Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Talkin' Trash

- a day in the life of my garbage can

Car(bon) Free in California recently challenged his readers to participate in a week long test to measure how much garbage we generate. Participants are to document every thing they throw out for a week. Unfortunately, a week is a mighty long time in the life of a mom with two preschoolers who is also trying to lose weight in PROJECT NOWASTE and potty train her youngest.

So, sorry Charlie, but I decided to do the trash challenge for a single day. I'll revisit it on the 1st of every month to see where I'm at but, really, tracking trash for a day is eye-opening. I recorded all garbage and recycling but not compost. I noted what my two kids and I generated but not my husband - it's hard to keep track of what he does. He's a wily one. ;-)

After nine months of reducing trash, buying stuff with less packaging, harassing junk mailers and recycling or composting the heck out of anything left, here's what a day in the life of my trash can looks like:

pie crust
old granola
plastic bag to pancake mix
dozen tissues
plastic popper for New Year's
contact lens solution cap
candy wrapper
plastic wrap for new contact lens solution bottle
twist tie from gift bag
two plastic bags from flour
four diapers, two in re-used bags
three wipes
plastic from cotton swab box
4 pieces of gum
plastic lid for economy pack of gum
two unidentified pieces of small plastic
4 sticker backings
1 sticker
plastic bag from stickers

box for firewood
paper from cotton swab box
shipping box
paper from sticker package
receipt with writing on back
box for new contact lens solution bottle
contact lens solution bottle
bottle for economy pack of gum
paper pamphlet for new yard tool
one piece of junk mail

paper bag from pancake mix (for diapers)
twist tie from Whole Foods bulk (re-use next time buy bulk)
3 receipts with no writing on back (re-use for scratch paper)
paper from shipping box (re-use for kids' art)

What I Learned

My take away is that I'm still throwing a lot of trash (mostly plastic) in the can.

First and foremost, I need to get the little one out of disposable diapers. He's almost three and, despite what he says, needs to be potty trained.

Further, a lot of the trash and some of the recycling come from others or are remnants from my old life. The stickers, candy wrapper, junk mail and twist tie are all "gifts" of some sort. I wouldn't buy plastic poppers for New Year's this year but, alas, the old me did.

Buying the biggest container helps but is not enough. Even when bottles or containers are recyclable, lids often aren't.

Handkerchiefs are a possible replacement for tissues but, let's face, with two preschoolers in cold and flu season - it ain't happening. Besides, even Vanessa over a Green as a Thistle, who really gave it a go, decided hankies just weren't a go.
Opportunities for Re-Use
I often try to re-use stuff before tossing it but, sometimes, in the busy-ness of life, I forget. Doing a challenge like this - especially once a month as I plan to - keeps garbage on the brain.
My sister leaves old bread crumbs out for the birds rather than chucking them. I could have done the same with the granola but probably not my son's uneaten pie crust.
I often re-use bags from flour, mixes, chips and so on. If they are big enough, they find new homes housing dirty diapers, cat poop and such. With the elimination of number 1, I'll need fewer of these bags which means that I should re-double my efforts to avoid such packaging, re-use the ones that can't be recycled and recycle any that can.

Take the challenge, figure out what you dump and then let's talk some trash about trash. If you are really intrigued by all this garbage, check out Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash for a good but stinky read. ;-)


luis said...

Great blog!

If the economics don't work, recycling efforts won't either.
As our little contribution to make this economics of recycling more appealing, blogs about people and companies that make money selling recycled or reused items, provide green services or help us reduce our dependency on non renewable resources.

Green Bean said...

Thanks for sharing Live Paths. I haven't come across them before. I completely agree that we need to work on "closing the loop" and have actually started writing a post entitled just that. There are many opportunities to recycling or preventing something from going to the landfill.

Thanks for visiting.


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