A UK family made headlines this month for having thrown out only one bag of garbage all year. Perhaps I’m just jealous, but to me it sounds almost unbelievable. So of course I had to run and go look in the trash and see how my rubbish stacked up.
So what’s in there, and should it be?
A used tissue. Yeah, pretty sure that should go in there. Did they only use handkerchiefs all year? I can’t imagine making it all the way through cold season with hankies. And imagine how many times you’d have to wash them!
Wilted cilantro. The worst part of buying fresh herbs? I almost never finish it all before it goes bad. And that’s not all the food I end up throwing away. But I have to say, I think I do much better than the average American. Estimates find that Americans throw away anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of food available for consumption. This is obviously a huge problem not just for our landfills, but for a society where people are going hungry. My goal will be to continue carefully planning out meals to use everything, and not to buy more than I can use in a week.
A Clif bar wrapper. I try and eat as few packaged and processed foods as possible, but I do eat several Clif bars each week. The Strausses mailed all their chip wrappers to the Phillipines to be woven into pencil cases. Is there a similar market for Clif bar wrappers? Why, yes there is! I just signed up for the TerraCycle Wrapper Brigade, which allows you to send in wrappers to be “upcycled” into new products – and you even get money for your favorite charity in the process.
A piece of dental floss. Yeah, pretty sure that has to go. I floss every day (my dentist would be so proud), so that’s a regular item.
Cardboard packaging from razor refills. Why is this in there? It’s cardboard so it’s clearly recyclable. Maybe I just don’t really think about recycling outside of the kitchen realm where the recycling bin is right there? Perhaps I need to get another recycling bin.
A few envelopes. Junk mail takes so much time to sort through. But I do: I put everything that needs to be shredded in one pile (and then I’ll recycle the shreds), all the plain paper in a recycling pile and all the envelopes with the little plastic address windows in the trash pile. I’d always heard that envelopes like that aren’t recyclable. But a quick check of our county Web site reveals that envelopes with windows are no problem. Guess I need to go fish those out.
A sticker from an apple. In high school I had notebooks that, by the end of the year, would be completely covered with them. What the heck can we do with those suckers?
So, obviously I still had some learning to do about what exactly is recyclable in my area and some different ways to give trash a second life. And this little experiment has encouraged me to install a recycling bin on the second level of my house for things like magazines, paper and cardboard.
I still don’t think I’ll be able to come anywhere near the Strausses’ level of conservation, but I’m excited to try and make a noticeable dent in our trash collection.
What’s in your trash that might not have to be?
Image Credit: Flickr/TedAbbott through a Creative Commons license