Every year, Americans throw away about 230 million tons of "trash." That's about 4.6 pounds per person per day. Less than one-quarter of it is recycled; the rest is incinerated or buried in landfills (according to this site).
There are a lot of different statistics (that don't all agree) about how much we throw away in comparison to other countries, how much of each kind of thing (styrofoam, diapers, paper, etc), and how long it takes things to biodegrade. They're ugly numbers. We really are a wasteful society, and more wasteful than we've ever been before.
It costs Minneapolites about $28 a month for garbage service, and you can knock $7 off that if you recycle. But $21 a month? That seems too cheap to support our addiction to waste. I kind of think it should cost more. It should hurt a little - because garbage hurts us and the environment.
But I know some people can barely afford that amount. We had garbage service cut off for a time when I was growing up. We just couldn't afford everything and garbage service had to go. We managed for some time, though I don't recall how now.
Perhaps it was from that experience, or somewhere else along the line, that I've been able to seriously reduce the amount of garbage I (now we) throw away. Perhaps it's because I don't often go shopping (for non-food items) because I hate spending money. (And many consumer goods come in a lot of packaging.) Perhaps it's because we buy in bulk and reuse a lot of things and recycle as much as we can. Or, it's just a combination of all of these! In any case, I realized we were only throwing away 2 bags of garbage a month! We definitely did not need the 94 gallon cart. So we switched to the smaller, 22 gallon cart.
So, I offer up, for the blogosphere, ways that we reduce trash:
- we use towels/washcloths/sponges instead of paper towels
- we use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins
- we wash out and reuse plastic baggies and sheets of foil - until they can't be used anymore
- we recycle as much as we can - we keep a pile of recylables in the bathroom as well, a place where it is easy to toss paper/cardboard into the trash
- we have a compost bin (and chickens!) for food waste
- we use cloth grocery bags everywhere: trips to the grocery, farmer's market, Target, clothing shopping, you name it
- I've been using tall plastic containers (like what yogurt comes in) to make garden markers
- we buy in bulk as much as we can, bringing in our own containers to refill olive oil, spices, laundry soap, shampoo, pasta, baking supplies, and so on!
- We try to buy products that don't have a lot of packaging
- When we want to purchase some new item, we look at craigslist or other resale places first (we're helping someone out, and the packaging is already gone!)
- I'm thinking about using ice cream containers for growing seedlings in the spring
- We cook a lot from scratch which means we don't have a lot of prepackaged food containers to toss out
That's a start. I'm sure I may think of more eventually. I think the biggest thing for us is to be really aware of a need versus a want and to think carefully about our purchases. The less things you buy, the less waste.