Frequently Asked Questions

frequently asked questions

Who are you people?


We're a group of concerned citizens living in and around Viroqua, Wisconsin, in the heart of the Driftless region. We are parents, grandparents, small business owners, farmers, and teachers. Our individual journeys have looked different, but we've all found ourselves in the same effort to reduce plastic waste in the world--starting right here at home.




Why are you fighting plastic pollution?


We asked some of our members, and here's what they had to say:

"I want my grandchildren to grow up on a planet that is green and lush and healthy. We have not been doing a very good job of caring for the planet and I want to help change that." -Kitty Pityer


"I'm doing this now so that my son won't need to when he's grown up. Plastic pollution won't get fixed all by itself--someone needs to take action." -Tori Marshall "I grew up by the ocean and cherish it so much. Living in Wisconsin and loving the cold Driftless rivers always reminds me how connected we are to the sea, even this far inland. Fighting plastic pollution shows my children how to change things. It is totally within our power to eliminate plastic pollution." -Vicki Ramsay




Why is plastic so bad?


We're going to defer to the wonderful folks at the Plastic Pollution Coalition on this one. The primary problem with plastic is that it never goes away. It doesn't biodegrade, but it also can't be reused infinitely (like glass or aluminum). So the longer we use it, the more our earth fills up with the stuff--which is especially problematic since plastics are toxic for the environment and everything in it, including us. The sooner we can reverse course, the healthier we (and the planet!) will be.




What's the difference between plastic-free and zero waste?


These two concepts are related but distinct. Plastic-free is an ideal towards which many of us strive--living in a world that is free from unnecessary plastics. We acknowledge that plastics serve a useful purpose (for example, in keeping medical supplies sterile) but are fed up with how much unnecessary plastic is produced, and by extension, wasted. Zero waste is a bit more broad, looking at all of the waste we produce, and considering how that waste can be eliminated. Plastic waste is the worst offender because it cannot be infinitely reused and does not fit into a circular economy (where products are designed to be reabsorbed into the manufacturing process at the end of their use). Beyond that, zero waste looks at how other waste besides plastic can be eliminated or reimagined. A good example of this is composting. While composting is not necessarily part of a plastic-free platform, it fits in nicely with the zero waste lifestyle; it takes what was otherwise trash filling up our landfills and transforms it into a valuable resource. Viroqua Plastic Free initially aimed at reducing plastic waste, and while that is still its main focal point, it has expanded its mission to include broader zero waste actions.




How can I get involved?


So glad you asked! If you're looking for ways you can personally reduce your plastic footprint, check out our ten first steps to going zero waste. You can also peruse our blog where we talk about all things plastic-free. Looking for even more? We keep our website updated with our most recent action alert so you'll know where your action is most needed. You can sign up for our newsletter to keep in the loop--and consider joining us for one of our meetings! You can email us if you want more information.




How can I reduce my waste?


There are so many ways! For ten easy first steps, look here. And be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay informed on what's going on here in the Driftless region.




Won't recycling fix this?


Unfortunately not. A lot of materials that can be recycled aren't, and a lot of things that we think can be recycled can't be! Not even well-intentioned recycling can get us out of the plastic crisis. Less than 9% of plastics produced are recycled, and every time it goes into a recycling bin, it's downcycled until it eventually can't be reused at all. Even if everyone recycled their plastic, there's just too much of it, and it can't be recycled forever.




How has this changed during COVID?


At its core, nothing has changed. We are still planning for a plastic-free future, only our timeline has shifted. With bulk shopping closed, take-out necessary for safe dining, and increased precautions in every industry, we understand that plastic use is inevitably going to rise. But this highlights something important--there's only so much we as individuals can do. To truly transform the way our world uses plastic, we need change at the industry level.