Talking Trash – One Year Later

Last year I started taking a look at improving some of my sustainability practices – The first thing I looked at was trash – Here’s the original post – But I’m going to summarize last January’s conclusions below:

The Original Data –

In January (2012) 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 three 13 gallon 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 100 gallons of trash each month, and about 150 gallons of recycling.

The Conclusions –

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 (thereby starting with “reduce,” , this would be the biggest thing to tackle.  A solution to this would be to buy beans in bags and in bulk (and less seltzer. 😦 )

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?

The Follow-Up One Year Later:

I can confidently say we’ve reduced our Trash by half, and increased our recycling.  (Unfortunately we’re by no means down to one bag per year)

Here’s the top 4 Ways we did it:

1. Switched to Cloth Diapers 6.5 out of 7 days – I stopped thinking about the cloth thing as an “all or nothing” proposition and made a resolution to use cloth diapers every day – except for Sunday mornings, and the one nighttime diaper.  I stopped researching cloth diapers and just BOUGHT some. (There are an overwhelming number of options.) We change diapers about 5-6 times a day – which means we’ve gone from 38 disposable diapers a week to 9 or fewer.

2. Learned more about which types of plastic you can recycle (especially plastic bags.) AND bought Reusable fruit/vegetable bags for the times when we’re not part of a CSA.  You can recycle a lot more plastic bags than you think you can – like bread bags, bags that contain toilet paper/papertowels, and newspaper bags.

3.  Switched to cloth cleaning rags, and handkerchiefs – After our son no longer spit up a couple times a day we had a quite a few of these “burp cloths” hanging around.  They became our cleaning rags, and my handkerchiefs. (The husband thinks that’s gross.  But he doesn’t have allergies – so whatever.)  I think we bought 3 (possible 4) rolls of papertowels in 2012 – and they were made from recycled paper.

4. Partnered with friends to compost more.  This was the hardest project – but, like the diapers had a really big payoff, in drastically reducing trash.  We started composting in May.  When we joined the CSA in June we were able to bring the compost back to the Beverly Farmer’s Market, where a nice fellow took it away, and provided us with a huge bucket to keep it in in our entryway.  (We weathered a huge fruit fly invasion in August too.  What a pain!) When we were part of the winter CSA at Green Meadows Farm in Hamilton – they let us bring our compost there.  But, once that ended – we asked other couples at our church to see who else composted – and now we bring our compost to a friend’s house.  (Next Project – Church compost pile?!)  I also learned that you can compost tea bags and kleenex anyway.

As for the rest of our “hard to get rid of trash”  – We saved all our textiles to donate during Salem Recycles Textile Drive in November (they take usable and non-usable textiles like sheets, clothes, rags).  Textiles drives happen twice a year.


Took advantage of Salem’s “Bulky Rigid Plastics” recycling to get rid of some broken baby toys, and old tent parts. We brought our broken dehumidifier to an electronics recycling event at Ebsco in Ipswich, donated old baby toys in usable condition to a local non-profit, and donated our car.  Electronics Recycling Events happen every couple months on the North Shore, usually listed in the Salem News.

At the end of January – our only lingering problem? What to do with our old half-broken microwave.  But I’m a sure a little research will solve this problem.

For more info on Recycling – Check out The Mass Recycling Coalition.


Author: Beth M

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

9 thoughts on “Talking Trash – One Year Later”

  1. Great findings Beth! I am personally considering starting to compost this year for gardening and would like to be much less wasteful with plastic bags.

  2. Hi Beth! I can finally read your blog, I still can’t see the top photo but that’s okay. It sounds like you’ve done an awesome job with recycling and reducing! If you kept some chickens you’d have a perfect place for your compost and for all of your food scraps too 😉

  3. Yes! The garbage reduction has been a slow, but continuous, improvement. I imagine chickens would also offset having a picky eater (my son) in the house. I’m hoping he grows out of it!

    I’m still thinking of emailing wordpress, because others have told me they have a hard time commenting occasionally. Sometimes figuring out the internet is so complicated.


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