You may think of “trash” as the big bin in your kitchen. You may think of it as a small pail next to your desk.
You may think of “trash” as the big bin in your kitchen. You may think of it as a small pail next to your desk. You may think of it as the stuff you put on the curb twice a week that gets whisked off to someplace else. The truth, however, is that trash is everywhere. No matter what you do or where you go, trash will likely be a part of it. Making dinner at home? You make trash. Getting ready for work? You make trash. Getting your kids off to school? You make trash. See what I mean?
So the question is: what to do with it? Creating a certain amount of trash is unavoidable, but do we need to create the small mountain of it that statistics tell us we do? Happily, no! The first step to reducing your trash output and that of your family is to figure out what your trash consists of. Try monitoring your trash for one week. Each time, before you take out the trash, open the bag, shake it around, and check out what’s in there; same goes for the recycling bins. (Sort of gross, I know; but a small price to pay for the benefits to all of us of reduced landfill.) Once you know what’s actually in your trash, you can start to make a plan. What can be composted? What can be reused or repurposed? What didn’t need to be there in the first place?
When I did my trash audit, I realized that my recycling bin was often filled with whole sections of the weekend newspaper that I never read. Sure, it was recyclable, but that doesn’t mean that it was zero impact. Quite the opposite; everything that we consume, recyclable or not, produces tons of unseen, upstream waste that we can’t begin to deal with. Additionally, transporting goods to and from the recycling plant, not to mention the actual recycling process, creates waste. As such, the first thing that I did after my audit was to cancel my weekend print subscription and purchase an online subscription.
My newspaper situation got me thinking more about the fundamental nature of our trash, and why we in the U.S. produce so much of it per person. I came up with two main conclusions. The first – and easiest – way to start dealing with the trash issue is to begin composting. About two-thirds of household waste can be composted (shredded newspaper included), so is it difficult to exaggerate the importance of composting. It’s simple, and it can radically reduce the waste leaving your home and making it into landfill where, because of anaerobic conditions found therein, it releases methane gas rather than CO2 as it decomposes. Methane is 23 times more effective than CO2 at trapping heat; and, therefore, much more dangerous to our health and that of our planet.
Now for the hard part: the next best way to cut down on our household waste is to eliminate the initial waste to begin with (including everything that you can recycle). It’s about getting used to sincerely asking the question, “Do I really need a new/another/ better/bigger [you fill in the blank]? It’s about trying to remember the impact that an answer in the affirmative has on our community and everyone around us.
The average American person generates 4.3 pounds of waste per day, so there’s a lot of room for improvement. Every time we ‘refuse’, we each make a difference. Every time we ‘reduce’ by employing reusable water bottles, sandwich bags, supermarket bags, etc., we make a difference. If we did this all together, all the time – imagine how huge the difference could be.
— Rye Garden Club Conservation Committee