Taking out the Trash

Getting down and dirty with the trash in our house.


As a part of trying to use resources (the earth’s, and my own) more sustainably I decided I would do an inventory each month of a certain aspect of life to see what our impact was when it came to consumption.

In January I took a good look at what goes out of my house during the course of the month.  That’s right, the Trash.  I don’t want to turn this project into a legalistic minute measure of everything, merely gain some broad understanding.  So, I did the simplest thing I could think of with the trash.  I took thirty seconds every three or four days to photograph my trash can and recycling bin to see how much effluvia gets cast from the house.

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It turns out we throw away about 3 bags of kitchen trash a month (with the fourth being almost full now, in part because of the party I hosted over the weekend), and recycle 4 bins full of bottles, cans, and papers.  In addition to this, we also throw away 2 bags a month of disposable diapers. Lets say then we probably throw away about 150 gallons of trash each month, and about 150 gallons of recycling.

Internet Research turns up numbers all over the place on how much Americans may or may not generate tons of trash.  Some say, we can’t know, it’s too hard to track.  Plenty of other websites toss out a number around 4-5 pounds a day.  These numbers probably come from these EPA studies conducted on municipal waste charts.  If this is true, our family of three is around 35% of what the average American throws away (about 5 pounds per day or 1.6 pounds per person, compared to what would be 13.5 pounds for a 3 person family.  And seriously, an 8 month old is a full person in the trash generation world with all their special foods and wastes.).  What’s getting thrown away is mostly food scraps, and bags from food, such as bagel bags, cereal bags, and French fry bags.

By and large what’s getting recycled is bean cans, cereal boxes, and seltzer bottles.  But mostly, lots and lots of Goya bean cans.  If I was going to reduce the amount of recycling I make, this would be the biggest thing to tackle.  A solution to this would be to buy beans in bags and in bulk.   In order to accomplish this type of transformation I would need to learn how to soak beans in a way so that I enjoy them.  So far, I really do prefer canned beans.  So, I’ll need to experiment with a couple methods before I can permanently reduce my can use.  This Grist article is really useful if you’re looking for ways to reduce purchasing packaged foods.  The first two are about soup, perfect tie in with my other January activities.

The two (or three depending on how you count) biggest questions that came of this were –  (1) does Salem have a composting program, or a place to bring compost, and how can I find out? (2) Should I finally switch to using cloth diapers?  I always thought I would when I had a kid, but it’s harder (mentally) than I thought it would be.  Hopefully I can get these questions answered in the next few weeks to my own satisfaction.

In the future I’m planning to inventory some of the following things in my life, maybe you want to join me?

February – Water. March – Trips.  April – Money/Purchasing.  May – Time.  June – Entertainment.  July – Food.  August – Clothing.  September – Friends.  October – Health.  November – “What’s New?”  December – Energy.

Author: Beth M

I love new ideas & information, connecting people, and discovering New England adventures.

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