It is estimated that each person generates 4.3 pounds of waste every day. This is 1.6 pounds more than back in 1960. Over the course of one week my husband and I would generate 60.2 pounds per week, not including our cats. It felt like we were so far from that number that we could consider ourselves low waste. So we decided to do an experiment to see how we rated among the average.
For one week we collected all of our trash to see what we actually throw away. We are going to collect our trash at work, at home and if we go out. Below is a summary of what one week of trash looks for us. I started with a rough estimate that 25% will come from food packaging and the other 75% comes from pet waste.
Our bin contained 3.5 pounds of household trash and our 4 cats made 16 pounds of pet waste. What kinds of stuff did we consider trash?
- 1 broken hanger
- 1 dozen egg carton
- 2 incandescent light bulbs from our rental properties
- 4 bottle tops
- 1 takeout bag of disposable cup and soiled wrappers
- 4 cartons of polyethylene cardboard. This is not recyclable in our area. 1 of which comes from my coconut milk which I plan to make my own when I run out of what we have already. One was an egg white container and 2 were from soup broth.
- About 1 cubic foot of packing tape, peanuts and other shipping materials
- A tape dispenser that was about 15 years old. We do not use much tape in this household.
- I accidental left out a bunch of pesto from our freezer last week. When my husband found it it was too late to save. All of the plastic bags had to be disposed of.
- Food wrapping: spinach bag, cheese wrapper, butter wrapper, chip bag, a container of ice cream, tea bag wrappers, meat wrappers, saltine wrapper, plastic cling and 2 ziplock bags.
- Lint from our dryer from 3 loads of laundry
- 4 single use lens wipes with wrappers
- 2 Andes chocolate wrappers from dining out at Olive Garden
- Empty bag of bath salts
- Wrapper for rubber gloves for deep cleaning our toilet
- 2 slips of paper stickers came on
- 2 single pouches of hot cocoa for a movie night with a friend
- Bathroom waste: floss, 3 Q-tips and 6 pill enclosures for my cat who needs Cosequin for her back.
- Gym waste: probably about 4-6 wipes to clean off our equipment. This one thing I didn’t even realize I was throwing away until after I did it. I was not about to grab my wipe out of 50 already trashed for this project so I left it there.
Much of the above waste did come from it being Christmas week. The mailing waste was from a Christmas gift my mother in law from California shipped us. A couple of the ziplock bags were from homemade Christmas cookies. The rest seems to be typical weekly garbage.
After seeing all of this, I don’t think we do create LOTS of trash, but we can eliminate some by doing the following things:
- Make food from scratch. And we generally do so the polyethylene packages of soup was a unique piece of trash that ended up in our bin. My husband generally makes homemade broth a few times a year from turkey or chicken bones that gives us a few meals from it.
- Buy meat and cheese from the deli or meat counter by bringing your own to-go container. This will definitely be a huge change for my husband since he likes convenience and he does the grocery shopping.
- Buy tea from bulk.
- Buy loose veggies and bring your own bag.
- Hang dry clothes. 1) they last longer, 2) you save money not using the dryer and 3) they don’t create lint you have to throw away.
- Compost all food waste, except for bones, meat and dairy (which I now do all year long). The U.S. EPA says about 24 percent of our waste is organic material that can be composted.
- Avoid single use items.
Going waste free isn’t an over night process. The first step is tracking what you actually throw away. By seeing it all laid out in front of you, you can start implementing simple changes to reduce what you throw away. You will be surprised how easy it is to throw things away without thinking about it. But these things don’t go away forever. They go to a landfill where they slowly, or never degrade and create toxic gas that pollutes our air.