and greenhouse covering, bought in huge 10' wide rolls. Poly is so cheap & easy to use compared with - ?- glass. Giving it up would be tough. And what about the supporting plastic hoops. Then, how many tarps do I have; some old & ripped - how should I dispose of them?

I've fantasized about not bringing home any new plastic item or wrapper or packaging for (say) 2 weeks. Impossible! At least half the stuff in the grocery and practically everything in the hardware store is in plastic. Anything bigger than a pair of shoes will be in a box stuffed with polystyrene. Most of my clothes have some plastic in them - rayon, nylon etc. It's all pretty depressing and discouraging. Ultimately feels as though it's futile to bother with the little stuff that's practical but insignificant.
We have work to do on all our politicians, after the votes are counted Delores Broten

DarrenP
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Re: Plastic avoidance & alternatives

@Vanisle_BC, have you considered polycarbonate, or other plastic sheeting? I know it is still plastic, but not single use, and depending on what you get can be cheaper than glass. The cost factor has to be weighed up with how long it will last, compared to the rolls of plastic.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Plastic avoidance & alternatives

reduce, re-use, recycle. Part of re-use for me is buying my clothes second hand from thrift stores. No packaging, if they have polyester in them at least it is not being created now for your use. Keeps them out of landfill where a lot of old clothes end up. And I can't tell you how many times I have gotten lots of compliments on one of my thrift store finds.

For hoops in my garden, I use the wire frames that political yard signs come on. With elections this year, there will be tons of them around. You can get woven shade cloth in summer and winter weights. It is still polyester, but easier to re-use for a number of years.
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applestar
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Re: Plastic avoidance & alternatives

My municipality has only limited recycling stream — lots of stuff that can’t be recycled, so I’m seriously considering Brennan Bird’s “bottle bricks” project idea, even though that is kind of like backyard landfill.... I haven’t made up my mind about actually using them as building material but have started stuffing bottles .... you CAN cram surprising amount in a bottle, at least.

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Vanisle_BC
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Re: Plastic avoidance & alternatives

Lots of good ideas here; on both re-use and outright avoidance (Haha - "reuse is good but refuse is better.")

RBG: We're regular thrift store customers too, and I wish I could get the kind of spectacular bargains on the men's side that my wife can usually score on hers. Elsewhere I recently bought - brand new at horrendous cost - socks made from merino wool and boasting a lifetime guarantee. ?! The store owner assured me if they ever wear out I only have to bring them back (clean!) and they'll be replaced. Just like Tilley hats and good old Zippo lighters.

DarrenP, I haven't priced polycarbonate - assumed it would cost more than I'd want to pay. You spoke of factoring in how long it will last; In my case how long I will last is also a consideration :) - just kidding but not totally.

applestar, that TEDx is interesting. Near here there used to be a small building made entirely from bottles - but I think they were glass. Plastic bottles would, I think, pose more problems, lacking weight, strength and durabilty (UV susceptible.) Fortunately I don't think either you (?) or I is/am contemplating a plastic-bottle structure - or are you? We'd all be fascinated to know how it goes!!
We have work to do on all our politicians, after the votes are counted Delores Broten

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Re: Plastic avoidance & alternatives

I saw this on the net on my homepage not long ago about a dead sperm whale beached in Spain that had over 64 lbs. of plastics and other garbage in its stomach when they cut it open to see what the problem may have been to lead it to beach itself.

I know the oceans are constantly being polluted by Cruise ships randomly dumping their waste at sea and there have been news stories about huge areas of the oceans that are nothing more than collection zones for waste dumped at sea.

Mankind is so stupid at times.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Plastic avoidance & alternatives

The ocean and all the life of the ocean is in crisis due to massive accumulation of plastics. But most of it does not come from cruise ships. It comes from all the plastic that does not get recycled. I'm guilty too, because even though I take everything I can to recycle center (our un-incorporated area does not have curbside recycling), the center only takes plastics labelled 1 or 2. So 3, 4, 5, and 6 go in the trash. :( So plastics go in landfills from where they can get washed out in storms. Or it lies on the side of the road and gets washed into a storm drain. Or it goes into a river. Or factories dump plastic wastes into rivers. Most of the plastic in our oceans doesn't get dumped there directly, rivers carry it to the sea. https://www.dw.com/en/almost-all-plastic ... a-41581484

If cruise ships were the problem, it would be much easier to fix, just mandate that they not dump anything in the ocean and bring it back to landfills. But not that simple.
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DarrenP
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Re: Plastic avoidance & alternatives

Plastic bags and water bottles are by far the worst two culprits, both in our waterways and oceans, and in general. The so-called biodegradable bags simply break down to tiny pieces, small enough for sea life to ingest. So how much plastic are we ingesting when we eat seafood? Plastic has even washed up in Antarctica.
Rainbowgardener, that's our motto too. The three R's. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking recycling will save the world, but the first two are far more important. Luckily for us, recycling is quite a big thing here in Australia, although it does vary from state to state, sometimes even between council areas, what you can recycle.
We have a recycling bin that gets emptied fortnightly (the alternate week is green waste). Our local council has collection points for used batteries and light globes, and scrap metal can be taken to a depot. Our state also has a 10 cent container deposit for drinks. E-waste (TV's, computers, mobile phones, etc.) can also be taken to the local dump for free, where it is put aside for recycling.
We have an op shop in our town, run by a different community group each month. Instead of throwing things out, if we can't think of how to reuse something it goes to the shop.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Plastic avoidance & alternatives

op shop? is that like a thrift store/ second hand store?
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DarrenP
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Re: Plastic avoidance & alternatives

Sorry, yes. I should stop and consider the language differences, shouldn't I? It's a charity shop, run by volunteers from a different community group each month. Kindergarten, school, churches, sporting groups, and other community groups. They have everything from secondhand clothes to books to homemade produce, and all other kinds of stuff. When we moved, my wife and I donated clothes and books as part of our downsizing.

Vanisle_BC
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Re: Plastic avoidance & alternatives

Lots of good suggestions here.

It's a tiny gesture, maybe even futile, but I'm going to take paper lunch bags to the grocery store and use them for as many items as possible, instead of the filmy plastic bags the stores provide. The paper ones could even be labelled & re-used until they're only good for compost.

Remember when Moms (Grans?) had their own leather or canvas shopping bags? Often home-made too, by Dad or Gramps.

Golly I'm old.
We have work to do on all our politicians, after the votes are counted Delores Broten

Vanisle_BC
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Re: Plastic avoidance & alternatives

An open letter to my favourite provider of garden & woodwork tools
(and any other company's official that cares to read):

I'm certainly not one of your bigger customers but I greatly appreciate
your unusually high, quite amazing level of customer service, as well as
the quality of many of the unique & innovative items you sell. (Not
always your prices, but I trumpet my admiration to anyone who'll
listen.)

Now here's a very serious suggestion I want to make: At a time when our
planet and its oceans are being choked & potentially destroyed by
discarded plastic, how about becoming a leader in minimizing, virtually
eliminating, all types of non-renewable or non-recyclable materials in
your business? I see that much of what you sell, even when made of
'eco-friendly' wood, metal, natural fibres etc, has connections,
accessories, 'bits' and features that are made of plastic; not only
environmentally undesirable but often a weak link in terms of
reliability & longevity.

I could go on & on but I'm sure your company's people have enough
imagination to outstrip mine. I do think the time is ripe for companies
to declare war on plastics and other undesirable substances; eliminate
them from their product lines. How about setting out to lead the field
and be able to brag about it?

And oh dear, did I forget to mention packaging???
We have work to do on all our politicians, after the votes are counted Delores Broten

DarrenP
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Re: Plastic avoidance & alternatives

Well said, Vanisle_BC.
Regarding the shopping bags, here in Australia there is a big push on phasing out what they call single use plastic bags. Instead the grocery stores all use thicker plastic bags, that they say can be reused. I'd like to see all plastic bags gone. You can buy reusable bags from the grocery stores, but most of them have some form of plastic component in them. As ours wear out, we plan to go to fully sustainable jute or hessian bags that can be composted at the end of their (hopefully) long life.
On the plus side, our supermarkets do provide bins for soft plastic recycling (bags, packaging, etc.). However one of the bigger ones was caught out dumping the recycled plastic; needless to say we use the other one's bins.

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