Lida Iles of Bethel has been saving plastic since Jan. 2. “If I was willing to dump out these bags, they would fill up half the garage, because I have it scrunched down as tight as I can,” Iles says. Rose Lincoln/Bethel Citizen

BETHEL — Lida Iles is a curious person.

She remembers being intrigued by a baby bird that had died. She saved it in the freezer to later sketch it.

Like her curiosity of the baby bird, Iles was curious about plastic. Specifically, how much plastic would two people (she and her husband, Bob) accumulate in one year.

Beginning Jan. 2, Iles began saving their plastic waste. Because they drink so much milk, she excluded plastic milk jugs.

Of the six huge bags of plastic she has been storing in a shed, Iles said, “This is from two elderly people who are careful what we buy. If you multiply this by the millions of people in the country … (plastic) is going to stay in the environment for ever and ever.”

Iles got started down this road after watching a movie about what happens to waste. The film showed people shoveling plastic garbage in the ocean. “It doesn’t just go away. There’s no such place as away.” was the message of the movie, she said.


A change at a time

Iles says, it is almost impossible to shop without buying plastic. But she tries.

She buys laundry strips for herself and gives them as gifts, too. They arrive in cardboard envelopes, eliminating the need to buy plastic laundry jugs.

She buys toilet paper from a company that uses no plastic wrapping, everything is paper-enclosed, instead. She found biodegradable plastic wrap, too.

In place of shampoo bottles, she uses the soap bars hikers use to wash her hair.

She brings her own bags to the grocery store but not just to use at the checkout. If she wants half the grapes in the cellophane bag, for instance, she takes out what she needs and puts them in her own washed and saved plastic bag. The same with green beans, she’ll ask for a smaller amount to take home in her own reusable bag.


As a little girl, she remembers their family’s meat was wrapped in paper. She hasn’t figured out a way around today’s plastic at the deli and in the meat section.

She is annoyed by the use of netted bags to sell mandarin oranges. They end up in minute pieces in the ocean. “The fish are eating it … it’s affecting them, it’s affecting us,” said Iles.

Her frustration peaked when a quarterly, paper, bank document kept arriving in a plastic bag in the mail. Finally she wadded up the plastic and returned it to the company. “I’m a great believer in writing to complain,” she said.

“We’ve gotten so spoiled,” said Iles, “There are a lot of people that care about this, but whether they care enough to change their buying habits … I don’t know, because it’s so hard to do.”

She said she will feel terrible when she finally heads to the transfer station to recycle her 11 months of saved, flattened plastic.

“Terrible, terrible. When you realize that this is all going to the landfills or the ocean … It’s just overwhelming that it will be here forever … in my wildest nightmare I can’t imagine what this heap is going to be like in 100 years and this is just household items…,” said Iles.

She plans to dump her saved plastic directly into the transfer station bin, then return home with the five large trash bags she drove in with.

She said she will find a way to reuse them.

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