Q&A: Living a Plastic-Free Life (and Rethinking Your Bubble Gum)

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Beth Terry has a bakery put bread in a cloth bag instead of wrap it in plastic. Photo: Beth Terry

Beth Terry has a bakery put bread in a cloth bag instead of wrapping it in plastic. Photo: Beth Terry

E911: What’s been the toughest item to use or obtain as a plastic-free consumer, and how have you worked around that?
BT: The hardest part for me is things like cheese. You can bring your own container to a deli and have cheese cut and put into it, but the original block of cheese comes wrapped in plastic and they’re going to wrap it in more plastic after they cut your piece. I found a company that makes cheese without any plastic packaging, and if I buy the whole wheel and share it with friends, then I can avoid all that plastic.

Prescription bottles have also been a frustration. By law, the pharmacies can’t refill your bottle. That’s one I haven’t been able to get around.

E911: Where have you been most surprised to discover plastic?
BT: Chewing gum is often made from plastic. There are some gums out there that are not made with a plastic gum base, but then they have plastic packaging. I was also surprised to learn there is plastic inside metal screw caps and jar lids. And for a long time, I was drinking wine and not really looking at the corks. Then one day I realized that about half of them were plastic.

E911: Have you seen any societal changes in plastic use since you first started living without it?
BT: In some ways it’s as bad as ever, and in other ways society is shifting. I do see more people bringing reusable bags and carrying stainless steel water bottles, but those are the two main shifts I see. There are a lot more small companies that are developing plastic-free alternatives now, but then there are lots of big companies finding even more ways to wrap things in plastic and make single-use disposable items.

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