Talking Trash

Last week Enviro Girl listened to a radio program where the guest speaker addressed the topic of garbage.  He cited statistics claiming Americans throw away 7 pounds of trash a day.  SEVEN POUNDS!  Enviro Girl did a little research on her own and discovered this, this and this. Genuinely depressing stuff when considering the money, land space, energy and other resources wasted in our disposal habits.  But Americans have a cavalier attitude about throwing stuff away–how can we convince people to throw away less stuff?  And how can we convince people that generating less trash takes very little effort?  Recycling is one obvious answer–and it’s evident that Americans can become more vigilant on that front.  Another answer is to consume less–the majority of our waste is packaging.  We can reduce our consumption by insisting on less packaging and purchasing items that use a minimal amount.

Enviro Girl lives in a household with one husband, three sons and a large dog.  She knows their collective daily trash disposal weighs in far less than the national average of 7 pounds per person.  Even if they account for garbage thrown away at office/school/other places, it’s evident that they manage their waste efficiently since they fill their garbage dumpster with the equivalent of 1 1/2 tall kitchen garbage bags each week.

Enviro Girl’s family doesn’t have some magic secret–what they do is reasonably easy.  They:

Recycle all plastic (including bags), paper/cardboard, metal and glass.

Reuse containers for food and fabric for cleaning.

Reduce their consumption by carefully choosing household products, food and entertainment to minimize packaging.  A specific examples include buying powdered dishwasher soap in a fully recyclable cardboard box (plus the powder washes more loads per package than liquid soap), avoiding individually-packaged snacks and opting to dole out servings into reusable containers, renting DVDs and video games.

Donate used goods to a local thrift store or directly to people who can use them.

Compost food scraps, paper and yard waste.

This morning, before she wrote this post, Enviro Girl took stock of what her family had thrown into the garbage can.  She threw away one straw, a lid from a jar of peanut butter (recycled the jar), and the top strip of a juice pouch (the rest of the pouch got washed and will get recycled via a program at her children’s school).  She composted some food waste, including an apple core, a paper napkin from her son’s lunch box and grape stems.

For the rest of the week Enviro Girl will examine what gets thrown away on her watch, and she encourages readers to do the same.  She imagines that by writing down her trash, it will further raise her awareness, much like writing down one’s spending habits or diet habits.

Tell the Eco Women:  what did you throw away this morning?




7 thoughts on “Talking Trash

  1. We do a pretty good job of recycling and re-using. Sometimes (in jest?) I call my husband the recycling police. Our recycle bin is always more full than our garbage bin, we make use of local metals, clothes, and medicine drives, we donate outgrown toys to our church where they’re sold at a jumble sale, we compost, and use cloth shopping bags.

    One place where I fail: Plastic food packaging. Things like strawberries and cherry tomatoes come in plastic containers. While the container has a recycle symbol on it, we know that the only plastics that are actually recycled around here are bottles with shoulders. Putting yogurt containers, sour cream containers, etc., in the recycle bin only makes extra work for the employees sorting the recyclables –they have to throw them in the trash. Apparently there just isn’t enough of a market for them.

    Another place I fail? I have a latte every work-day morning, and the paper cup goes in the trash. I try to bring a reusable cup, but I forget it as often as I remember it.

    In the trash this morning? In addition to the latte cup, a piece of paper towel from drying strawberries for Emma’s lunch, and an empty waxed-paper milk container.

  2. Plastic tortilla wrappers and easter candy wrappers are what I’ve added today.

    I am proud to say it takes us at least a week, usually more, to fill our 13 gallon kitchen trash can. I am very conscious of packaging when I purchase things (perhaps why I make so many things from scratch around here?) and we either compost or recycle as much as we can. I also have a huge stash of bags I keep in the car for shopping and no matter where I am, I use my own bag.

  3. I have tried my best to do a good job of recycling. I moved recently and had over 20 huge boxes of stuff. I recycled the boxes (I’m even still using some of them), and went through all my clothes which I decidedly had too many of and donated some. All my old papers get shredded and recycled, as do my plastics. I still could do better though. I have recently gotten lazy with washing dishes and have been using paper plates more often than I should, but after reading this post it’s definitely going to stop. Making too much food is also sometimes bad, because if I forget it in the fridge for too long I have to toss it out which makes me feel awful. Wasting food is something I really, really try to never do. Eye opening post though!

  4. The trouble is that most people either don’t care or don’t know. If governments really got behind raising awareness and educating people properly, using methods that actually work, things would be much better. Also they should really crack down on excess packaging, especially non-recyclable or practically non-recyclable plastics! I try to do my bit and would do anyway as I hate waste, but it feels so pointless sometimes. I won’t stop trying, but it makes me angry when so many just don’t care!

    • I agree–people don’t know. We bury our trash–literally and figuratively. I suspect if we were properly charged for our disposal habits, things would change. And I hear your frustration about “why bother–for every person like me making any effort, there are 100 people who don’t care at all.” Actually, that would make a great post topic!

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