By Pam Turczyn

Walking through the neighborhoods that surround the Co-op, one sees plastic debris everywhere. Empty plastic bags caught by breezes scud along the streets and eventually get caught up in drains, or even in the branches of trees. On hot summer days, plastic iced coffee tumblers lay empty and abandoned, straws still poking through snap-on lids. Even woodland trails in Prospect Park are strewn with plastic litter. Is there another way to live without leaving behind a trail of plastic that will never really go away?

The plastic we use everyday (petro-based polymers, aka fossil-fuel derived plastic) was once considered to be an extraordinary material that would change our lives for the better, making everything so affordable that it was also discardable. Now, we find that plastic is still useful and affordable but the discardable aspect has caught up with us.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, as just one example, is now estimated to be twice the size of Texas and is only one of five plastic debris accumulation patches found in the planet’s oceans. Plastic floating in salt water and exposed to sun, motion and sea life quickly degrades into micro plastics and even smaller nano plastics that are inadvertently consumed by fish, which then become part of our food supply. How this will affect human health, not to mention animal and plant life, is currently still being studied, but the answer most certainly won’t be good. 

Clearly, as a society, we must sharply curb the use of petro-based plastic, starting with the wildly irresponsible single-use plastics. China was once the biggest importer and recycler of plastic waste from the United States and several other countries until it issued an importation ban in early 2018. Since then, a lot of plastic placed in recycling bins is ending up in landfills.

Taking effect March 1, 2020, plastic bags will be banned in the state of New York. 

This is fantastic news for the environment, but how are you planning to store your produce, bulk grains and nuts, your lunch, food scraps and garbage? It’s time to start making the switch to life beyond plastic, and the Co-op is positioned to give you all the support you need.

Our bulk section is the best place to start reducing your use of petro-based plastic. Most of the products (dried beans and fruit, grains, nuts, etc.) arrive at the Co-op in large paper bags and are then put into our bulk food dispensers. Members can bring bulk food home in mesh bags and store it in glass jars, both available for purchase at the Co-op. Or you can bring any container in, take it to the cashier to weigh (aka measure the tare weight) and then fill it with the bulk items and have them weigh it again for the final price. 

More exciting news is on the horizon: a zero-waste household and personal care refill station has been proposed for Co-op members! Starting in the fall, we hope to be selling shampoo, conditioner, soap and laundry detergent from bulk containers, so you can eliminate even more plastic bottles from your life. We already carry Dr. Bronner’s soap in bulk, so you can start living your sustainable life now.

While changing our wasteful habits is the best way to support the ecology, here is a handy list of items currently carried by the Co-op that can reduce the use of fossil-fuel derived plastic in our homes: (Please note that the prices are from July 2019 and are subject to change.) 


~Food Storage Resealable Bags by BioBag. Compostable - for use in municipal facilities where applicable. Twenty quart-size bags per box. $4.66.

~Mesh Produce Bags by Flip & Tumble. Five 12 x 14” polyester bags for $9.44. Although reusable, please note that these are made with polyester, another petro-based product. Putting them through the washing machine may release microfibers into the environment. You can prevent this by tossing a Cora ball into the wash; it will collect any micro-fibers before they can escape into your building’s grey water.

~Compostable roll-bags for shopping in the Co-op store. 5 cents/bag

~Tall Kitchen Trash Bags by If You Care are compostable. 12 count. $6.28.

~Tall Kitchen Trash Bags made with plants by repurpose. BPA-free and compostable.  Twelve 13-gallon bags per box. $4.87

~Tall 13-gallon Food Scrap Bags by BioBag. Compostable - for use in municipal facilities where applicable. 12 count. $4.42.

`~Small 3-gallon Food Scrap Bags by BioBag. Compostable - for use in municipal facilities where applicable. Certified for home composting, too! 25 count. $4.05.

REUSABLE GLASS JARS for storing grains, nuts, flours and all other bulk items

~Quart-size, wide mouth with lid by Ball. $1.53

~Pint-size by Ball. $1.13

~Half-pint-size by Ball. $1.01


~Wax paper by Krasdale. $1.96 per roll.

~All natural waxed paper by If You Care environmentally friendly products. Unbleached TCF. $5.77 per roll


~Compostable straws (50 Ct. $2.34), plates (20 Ct. $4.67) and forks (24 Ct. $2.77) by World Centric.

~Dishwasher Tablets by If You Care come in a cardboard box. 40 Ct. $8.92.

~Walnut Scrubber Sponge by Full Circle is compostable. Two for $2.62.

~Shopping Totes by Flip and Tumble. Available in yellow, rose, coral and cerulean. $8.53.


~24-Hour Deodorant Spray by Weleda in glass bottles. Wild Rose or Citrus. 3.4 ounce. $12.12.

~Feminine Hygiene Products by Natracare are all plastic-free. Ultra-pads with wings, 24 count $4.28; Panty Liners, 30 count $2.60; Cotton Tampons with Applicators, Super 16 count or Regular 20 count $5.81; Cotton Tampons without Applicators, Super or Regular 20 count $4.93.

~Bamboo Toothbrush by Panda. $2.48.

~Recycled Plastic Toothbrush by Preserve. $2.93

~Shave Soap by Herban Cowboy. $3.63.

~Glycerine Creme Soap Bar by Sappo Hill is packaging-free. Sandalwood or Fragrance Free Oatmeal. $1.71.

~Soap Bars by Dr.Bronner’s are wrapped in paper. Citrus, Tea Tree, Rose, Peppermint, Almond and Unscented. 5 ounces. $3.43.

~Blooming Jasmine Soap by South of France is paper-wrapped. 6 oz. $2.71.

~Gentle Floss by Ecodent with Essential Oils comes in a paper box. 100 yards. $4.37.

~Meow Meow Tweet products areall packaged in paper rather than plastic: deodorant, shampoo bar, Lavender Lemon Body Soap ($9) and a sun cream in an aluminum bottle.