Join WBEZ (No) Plastic Challenge

WBEZ’s Jerome McDonald and Monica Eng threw down the gauntlet back in January as Chicago aldermen proposed “Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act.”

The Act limits single use plastic such as stirrers, utensils, and straws. Sit-down restaurants must to use glass rather than plastic. The requirements will be phased in. Much like the Portland model, accommodations are available for people with disabilities.

Some 300 cities across the world have some kind of ban on plastics.

Why? Plastics don’t break down. The pieces just get smaller and smaller, until they are Microplastics. Microplastics are everywhere; even in the air we breathe and the water we drink.

Eliminating single use plastic will have a huge impact on production of new plastics. According to Jerome, there’s a huge push to make plastic plants where fracking is done because some of the byproducts of fracking are used for plastic production. About 50 different chemicals are emitted during the creation of plastic. Plus a tons of chemicals are emitted with plastic incineration.

Did you know fleece sheds Microplastics in the washing machine?

This past holiday season I realized I contributed to the problem by making fleece pajamas. I quickly switched to cotton flannel. That was easy.

Loved-One and I are big into recycling, but Jerome’s challenge takes it to a whole new level. Eliminating plastic. His first goal was to eliminate plastic in the bathroom. He found it pretty easy to give up plastic razors over the old-fashioned safety razor. Going to wooden comb was an easy thing to do, too.

According to Jerome’s latest update, the kitchen proves to be a challenge. He ended up getting a vegan mayonnaise just because it was the only mayo on the shelf that came in a glass jar. Apparently prescriptions, by law must in plastic container with a plastic screw-cap.

Monica’s biggest challenge is salad greens and cheese. Jerome suggested she grow her own greens. He goes six months without buying greens by growing his own.

I’m ready to take the challenge and I’m brining Love-One and CoCo along for the ride.

Wow! There’s a lot of plastic in my house: plastic soft-soap dispensers, big plastic bottles of laundry detergent, plastic tubes of hair products, toothpaste, antibiotic cream, dish soap, and much, much more.

Here’s some fairly easy first steps recommended by Jerome and Monica:

  • Carry reusable shopping bags. (Love-One and CoCo are much better at remembering them than I am. )
  • Give up bottled water. (We can do that. I am happy to hear that Britta filters can be recyled.)
  • Shop your local farmers market. (None available until warmer weather.)
  • Say no to plastic produce bags. (Done)
  • Buy from bulk bins as often as possible. (Easy-peasy)
  • Cut out sodas, juices and all other plastic-bottled beverages. (We’ve accomplished this one.)
  • Buy fresh bread that comes in either paper bags or no bag. (Not so sure about this one.)
  • Return containers for berries, cherry tomatoes, etc. to the farmer’s market to be reused. (We recycle or save for our own use in our garden.)
  • Bring your own container to the store for meat and prepared foods. (Hmm… I must think about how we can accomplish this one.)
  • Choose milk in returnable glass bottles. (We buy very little milk, but we can do this with ease.)

How do I take the next step?

Beth Terry is an expert. According to her, the average American throws away 100 pounds of plastic each year. She reduced hers to 3 pounds. Her TEDx video is only about 13 minutes long. Holy-smokes, I use a lot of plastics.

Beth gives us some good reasons to take up the gauntlet that WBEZ threw down:

  • Stop doing harm
  • Protects our health (chemicals leaching)
  • Support ethical businesses
  • Develop ingenuity and self-reliance
  • Examines our values
  • Ask for what we want
  • Motivation to work for systemic changes
  • sets an example for others (let people see another way to be.)

Beth’s website is She has 97 pounds worth of ways to eliminate plastic from our lives. You can also get ideas by searching for #WBEZplasticchallenge on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And there’s an online company, Life Without Plastic that sells alternative products. (Warning, clicking on these links will lead you to many others!)

There’s a lot to pick from. Here’s what I decided to try first:

Who Gives a Crap Toilet paper: bamboo or recycled paper. I like that the company donates half its profits to non-profit organizations like WaterAid working to improve access to hygiene, water and basic sanitation in developing countries. Plus, I really like the name of the product. Click here to read more. Beth has a link for a discount on my first order. Or you can click here.

Bite toothpaste bits are a convenient alternative to using the tried and true, baking soda and salt that I grew up with. Click here for Beth’s review.

Also available on Amazon

I’m not sure I’m ready for soap nuts. Still, this post gave me some great ideas for softening clothes with vinegar and treating stains that could eliminate some plastics in my life. On second thought, why not give it a try? I can always go back to my Costco brand.

(available at Life Without Plastic and Amazon

On a lark, I threw a dish detergent bar into my shopping cart. And I asked for plastic-free packaging. Yes, I can ask Amazon to avoid plastic.

Order on Amazon

What are you willing to do to reduce the amount of plastic in your life?

Note: I received no compensation whatsoever for the links or products mentioned here. Just the good feeling of spreading the word. #wbezplasticchallenge.