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no impact experiment – day 2: trash

seen in Washington, DC, October 2008

seen in Washington, DC, October 2008

Today was trash day.  I tried to collect everything I would either put in the trash or our recycling bins, and set it aside to see how much of it was actually going to end  up in the landfill.  Here’s a rough list of what I collected throughout the day:

  • Plastic packaging from various food items – some recyclable, some not.
  • A plastic shipping bag from package received – not recyclable, but reusable.
  • Cardboard paper scraps from packaging – recyclable.
  • Dryer lint – compostable.
  • Fabric and thread scraps from several on-going sewing projects – although it may be compostable, I feared it might be too slow to decompose.
  • Food scraps – some compostable, some not.

I would say that the majority of the trash we generate in our household can be recycled (and composted).  We recycle virtually all of our paper and cardboard waste,  plastics #1 and #2 (the only types our recycling center accepts), aluminum and tin cans, and glass containers.  We have a compost pile and a compost bin, and try to compost as much food waste (and rabbit litter, some paper scraps) as we can.  Typically, as a family, we end up with 2 bags of trash headed for the landfill each week.

Over the past year I have tried to cut out as many disposable/one-time-use products as I can.  We use cloth napkins and paper towels, paper plates, etc.  We never buy bottled water.  I always use re-usable (cloth) shopping bags.

The stumbling blocks that I’m still working on include using plastic wrap for food, accepting styrofoam leftover containers at restaurants, etc., and trying to find certain grocery items that aren’t bagged/boxed/wrapped.  (And remembering to take my insulated coffee mug along!).

Mostly, I would love to see better recycling services offered in our community.  Presently our local drop sites accept only paper, cardboard, glass, aluminum and select electronics.  I have to take plastics and tin cans into the next county (Hamilton) every other month or so.  I’m not even asking for curbside pick-up – I’d just like to see easier-to-access drop facilities with longer hours, and broader range of acceptable items.

Posted by savaconta on October 20, 2009
1 Comment
  1. 10/20/2009

    Sarah just made a trip to Hamilton County this morning to dump our plastic recyclables that have been building up in our garage for the past few months. I, too, wish our recycling facilities accepted plastics. As far as kitchen stuff goes, that seems to be the majority of what we need to recycle.

    The good news is that she and I end up with very little trash each week. So much of what we throw out in our culture is reusable, recyclable, or compostable. In fact, I remember hearing an NPR story about a program in Cal (maybe LA?) where the community is trying to do curbside composting. So instead of committing your carrot peels to the trash, set them aside for compost pick up. Not sure if it’s working–or even feasible. But I do know that Sarah and I have a pleasantly nasty pile of fetid organic waste steamily decomposing in the backyard. Now we just need to start a garden so we can DO something with it…

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