Book Review: Plastic Free by Beth Terry

It’ll come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog that I’ve recently read Beth Terry’s book Plastic Free (she also has a blog, sorta sad it’s not called Fake Plastic Fish anymore!) . Before I read Beth’s book, I did post all the reasons I’m not plastic free.

Sadly City of Sydney still wraps it in plastic :(
Sadly City of Sydney still wraps it in plastic 🙁

I loved Beth’s book – she’s real.  She struggled.  She admitted she loved ready made freezer food, and there is no plastic free freezer convenience food.  She admits to stalking the drug store looking for alcohol not in plastic, and buying a woolen duster, just cause it was plastic free.

The point is, in contrast to Bea Johnson’s book Zero Waste Home, you feel like you are on the journey with Beth, and she’s not preaching.  She knows every reader won’t go to the same extents she will, but similarly, she make compromises too.  You have to, it’s just not practical to be 100% plastic free in today’s world.

I did learn a few things from her book too, that I’d like to share:

  1. Thermal receipts/paper is not recyclable.  I’d never thought about what make thermal paper work, but it’s coated in plastic, and so not great for recycling
  2. BPA free items don’t explain exactly what is in them, and there’s no promises that aren’t equally as bad for you :s
  3. My milk containers are layers of plastic and paper, and likely aren’t recyclable.  Sadly, given it’s heat treated cows milk that makes it lactose free (rather than soy or almond milk), I’m not sure how to work around it.

I could make my weekly posts link up to her weekly plastic free challenge, and join more like minded souls – though it does require taking some of the recyclable plastic and looking at that.  So far, I don’t include that in my weekly Zero Waste posts.  Have any of you read Beth’s book?

Oh, and bin man stood me up on Friday.  So I will try to rebook to meet him, and will diligently report to my readers.

Lastly, I’ve forgotten my gratitude section in the last few posts 🙁  Whenever I queue posts, I don’t put them in, so it’ll come and go from posts as I see fit.  BUT… in other news, I took a snap of my licences since I moved to NSW and put them on my blog’s Facebook account.  Please feel free to have a sticky beak at my face changing over time – the BF likes my second learners the best I think.  You should be able to link from the bottom of the right hand side’s banner.

24 Replies to “Book Review: Plastic Free by Beth Terry”

  1. I read the book. Although Beth wrote about her struggles, I found her pretty hardcore! I think that in some cases it is best to hold onto plastic items that you have and just keep them forever. Or very occasionally buy new plastic knowing it is the best option for the job. For example, I have plastic storage bins that keep all my garden tools and equipment rust-free in the shed. A cardboard box or wicker basket would get mildewed. I also have plastic lids for all my glass kitchen storage containers. Sometimes it is the lesser of several "evils." I do really try not to buy disposable plastic stuff.

    1. Weird, I thought she was less 'hardcore' than Zero Waste Home and Bea! She's reused her plastic sports bottles in the bathroom for example. I think she's mainly eliminating plastic where possible from touching food, and then the rest is a measured approach. She's not gone out and replaced her computer etc, but as things wear out or break, she'll look for the minimal plastic option. I think durable plastic items are something it would be hard to do without. As far as single use plastics go, there's still sticky tape – nothing quite like it, or quite as good!

  2. I had no idea that thermal receipts were non-recyclable. I always put them in the recycling bin 🙁

    It is incredibly hard to get to zero plastic. My goal at the moment is to reduce to zero those teeny-tiny plastic parts that seem to make it into the ocean (e.g. drink lids falling out of car doors or plastic wraps in school lunches that wind up in the drains and from there into waterways.) I'd love to read Beth's book and will add it to my list!

  3. It is amazing we just can't be totally plastic free, isn't it? So much hidden plastic. And then there's the plastic in manufacturing and transporting the things we buy which is removed when it hits the retailers, eg plastic wrapped around pallets of food or around furniture.

    But you are an inspiration.

    1. It is amazing when you think that plastics are a relatively new invention! Obviously it was just what we needed, to have picked it up in so many spheres of life!

  4. I had no idea about the receipts as well, I always recycle them! I guess the best thing is not to ask for them in the first place.

    I'm trying to reduce the amount of disposable things I buy in general. Making my own toiletries and cleaning products is working well, but buying food in bulk (especially things for the freezer) usually means I need to repackage it into ziploc bags.

    1. I had been recycling them too! If only they didn't print them – I wish more places would ask if you want one, and suppress it if you didn't! I have a stash of ziplocs thanks to buying frozen berries (which are cheaper than fresh, but come from China or Chile!!!) which I reuse as long as possible. Beth's totally on board with the idea that we can't all go zero plastic, and if you will use ziplocs, at least buy hardy ones that might reuse well. Though, for freezing, we're mainly using my expanded stash of Pyrex dishes, rather than ziplocs.

  5. Are your milk containers tetra packs? We can recycle those here in the UK, although we've only been able to do that locally for a couple of years.

    1. HI Liz, yes I do have tetrapacks but Beth says that whilst they are taken by recycling companies, by and large, they aren't recycled because they are made of a composite of materials. Of course, I'm meeting my 'bin man' on Friday, so I'll try to remember to grill him about if this is the truth here in Sydney!

  6. Yes, I really enjoyed it too 🙂 Since I've been reading her blog for so long, I didn't feel like I learned a ton of new tips (although I did take her suggestion for an all-metal French press) but her story was engaging and I enjoyed connecting and commiserating with her journey. I love that she addresses details like plastic in clothing that I never would've thought of. Every little bit helps 🙂

    1. It is definitely engaging and you feel like you're there with her, rather than she's judging from some high plane! She certainly was thorough, without getting bogged down in little details that make some people glaze over. And you're right, just being aware and conscious can help us make decisions to lessen our usage, even if we never achieve plastic free.

  7. I enjoyed Beth’s book. It was one of the books I couldn’t get at the library and finally broke down and bought. Unlike Zero Waste home, this one has resources that are worth holding on to the book for. One I now have is a place to recycle my deodorant containers which I didn’t have before.

    Here even if you say you don’t want a receipt they print it out anyway and then just throw it away, I haven’t figured out how to avoid that, but being as I shop very little I only receive 3/4 receipts through the month and in the summer less as I don’t get receipts when shopping the farmer’s market.

    I did feel I was on the journey with Beth vs feeling Bea was in a different world from me. Good book, glad you were able to find it.

    1. It was definitely more of a 'come along with me on a journey of ups and downs' with Beth! My mother always says she loves the US as she got a few receipts emailed to her – she implies there were loads, but I think in reality it wasn't that many. I'm sure Bea thinks rejecting them (and the store trashing them) might prompt them to sometime think 'maybe we should ask if people want their reciepts, and suppress unwanted ones'. But it's not happened yet, largely!

      1. Just to give you a baseline (and I'm certainly not an expert on the entire US) – around here, I am asked if I want a receipt at every gas pump, all public works offices (library, dept. of motor vehicles, etc.), and the Apple store. My hairdresser has me pay on the store iPad (unless I have cash) and then I can opt for an email receipt. But it's not yet the norm to ask before printing one anywhere else.

  8. I haven't read either of these books yet – I used to read their blogs, but then became very overwhelmed trying to do everything at once and so stopped reading them.
    Your measured approach to zero waste is very inspirational and I'm slowly but surely making small changes.

    1. I hear you about being overwhelmed! It happened to me today when I leisurely browsed the grocery store alone. There's just SO MUCH PLASTIC. But then I think, there's ways around what I need, and I can't change the people who want to double bag or can't use a basket and need a bag to get plastic wrapped noddles the few metres to the check out!!

      Thank you for the compliment – it is about the small steps. Nutting one thing out at a time, and just going as far as you can, what's possible and 'easy enough'. Slowly the picture comes together.

  9. I read Beth's Book from the library, ironically lined in plastic. LOL.

    I love Beth's journey. It really is hard to get away from plastic and I wonder what Bea is doing with all her receipts….I would hazard a guess, she's putting them in her compost or the recycling bin because remember her jar of trash….

    Beth has a youtube channel as well. She has one video where she's talking to her husband and in the video she asks him how it's been for him going plastic free. At one point in the video, he admits to lying to her about when he buys her things he knows she loves as far as food goes, he puts them in a reusable container, not telling them they came in plastic wrapping. It's kind of cute, lengthy but cute to see what my husbands prospective could be because he drove my truck the other day and I found a soda can on the floor board….and when I was driving his car, there was plastic water bottles hidden (yes hidden) in the floor board of the back seat..

    Here's a link to the video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhmzgpYCV9w&fe

    1. I think it'd be great to hear more from Beth and Bea's partners and kids (where applicable) about how they've adjusted. I will have to watch that video, it sounds sweet! The BF doesn't hide things (as far as I know) and I try to be moderate too – letting him buy coffee in single use cups rather than forcing the reusable cups. But I just get a funny look and he knows, but it's ok…

      1. Oh yes, I can understand relenting from vegetarianism for pepperoni pizza! I'm craving some now!! Actually, you must eat a lot less (animal) fat being a vego. I'd love to stop having to clean my sink from all that oily residue, but I think there's a snowflake's chance in hell we'd go vego in our house!

  10. Hi Sarah, I liked your license photos! Wanted to let you know I can't comment on your Facebook page. It doesn't give me the options to Comment or Like. I think it's because I'm registered as a Community Page rather than a personal one.

    1. I will definitely troubleshoot that – I know with half dozen daily, I can't comment on her posts, but I can like (as the person, not the blog), so I'll look into my settings too. Thanks for letting me know

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