Friday, August 7, 2009

Shrinking From Guilt

From the bean of Green Bean.

Forgive me, Beth, for I have sinned.

It's been a long summer. Scratch that. It's been a short summer that flew by in between summer camps and camping. My regular mid-week farmers' market was closed for much of the summer. Weekends were punctuated with visits to grandma and grandpa's, birthday parties or mini getaways.

I'm afraid that I didn't make it to the farmers' market as much as I would have liked. I resorted to buying the local produce sold at my Whole Food's market. Not too bad. So what am I feeling guilty about?

All those darned plastic clamshells that the local produce come in at the supermarket. I cannot tell you the number of times I stood, frozen with indecision, over a stack of strawberries wondering if it was better to buy the local and organic ones wrapped in number 6 plastic or to mosey on over to the New Zealand apples where I could use my own bag.

The locavore won out.

She also won a stack of number 6 plastic clamshells. Ones that my recycler won't take. Do I just fill the landfill with them?

Now, I don't claim superhero status for nuthin'. And I don't give in quite that easy. I dimly remembered something about number 6 plastic. Something crafty. Something fun. Something kidsy.

A bit of research (read: one Google search) unearthed dozens of DIY instructions for turning number 6 plastic into shrinky dinks. I picked a few of the more interesting links and away we went.


number 6 plastic
permanent markers
cookie sheet
aluminum foil or parchment paper
hole punch (optional)

1) Cut out shapes of number 6 plastic.

2) Draw on them with markers. Some of the websites claim you can use colored pencils, stamps from an ink pad, or paint also work. We just settled for the three sharpies we had on hand.

3) If you want to make a hole to turn it into a necklace, earrings, a key chain, and something similar afterward, now is the time to use the hole punch. We might revisit this project at Christmas time to make ornaments or for Valentine's Day to make zipper pulls.

4) Put on foil or parchment paper covered cookie sheet in preheated over (350 degrees) and watch your art shrink. It may curl up but you can flatten it as soon as you remove it from the oven. For us, it worked best to do one at a time. Some of the bigger pieces or ones with ridges (which mostly flatten out in the cooking) tend to curl and need to be straightened. You've only got about 10-15 seconds after removing your creation from the oven to straighten it or shape it into something else - this adventuresome crafter turned hers into rings - so you need to move quickly.

Here's what happens if you don't move quite quickly enough.

Finished product.

5) Seal with some sort of poly urethane to protect the drawing from scratching off. Apparently, clear nail polish does not work and, as we've nothing in the house, I'll have to borrow some from my neighbors.

6) I've read where some people smelled off-gassing. We didn't notice any fumes but, if there are some, you can always open a window and turn the oven to 400 degrees and bake it for 20 minutes to get rid of any lingering fumes.

Was this project cape-worthy? Well, I would feel a bit more like an eco-hero if I had avoided the plastic clamshells in the first place. That said, we definitely made the best out of a bad situation in shrinking from our guilt.


Farmer's Daughter said...

Oh my gosh! I used to LOVE shrinky dinks!

I want some #6 plastic now... uh-oh!

The Mom said...

Shrinky dinks are awesome! Another thing those clamshells are good for is starting seeds. They make wonderful little mini greenhouses and can be used over and over.

Lisa A. said...

Great idea! Why won't the recycler take that kind of plastic?

Kelsie said...

Yep! I winter sowed several of my medicinal herbs in those clamshells, and they did GREAT. Just another idea for you. :)

Green Bean said...

Abbie: Weren't shrinky dinks such fun as kids.

Mom: Oh, I love the seed starting idea! Totally using that one.

Lisa: Our recycler does not accept clamshells - even ones that are number 1 or 2 plastic which is supposed to be the best for recycling. I'm not exactly sure why.

Kelsie: Another vote for the mini greenhouses. It's a great use especially for the ones we get that are not number 6 plastic. That is, if I'm not successful in avoiding clamshells the rest of the year.

Olivia said...

While our recycler takes these clamshells, I save the few that I have for picking berries at local U-Picks - they are a good size as the berries don't get squashed and the fact that they have lids means that the berries don't roll all over the car while transporting them home. I just wash them out and reuse them.

Daisy said...

I know the feeling! I've used little plastic containers as seed starters, but sometimes I even use them to freeze small amounts of things like spinach or rhubarb.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

Funny that you wrote about this today! I picked up a children's crafts book from the library this week that had instructions for doing something like this. We were thinking about trying it. Glad to see it works!

Green Bean said...

Olivia: That's another good idea. I've been reusing my strawberry baskets to hold our homegrown cherry tomatoes - before returning the baskets to the farmers market for reuse. Love being able to avoid the trash can.

Daisy: Not that's an idea! Ours all had holes. Does it not matter if there's some air that gets in when you freeze the spinach and such?

Erin: Great minds think alike! And yes, it definitely works and was a lot of fun.

Anonymous said...

Oh! Oh! Oh! My eyes! And nose! Make it stop! Noxious styrene! Not green! Not! Not! Not!

Okay, I'm done now. Just don't let this happen again.

Green Bean said...

Beth: Oh, I knew you couldn't resist.

Beany said...

Glad I'm not the only one. I got mine from the CSA whose subscription I eventually cancelled because we couldn't come to an agreement on proper packaging. I've saved all my plastic and styrofoam clamshells. I washed them and have reused some of them for charity work - making sandwiches for homeless for example.

SusanB said...

It's the only way to get blueberries around here -- and we go through a lot of locally grown blueberries. Most of the clamshells are now #1 100% recycled PETE for what it's worth -- last year there were some #6 in the mix. (All the other farmer's market small fruit is in cardboard).

I use the plastic clamshells to store other produce in the fridge. And my big use is to cut off the bottoms and tops and use the bodies to cage seeds and seedlings and prevent squirrel and rabbit depravation. So right now I'm not complaining too much.


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