Waste Management

enviro girlEnviro Girl has written before about how her family tries to reduce their household waste.  Her household (5 people, 1 dog) produces roughly one tall kitchen garbage bag of garbage each week.  She pushes her family’s dumpster to the end of their driveway once a month.   Managing their waste means not dumping it in the county landfill.  Enviro Girl often imagines how her taxes might fall if everyone in her area managed waste the same way:

* Sanitation workers would work fewer hours collecting less trash less frequently, so the county could get away with paying fewer trash collectors and haulers.

* Fewer garbage trucks hauling waste would reduce carbon emissions, use less energy, and require less maintenance.

* The current landfill’s lifespan would be prolonged, putting off the need to acquire new land and build a new landfill.

How does Enviro Girl’s household create significantly less than the national average of 7 pounds per person each day?  It’s pretty easy:

1.  They recycle paper, glass, plastic and metals.

2.  They buy products that use the least amount of packaging.  They buy milk and soda in reusable glass bottles, they refuse “extra packaging” by bringing their own shopping bags, they opt for no packaging whenever possible.

3.  They compost their food scraps, yard waste and some paper.

4.  They recycle all plastic bags, including the plastic wrapping from shipped goods, baked and frozen goods.  Enviro Girl shoves the recyclable plastic her household collects into a receptacle at her local grocery store each week.  She collects those plastic bags and wrappings inside an empty bread bag stored beneath her kitchen sink.  Super convenient.

5.  Their household tries to buy less “stuff” and spend more on experiences.  They also rent, borrow and reuse whenever possible.

6.  They rarely get take-out food (food packaging is the biggest category of household waste) and almost never buy individually packaged food or beverage products.

Enviro Girl studied her household’s trash and found most of it came from food packaging.  This can be largely mitigated by recycling and making a conscious effort to purchase products using less packaging.  Here are some concrete examples of how to reduce the amount household waste you send to the curb each week:

* A sleeve of English muffins breaks down like this: plastic bag in plastic bag recycling, cardboard in paper recycling, the twist-tie in the trash.

* The plastic bag from a pound of grapes can be recycled, the stems put in the compost bin.

* Instead of buying individually packaged envelopes of oatmeal, Enviro Girl buys a cardboard tub of oatmeal.  She recycles the cardboard and throws away the plastic lid.

* The plastic packaging from a 12-pack of toilet paper can be recycled with plastic bags, the cardboard tubes go into paper recycling.

* A box from a Lego kit goes into paper recycling, all the plastic baggies from the Lego bricks get recycled with plastic bags.

The Eco Women encourage you to take note of your household’s waste management.  Where can you cut some of the trash you generate?  Are there specific tips you can share with other readers?  Do you have questions about how to dispose of any particular household items?


7 thoughts on “Waste Management

  1. You said you recycle the oatmeal container, but I heard you couldn’t recycle any paper that had food contaminants on it. Even the KFC box shown above, I would assume you can’t recycle it because of the grease from the chicken?

    • Quick oats–there’s no food residue when it’s dry goods. The image of the KFC box is the inside of a trash bin. All excellent examples of food packaging we can avoid so we generate less waste!

  2. We do all of this and my family of four usually produces one kitchen bag of trash a week.

    We also try to reuse as much as possible — glass jars are used for food and other storage, plastic bags are used for the bathroom trash can, toilet paper tubes are used to store electronics cords neatly (coiled up inside, with the name of the item — iPod, phone, etc. — written on the outside of the tube).

  3. I’m not at your level yet! We do pretty well, though. Thanks to recycling and composting and using our own bags to shop, we can easily miss a week of garbage pickup. We also have the city’s small bin, and we still rarely fill it! Twist ties get saved at my house. I use them to help wrap gifts of cookies, granola, etc.

  4. Nice post!
    Our family of 4 produces a bread baggie full of waste every two weeks! Our biggest culprit is the Tetra-Paks that soy milk comes in- I cannot find a recycler for those here in VT. Even my business is nearly zero waste-an effort I find well worth it! I love people’s responses when they see how little waste we create- hopefully it makes them think!

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