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How to stop using plastic?


MIch elle
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Move to a third world country?

 

I use reusable bags at the grocery store.

We don't use disposable anything in this house aside from paper products.

We buy wood toys when the option is there.

 

 

I look forward to other responses.

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I don't even understand the question. I mean...my dishes, microwave, broom and toothbrush is all made with plastic. My hangers are plastic, my pens are plastic...My computer is made with plastic. Much of my food comes in plastic containers!

 

I guess the question is how can you avoid plastic?

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Read Zero Waste Home. She has a book & a blog.

 

She talks specifically in her book about getting rid of plastics in her home. For example, buy most foods from farmer's markets (unwrapped), or buy fresh foods & bulk foods from the market. Take your own containers (she takes glass jars & fabric/net bags) for putting items in. You can buy things like toothbrushes made from bamboo, etc....

 

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Significantly reduced, yes. Stopped, not thus far, though I'd like to.   We:

 

1) have water problems and got a Berkey filter to get away from plastic bottled water or filters.

 

2) have cloth bags for buying vegetables, bulk items,  etc. fresh at store  (some pourable bulk items also exist at our stores which can go into glass jars...)

 

3) have some non-plastic containers for food/drinks on the go

 

4) don't get clothes with plastic pictures on T-shirts etc., and try to discourage gifts of these to be given to us (though still do get essentially plastic clothing in form of poly "fleece"--but prefer cotton or wool when it works to do that)

 

5) buy some things in bulk which avoids some of the plastic packaging,

 

6) choose glass bottled items when possible over plastic  (not always possible for us) --- for example, I use frozen vegetables and fruits which come in plastic bags only where I am.   Ideally I'd grow them and freeze them in glass, or buy at Farmer's Market and freeze, but Ideal and what I've been able to manage have a gap between them.  Some things we get only are available in a plastic wrapped version...maybe someday I'll get completely away from them or find non-plastic wrapped options, but that has not happened yet.

 

7) try to store things in fridge/freezer in glass canning jars etc. rather than plastic

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I don't even understand the question. I mean...my dishes, microwave, broom and toothbrush is all made with plastic. My hangers are plastic, my pens are plastic...My computer is made with plastic. Much of my food comes in plastic containers!

 

I guess the question is how can you avoid plastic?

 

 

Well, we don't have a microwave, nor a dishwasher, no plastic dishes, barely use hangers (drawers instead--though wire and wood hangers also exist), and while it has some plastic, I chose a computer with an aluminum exterior, and a fridge with glass rather than plastic covered wire shelves, and a drier with a metal rather than plastic drum.  We also have a wood clothes rack and a clothes line, but this is rainy Oregon and the humidity is often too high to dry anything that way. My main broom has straw ends and a wooden pole handle, but my vacuum cleaner does have plastic hose and wand ends.  I have wax paper to use in some cases where one might use plastic wrap--I've not used plastic wrap since I was an adult, but I do use zipper lock bags still. We still have much more plastic than I'd like to have, including toothbrush and pens, many medicine/vitamin containers only have a plastic option--actually ones our dog just got are metal tubes and plastic tops, I see.  We have bleach that comes in plastic containers.  Our organic cheese comes wrapped in plastic--note to company: if they had it in a wax rind version I'd get that instead.

 

I'm assuming that the OP is first and foremost concerned about forms of plastic that get into bodies, and secondly ones that most contaminate the environment. Probably least concerned with ones that are not so much in contact with bodies and that are not turned into trash immediately such as plastic in vacuums hose tubes and wands or plastic in car bumpers or plastic on bike reflectors.  But I may be wrong, maybe OP will explain further.

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I don't even understand the question. I mean...my dishes, microwave, broom and toothbrush is all made with plastic. My hangers are plastic, my pens are plastic...My computer is made with plastic. Much of my food comes in plastic containers!

 

I guess the question is how can you avoid plastic?

 

Mostly how to stop ONE time used plastic items - bags, wraps, bottles, etc. 

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Thanks for the responses so far.

 

5 lb bag of potatoes = plastic bag

3 lb onions = plastic mesh bag

I get them from a bin of individuals and can put them in a paper of cloth bag.   Also, we have potatoes and onion greens in our garden in season for that.

 

 

all meat = styrofoam & plastic wrap

 

 

Some of our meat comes from butcher and is wrapped in paper. Some is from a farm where we get a meat share and does have some plastic between the meat and the paper, but lots less than you are probably finding in grocery store, and no styrofoam... 

 

 

rice = plastic bag   --not if you get it bulk and use your own bags, also rice and beans can sometimes be bought in 25 pound or so paper sacks with the stitching at top that pulls like a zipper

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laundry detergent = plastic

or a cardboard box with dry detergent, or refillable bottles from bulk detergent

napkins & tp = plastic wrapped

Cloth napkins, not.  Some brands of tp in paper. (Scott has some, I think.)

milk = plastic bottle

etc.

Or waxed cardboard, or there are still some companies that have glass bottles, like Strauss.
 
etc.

 

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A subject near and dear. I try the best I can. but the computer, the car, the kindle, the phone, CDs, DVDs, the CPR masks, the credit and debit card....plastic. There is no way I can see around that. (Well, OK Netflix! Pandora!) I was thinking about the stuff I hauled away from the library today. (And my suggestions for Easter baskets for older kids. ;))

 

But. I have no plastic plates or glasses.  Reusable water bottles (I like Kleen Kanteen, although my dds don't like the taste of water/metal. They have glass bottles, covered in silicon ;))  meat from the butcher, or fish, is in paper, not plastic, and then I transfer to glass or put straight in the freezer.  I compost the paper. I just tell them not to put it in a plastic bag. Sometimes they look at you funny, but they will do it.  (The Zero Waste author recommends glass jars.)

 

No small containers of yogurt, and I try to buy the local brand in the glass jar.

 

No single- serving packaging, except for the necessary evil of the Cliff Bars for dds.

 

I buy raw milk in glass. There is a local brand of regular organic milk that also comes in a bottle.

 

I try to buy bulk (pasta, beans, popcorn, nuts etc)  That's easy here, not so easy elsewhere.

 

We use metal or glass for sack lunches. Lunchbots is one brand, but they are overpriced.

 

Dh and I use paper towels (compostable) when we walk our dogs. The girls use plastic bags (we can be recycled here). I am working on that with them.  We all flush the dog waste.

 

Everything that is possible to recycle is, and everything compostable is put in compost. My kids have seen me freak out at tissues in the wastebasket. Why?

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Choose different brands or quantities at the supermarket:

Potatoes – some varieties are sold in paper bags.  There is nearly always an option to buy loose potatoes.

Onions – buy loose

Other vegetables – plenty of loose options

Fruit – other than berries and grapes, usually sold loose

Rice – larger quantities often sold in paper or burlap sacks. Look in the ethnic food aisle.

Milk – Half-gallon, quart, and pint are available in waxed paper cartons.

Laundry detergent – powder is packaged in cardboard (or buy supplies and make your own).

TP – Scott and some store brands are wrapped in paper.

Avoid single serving packaging.  Buy the largest size and split into portions at home.  You’ll still have packaging waste, but it will be less than if you buy multiple smaller containers.

 

If you really want to get away from plastic, avoid the supermarket:

Farmer’s markets – they’ll put produce in whatever bags you supply.

Independent butchers – often use waxed butcher paper.

Independent dairy – glass bottles, you will pay a hefty deposit on the bottles though.

Ethnic stores – carry rice and other staples packaged in larger bags, sometimes have bulk bins.

Janitorial supply store - You’ll probably have to buy by the case, but packaging on paper products will be minimal. 

Any store with bulk food bins – take your own containers and get the quantity desired.

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I second the suggestion of Zero Waste Home. This matters to me a lot. Most people think I am nuts, though.

 

I cannot eliminate plastic, true, but I like to keep it as small as possible. In the food department, it often comes to growing food, canning and preserving, making homemade foods and treats and putting things in my own cloth bags. But I admittedly vascillate on my execution. If I go to the market co-op, it's easy to do there. Nothing surprises those crunchola people!

 

At regular groceries, or, god forbid, Walmart, they struggle to understand weird requests and cloth produce bags.

 

Here's a story where I got to feel like an idiot. When I wanted to buy my second load of chicken feed ever, I went to the feed store with my empty feed bag. When I had gotten my first bag, it was in a generic bag, tied with a jute rope. So, I was envisioning a silo that dispensed the feed into the bag, according to the amount you request. I asked if they could fill my bag with fifty pounds and they all looked at me with big ??? Over their heads. One guy said, "but we sell fifty pound bags, already sealed. Why would you want me to open a bag and pour it into this bag?" That was when I realized there is no bulk option!

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Here's a story where I got to feel like an idiot. When I wanted to buy my second load of chicken feed ever, I went to the feed store with my empty feed bag. When I had gotten my first bag, it was in a generic bag, tied with a jute rope. So, I was envisioning a silo that dispensed the feed into the bag, according to the amount you request. I asked if they could fill my bag with fifty pounds and they all looked at me with big ??? Over their heads. One guy said, "but we sell fifty pound bags, already sealed. Why would you want me to open a bag and pour it into this bag?" That was when I realized there is no bulk option!

 Those are bags compostable. Good for kindling, and I've lined the bottom of my raised beds with them.

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We definitely haven't won that yet in our house, either, but here are some helpers:

 

  • cloth shopping bags - We get just enough plastic ones to keep by the litter box, usually if DH forgets to bring the reusables.
  • cloth produce bags (I use one for items like green beans, but honestly if I'm just getting a couple of onions, what do I need a bag for anyway?)
  • glass containers for storing leftovers (Anchor Hocking makes some nice ones, but many things fit well in a large canning jar.)
  • Imse Vimse makes nice cotton mama cloth, if you're interested.
  • Small-child-friendly drinking glasses are available from Montessori websites like forsmallhands.com, or there are stainless steel bottles like Klean Kanteen.
  • Local milk sold in glass bottles (with a deposit) can be made into yogurt at home (in glass containers).
  • I make powdered laundry detergent from ingredients sold in cardboard boxes. (Although I do store mine in a plastic container, it will last for many years instead of a few weeks.) You can also simply buy powdered detergent in a box.
  • Snacks can be packed in small canning jars or in cloth velcro bags like Snack Taxi. There are also stainless steel lunch boxes now.

 

 

And we have yet to master/replace...

  • trash bags (but composting helps reduce how often we need them).
  • toys (certain people love to buy plastic toys for their adorable grandchild).
  • cheese (but I'm the only one who eats it).
  • meat: some brands are now forgoing the styrofoam trays, but there's still plastic wrapping.
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All right, I am now inspired to eliminate one more plastic item from my life. I think I will choose slide lock bags.  I am sharing this partly because this was how I got as far as I am now which was to choose one doable thing at a time...   Like, buy a Kleen Kanteen for each person and get on to using it. Or order large sacks of beans and rice in the paper sack form.  Or get fabric bags for produce--and start a system for having them available and tossing then into the wash. Or garden more.  Each thing has been its own step.  Not all were motivated by the desire to decrease plastics use -- more a general motivation toward personal and planetary healthfulness, of which that was one part.

 

One step incidentally, that I realized could be a big factor for you, that for me to cut down a whole lot of plastic and other unhealthy stuff all at once was to choose some good stores to work with (even one would do, but I found 3 that I commonly use)--and since they were not so close to me as less good stores to work out a plan of shopping for things that needed store trips less often.  

 

So I suggest maybe for your very first step to look at what stores you can use and choose a store or stores that provide(s) the most options for avoiding plastics.  For example, I don't have to go to a separate butcher because two of my regular grocery/supermarkets that I use have   butcher sections with people that wrap meat/fish/poultry in paper--rather than stuff pre-wrapped in styrofoam and plastic. And these same stores as well as another that is vegetarian only have excellent bulk sections where one can fill ones own containers with everything from pasta and rice type items to herbs and chocolate chip type items to liquid soaps and other liquids, as well as bins of potatoes and onions etc. rather than bagged of those, and also are prepared to deal with bulk orders (I assume that when I get a big sack of something it is probably the sort of sack they get in to fill their bulk bins).  All 3 of these stores I found and like most are either independent or part of small chains, one was part of a chain, and then the workers bought it themselves which is kind of neat in and of itself, IMO. But I think some from larger chains like Wild Oats perhaps, maybe Whole Foods might also be able to do this sort of thing.  Incidentally, if you are using heavier containers you own--glass, fabric, etc.--often IME, the sorts of stores that seem to be ready for that also will take off the tare weight of the container so you are only paying for the contents.

 

I appreciate the reminder that this thread also serves as! I just caught myself slipping into getting a plastic bag of romaine lettuces the other day and instead got the ones that are loose (they are darker green and probably more nutritious too!)

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An fyi in case you've never taken your own jars to the store before for buying... Take a chalk marker w/ you &, as soon as you enter the store, go to customer service & have them tell you the tare weight (unfilled weight) of your jars. Then write Tare ___ with whatever number they give you for each jar. At the bulk bins, you can also use your chalk marker to write the item number on your jar. That way, the cashier will have everything he/she needs to properly weigh your bulk items (subtracting the tare weight), plus the proper code to type in for the item you're purchasing.

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This is going to take work!  No more autopilot while food shopping. Whole Foods and/or a place that sells in bulk with fill your own container is not an option (too far).

 

I know that I can buy loose potatoes, onions, and other produce so I'll have to start with those that are not pre-packaged. I don't have cloth sacks for vegs so I'm going to reuse the plastic bags (thin transparent ones in the store) until they are no longer useable instead of using them a few times and then throwing them away like I have in the past. (I have been using reuseable bags for carrying my groceries for years.) 

 

I've told my family not to throw away any plastic, we are going to save it all and reuse as much as possible.  I'm not going to be lazy and make sure the large kitchen garbage bag is totally FULL before I tie it off & put outside.

 

Try washing my hair with soap instead of shampoo (but I need that conditioner in a bottle) - any suggestions?

Milk in a carton - not plastic

Laundry detergent in a box - not plastic or make my own

Buy the largest size available of rice in a plastic bag and reuse that bag (I've bought some rice in sacks and there is still a plastic bag inside)

 

What about vitamins and supplements in a plastic bottle?  I guess buy the largest size. 

I like to buy some frozen vegetables in plastic - ugh!

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I know that I can buy loose potatoes, onions, and other produce so I'll have to start with those that are not pre-packaged. I don't have cloth sacks for vegs so I'm going to reuse the plastic bags (thin transparent ones in the store) until they are no longer useable instead of using them a few times and then throwing them away like I have in the past. (I have been using reuseable bags for carrying my groceries for years.) 

 

Instead of using the transparent plastic bags from the store, can't you just put the fruit/vegs directly into your reusable bags, then unload at the checkout line? Or, I know some people use the small net laundry bags for fruit/veg bags.

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I am enjoying this thread!!!

 

My son and I use his old tee shirts and turn them into bags for produce at the farmers market.  I let him help me 'sew' them (they are very simple) and he gets a kick out of using them--dinosaurs, trucks, other cool stuff on them. :) They are great for the tees that have teensy holes and really shouldn't be donated.

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We ditched plastic leftover containers and replaced them with glass.  That was a fairly painless way to get rid of some plastic.  We also got rid of all our plastic water/sports bottles ad replaced them with stainless steel LL Bean water bottles.

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Here's another thing we did: my mother made a bunch of trashcan liners that are washable. So, we don't have plastic bags in all the minor trashcans. (I also use these in my Recycles can, until It's convenient to dump it in the large Recycles bin.) I do still use a kitchen garbage bag for kitchen trash.

 

I have not stumbled upon a good way to avoid plastic for freezer foods. The best option I can come up with is to reuse plastic containers many times over.

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I try because I hate the waste of packaging. We have these mesh bags for using for fruit and veg, they weigh next to nothing and we've had them for years. I can always do better as we run out if it's a big shop. 

 

We always take reusable shopping bags with us. Big thick Hessian type ones. 

 

Other stuff I just try my best, some things have limited options when it comes to packaging, some things we can get refilled like detergent so we're not buying a bottle very often. We have really good kerbside recycling here so everything we can gets recycled. 

 

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Some of this is just great for people with extra money to burn.  I try my best, but for example, this past week the choice was a 5 pound bag of potatoes for $1.49 verses loose potatoes at 99 cents a pound.  I can't bring myself to spend so much more to save a bag. 

 

And thing with bulk bins, I feel more comfortable using them if there appears to be a lot of people using them.  Otherwise, I wonder how long that stuff sits in there and how often those things get cleaned.  Most of the stores I shop at don't have bulk bins.  One does, but only a few and they don't appear to get much use so I don't touch them usually. 

 

I do like the idea of reusable produce bags though and I think I should get some of those.  Or make some.  Then again probably 75% of the produce sold in the stores I shop at come bagged already. 

 

I use plastic for the cat litter.  I have not figured out a way around that.  Someone told me to dump it in the trash can, but that's not allowed here.  Half of it would end up on the street if the trash people dumped that into the truck.  I might get away with paper, but I don't know where to buy larger quantities of paper bags so they don't end up costing an arm and a leg. 

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Some of this is just great for people with extra money to burn.  I try my best, but for example, this past week the choice was a 5 pound bag of potatoes for $1.49 verses loose potatoes at 99 cents a pound.  I can't bring myself to spend so much more to save a bag. 

 

And thing with bulk bins, I feel more comfortable using them if there appears to be a lot of people using them.  Otherwise, I wonder how long that stuff sits in there and how often those things get cleaned.  Most of the stores I shop at don't have bulk bins.  One does, but only a few and they don't appear to get much use so I don't touch them usually. 

 

I do like the idea of reusable produce bags though and I think I should get some of those.  Or make some.  Then again probably 75% of the produce sold in the stores I shop at come bagged already. 

 

I use plastic for the cat litter.  I have not figured out a way around that.  Someone told me to dump it in the trash can, but that's not allowed here.  Half of it would end up on the street if the trash people dumped that into the truck.  I might get away with paper, but I don't know where to buy larger quantities of paper bags so they don't end up costing an arm and a leg. 

 

 

Yeah. Especially in some places the expense can be high. That is difficult if your finances are tight.

 

It seems like it should be the other way round since the bag and doing the bagging must have cost something...but they often put less nice looking produce in the bags where people cannot look at each one individually and pick and choose, so maybe that is why it is often less that way.  I wonder if the companies could be implored on to take back the empties for reuse. That might be a win-win answer.

 

One of my relatives and I though have had (friendly) disputes because she won't spend extra to help health and environment, but has enough money to go on multiple overseas vacation trips. We barely go anywhere. It is a matter of priorities being different in this case and what to put limited money toward.

 

We are in an area that has a lot more use of bulk bins and that sort of thing, than many I think, but it sort of took a groundswell of customers wanting it to make it happen.

 

Your comment about the bulk bins made me think of something to mention. If you, or OP, or anyone, get grains type foods,  from bulk bins it can be a good idea to put them in the freezer when they first come home so that if there happen to be any eggs of pantry moths they are killed. Don't freak out. It is said that one of the ways it was possible to be vegetarian in some cultures in past times was that there was just enough of such animal matter in the vegetarian foods that it met dietary needs for B12 and so on. They are harmless, but if they hatch, then they are, IMO annoying and disgusting.  You can probably ask about the age of the contents of bins. The big containers used to fill them would have use by dates almost certainly.  I worked in a food place where I saw some behind the scenes stuff that you probably do not want to know about, but the food in bins is not necessarily any less clean than that in packages, the packages give an illusion. 

 

We are out in country and if you are in city this is probably not possible for you, but it may be if you have at least some little suburban yard with bushes. We use a biodegradable/compostable cat litter (one we've used is wheat hull based, for example) and then use the waste around the base of a tree... a bit away from the house if it is stinky and can also add some yeast to get rid of smell. We don't have a lot though since the cats are mainly outdoor cats unless there is bad weather or an injury or a mouse. The yeast use was a trick I learned from some Amish who put a little bread type yeast into outhouse holes to eat up the waste and stop odor.  They kept one package going with a medium to grow it  if they needed to use it a lot rather than use lots of individual expensive packages...  I guess also they were baking bread at least weekly.

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It seems like it should be the other way round since the bag and doing the bagging must have cost something...but they often put less nice looking produce in the bags where people cannot look at each one individually and pick and choose, so maybe that is why it is often less that way.

 

They put the stuff in clear plastic bags though so you can look at most of it.  I have not generally had issues buying stuff that way.  There are many instances of this too.  Like strawberries.  I have never ever seen those sold without a container.  Or blueberries.  Or geesh so many things. 

 

I don't mind paying a bit more for picking my own, but if we are talking $1.49 for 5 pounds verses .99 a pound that's a HUGE difference. 

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I do like the idea of reusable produce bags though and I think I should get some of those. Or make some. Then again probably 75% of the produce sold in the stores I shop at come bagged already.

 

I use plastic for the cat litter. I have not figured out a way around that. Someone told me to dump it in the trash can, but that's not allowed here. Half of it would end up on the street if the trash people dumped that into the truck. I might get away with paper, but I don't know where to buy larger quantities of paper bags so they don't end up costing an arm and a leg.

I use World's Best Cat Litter, which is corn-based and flushable. It still gets sold in plastic bags, though. But back when I fostered a lot of cats, I did a cost comparison and despite this one having one of the highest sticker prices, it came out to being very inexpensive because it lasts forever without dumping the whole hoax.

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I use World's Best Cat Litter, which is corn-based and flushable. It still gets sold in plastic bags, though. But back when I fostered a lot of cats, I did a cost comparison and despite this one having one of the highest sticker prices, it came out to being very inexpensive because it lasts forever without dumping the whole hoax.

 

I tried some of the corn stuff.  I liked it, but it does not clump (even though it says it does).  I didn't try flushing it.  I'm kind of afraid to do that considering my toilet seems to clog even if I stick a bit too much toilet paper in it!

I will look for flushable.  I'm willing to try it.

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I tried some of the corn stuff. I liked it, but it does not clump (even though it says it does). I didn't try flushing it. I'm kind of afraid to do that considering my toilet seems to clog even if I stick a bit too much toilet paper in it!

I will look for flushable. I'm willing to try it.

I agree that some of the corn stuff does not clump. This one does, very well. It works for both the automatic litter box and our regular box.

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