Day 245 Garbage & recycling

Even though my blog is primarily about decluttering there is a very strong element of doing the right thing by the environment. I have a lot to learn in this area but I would like to think I am making a pretty good effort.

I do try to be conservative with the amount of heating and cooling we use in our home. This is made easier because we live in a relatively small home by choice. I try to be conservative with the amount of driving I do but there is plenty of room for improvement in this area also. I am not getting much assistance with the miserable weather we have been having here lately though.

I recycle every little thing I can and even surprise myself at how little actual garbage our family generates. I do have a few issues in this area that I would like to start a discussion about. I am very concerned about the amount of recycling that is generated in my home due to day to day living. I feel inundated sometimes with plastic Juice and milk bottles, cardboard packaging and tin cans. Even though I know these items are going to be recycled I would rather be able to cut down on the quantity. It would be lovely if you could take these containers back and have them refilled like you do with fuel in your car but that just isn’t likely to become a reality.

Not in a million years would I consider dropping even one item of litter but I am concerned about how many of the items I do put in the recycling and garbage bins may end up as litter anyway. I was watching a show on TV involving waste management just this week and was appalled at the amount of trash that was blowing away in the wind from the landfill. Does this also happen at the recycling plants and public trash cans?

I went for a walk with a friend the other day along a boardwalk in a mangrove area near her home. I could not believe the amount of trash washed up among the mangrove trees. My friend said a lot of this garbage washing down the storm drains from the city streets. It truly shocked me. Are people really this careless I would like to think not.

ITEM 245 OF 365 LESS THINGS

Just more clothes. I thought it was females who had the overcrowded closets!

Short Sleeve Shirts


Continue reading with these posts:

  • Disposing of this weeks mission yields In a post a couple of weeks ago that asked a range of question about your clutter issues and my blog. One of the readers asked for more information on how to get rid of the clutter that […]
  • Day 310 Decluttering with the Three Rs A guest post by Cindy Bogard The three Rs, reduce, reuse, recycle. In decluttering, sometimes it’s easy to overlook the three Rs, especially if you’re going quickly. There are a lot of […]
  • Don’t agonise over getting rid of clutter I had a reader back in the early days of my blog who seemed to have trouble letting go of her clutter. It wasn't that she wanted to keep the stuff, or found it difficult to make the […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.

Comments

  1. This post is dear to my heart – I live next to an urban river that has the dubious distinction of being the most polluted in Australia and rafts of trash float down it after every heavy rain, most from the gutters of the surrounding suburbs, a lot carelessly dropped out of parked cars . I and many others do what we can, but it’s heartbreaking. One tiny thing everyone can do to help is get a reusable water bottle – 60% of the trash in my river is PET bottles, many for water!

  2. This issue bothers me as well. I always remember the TV commercial in the US of the American Indian with a tear running down his cheek because of all the trash that was polluting the streams, rivers, and forests. They should bring that back. I try to limit my use of plastic, but it’s everywhere. Check out fakeplasticfish.com for more info on plastic waste and what can be done.

  3. We have so much trash here in the US and many people do nothing about it. It breaks my heart. We recycle but like you I feel we have so much of it and I wish we didn’t. Yet, I have not been able to find a way to do this. I hope this starts a good discussion about ways to get even better at it. We don’t use plastic grocery bags but carry our own cloth ones. We try to buy as little as we can that is in a container but so much of it still comes in bottles, bags or cardboard.

  4. Good post!! I live on a rural street and the number of people tossing empty soda cups and trash out the window is appalling. They must think nobody is watching or something, but I witness it all the time. Constantly we have to go out and pick this stuff up from the side of the street. I never thought about trash flying away from the landfills though, wow!!

    I try to recycle what I can and limit what I actually take in too. So when I purchase something and can carry it without a bag, I’ll kindly say that I don’t need a bag. I repurpose those paper grocery bags for packaging, coin rolls, and etc…

    • I work in retail and have noticed that more and more people are refusing bags for their purchases when it’s one to three items. This is encouraging to me, because it means that folks are becoming more aware of using less and preserving more.

      • Hi Di,
        here in Itally they charge for bags so hopefully that will be a deterant. Although yestereday I bought some fruit at a supermarket and I think they charged me for the bag even though I didn’t want one. I left it there anyway.

  5. This topic hits close to home – I live in a city dubbed Filthydelphia (Philadelphia) due to the trash problem. Almost anywhere you travel in the city there are bags of trash lying by the side of the road as well as lots of loose trash. I try to reduce my plastic and other trash consumption by avoiding what I can, buying in bulk, using cloth bags etc. It’s almost impossible to do everything, but you can try!

  6. I have lots and lots of comments about this topic (wrote 3 pages in Word to get my rant out of my system!) since sustainability/recycling/trash/food and how they’re interrelated have been my topics of reading interest the last 8 months. I’ll spare you the long rant and stick to a short version. I live in the USA.

    I’m always appalled at how much packaging there is to discard in my household despite shopping at the farmers’ market for all produce and trying to minimize elsewhere. Most can go in the recycling bin, but still.

    Trash/recycling/composting:
    Our city has a great recycling program but people don’t follow the rules and put stuff in that doesn’t belong (e.g., plastic bags which jam up the facility’s machines) or that’s not separated properly (e.g., plastic bottles and their caps must be loose; they are different types of plastic and if the cap is still on the bottle the employees at the facility trash it) so the facility doesn’t process as much as they could. We also have a great composting program that collects 400 tons per day (!) so we have greatly reduced landfill use. As always, we could do better.

    Plastic bags:
    Our city instituted a semi-ban on plastic bags a couple of years ago and since then I don’t get looked at funny when I bring my own. Indeed, you’re now looked at funny when you don’t. Bringing one’s own cloth bags was ingrained in me young (my relatives live in Germany and that was always normal there) and is so alien in the USA. In one memorable incident in college, the grocery store clerk said I couldn’t use my duffle bag because THEIR bags were proof of purchase. I replied that my RECEIPT was proof of purchase, not some logo on a plastic bag, and anyway, the checkout counter was right by the exit. The cashier could watch me leave after having packed my bag, what’s the problem? What on earth could I have stolen between the bagging area and the door 5 feet away? I left with my wadded-up duffle under my elbow and 12 plastic bags because they insisted on double-bagging. Sigh.

    Incentives for reuse:
    For beverage bottles and cans, our state has a so-called redemption value system. You pay 5 cents per container when you buy beverages; I call it “so-called” because you can’t redeem it. I’ve heard that in Michigan you can get your 10 cents’ redemption value back by turning in your container; haven’t been there so don’t know firsthand. I know in Germany I can get my redemption value (called “Pfand”) back; that system is used for glass beverage bottles you buy at the grocery store and bring back as well as for real beer glasses at festivals (their festivals don’t choke the trash cans with thousands of used-once red plastic cups). Here in California you can’t get it back. They should stop calling it a redemption value and just call it a tax. Fortunately for me, I don’t drink soda so no cans ever and I’m a light beer drinker so they don’t get much from me.

    Littering:
    Ah, yes, the litterbug. We can’t seem to escape all the packaging in our lives. While I’d say most of what you find by the side of the road was put there deliberately, a lot just ends up there. It’s windy here. Trash and recyclable materials blow away and end up in the bay or trees or street.
    In my opinion, the bigger problem is that we have so much to litter with. I hope your ears aren’t burning, Di, but I remember that commercial, too, and your comment spurred me to write this comment. That commercial was sponsored by the companies that made non-usable, aka “disposable,” containers, the American Can Company and the Owens-Illinois Glass Company (my source: “No Impact Man,” page 65), and I agree with No Impact Man’s statement that it makes us think the culprit isn’t industry trying to force trash on us but consumers not putting trash where it belongs.

    I can’t remember where I read it, but I agree with the statement “there is no such thing as ‘away’.” Putting it in the trash doesn’t make it go away. And it makes me sad thinking about it. All this is my very roundabout way of going back to and agreeing with Colleen’s statement that she feels inundated by packaging, sees how much stuff ends up escaping the landfill, and how much garbage ends up on the streets. Colleen, I hope you don’t feel post-jacked.

    In the spirit of 365 Less Things, I found two college-era black light bulbs today that I’ve put in the “FREE” box I keep by my front door and put out on the sidewalk every few weeks. My discarded Stuff usually gets claimed in under 30 minutes.

  7. This is such a worthy topic. Years ago, while sea kayaking in the Sea of Cortez (Mexico), there was all kinds of trash that washed ashore on the island where we camped. Very sad. Now we live in Germany (just for a couple of years-we are Americans-we will return to states). It is so clean and amazing here (Mmmyarn has good points in her comments about DE). We strive to make our home as ‘plastics’ free as feasible, but that is not so easy. What about how I love to use vinegar for cleaning, safer for the environment, and the large plastic bottle I buy it in, which is a lower price point per quantity? Should I spend more to buy it in smaller quantities in the glass bottle? That is an option, rather pricey, but to save the environment, worth it, but then is glass a better ‘recycling’ agent than plastic (I need to find out)? That is just one example from my household. What can I/we do??? Each of us (me) can make a small difference and maybe collectively we can make a large difference? I/we can continue to educate ourselves on this topic, discuss it (thanks Colleen, excellent post!); use one less plastic item per day? I don’t know – I’d love to read a lot more thoughts and suggestions on all of this from Colleen and her readers….

    • Annabelle, This is coming from what I already know (and therefore may be wrong); I did not research it. Glass bottles can be melted and made into more glass bottles. Glass doen’t lose any integrity in the melting and reforming process. Plastic is melted and (I believe) is made into a product of lesser quality. However, as with all environmental questions, there is a bigger picture. Glass is vastly more heavy than plastic and transporting goods to market is a big part of the environmental impact of any product that you buy. Also, a several small bottles probably use more energy to produce than your one larger bottle. That was a long way of saying, I’d buy the big plastic jug and keep on cleanin’ with vinegar.

    • Hi Annabelle,
      looks like you will get your wish there are plenty of comments coming in on this topic. Thanks for your input and for doing your best to recycle.

  8. Colleen is right when she has pointed out that while recycling is better than trash, it nonetheless uses energy and creates pollution. It’s also important to note that in order to “close the loop” on recycling, each of needs to make a conscious effort to buy items that contain or are packaged in recycled materials.

    My family of 4 produces one kitchen-size trash bag of trash a week and a not-quite full 90 gallon bin of recycling every two weeks. We have mixed recycling: paper, plastics 1-6, metal and glass in one bin. Plastic bag have to be recycled separately, but all the grocery stores have to take them back.

    We also have a small compost bin and feed scraps to our dogs and guinea pigs (not the same scraps, obviously).

    I don’t put my produce in plastic. I take my own bags to the store. I don’t buy things (water, applesauce, juice, chips) in single-serving packets. I use the big bags such as bird seed, dog food, and any other large bag that comes my way come in as my trash can liner, and I don’t line any of the rest of the trash cans. My children and husband take their lunches in reuseable conantainers, use cloth napkins, metal silverware, and rarely use a plastic baggie. If they do use a baggie, it gets washed and reused.(Around here, this practice is called “zero waste lunches” a fancy new name for an old habit.) We carry a divided Tupperware in each of the cars, so we have something to put restaurant leftovers in. I don’t feel like I’m “doing” anything, which I guess just means that it’s all automatic and therefore easy for me, but I do know our family produces a lot less waste than many.

  9. This is a great topic and post, with lots of really great comments. My husband and I actually had a heated discussion about this topic – specifically plastic water bottles – today. I mentioned that when we go on vacation in a couple weeks I want to carry reusable water bottles (which I do everyday) to drink from instead of buying a case of water as I know he would prefer to do. I have always recycled and have taught him to be a good recycler, but he couldn’t understand why I was “springing this on him” and what difference one case of water was going to make in the world. He felt that because we recycled the bottles that it was enough. We had to go down a long road of discussing how I didn’t suddenly go environmental on him, that I was always this way but had gotten lazy out of physical exhaustion and opted for some conveniences during the few years when I was seriously ill with Crohn’s, but now that I was healthy again, it was time to pick up where I left off. Continue to recycling, but also reduce our consumption of unnecessary goods. We finally reached a compromise – I will take the reusable water bottles and he gets one six pack only of bottled water to satisfy his desire to be lazy on vacation.

    I think what finally won him over and convinced him that I was serious was when I told him that years ago before I met him and before there was curbside recycling of newspapers and cardboard, I used to collect all my newspapers and cardboard in a neat stack in my breakfast room. When I had a big enough stack I’d load them in the car and drive them to the recycle center that accepted them. You do what you can today, and tomorrow you try to do even better.

    • Here’s another tidbit you can throw in. I read this on sign by a water fountain at the Chicago Botanical Gardens: Each liter of bottled water takes three liters to produce. Presumably one of those is the liter that’s actually in the bottle. The other two are in the production.

    • Hi Donna,
      I am glad you got your hubby to understand. We bought a couple of bottles of iced tea when we first arrived in Rome a week ago and because they have so many water fountains here we just keep filling them up day in day out. The water is fresh and clean so no worries there. If only there was somewhere that we could fill them with iced tea! LOL!

Trackbacks