Our first guest post comes from Nicole, a PhD Candidate and Urban Studies and Planning in the Northwest. She’s a long time fMh and BCC lurker.
Limiting our trash to a 32-gal can for the month is the gift that keeps on giving. It is true that our trash bill has been cut nearly 40% ($16 vs $26/month). Yet I’ve been surprised at how pleased I feel each 1st Friday when I wheel that small can out to the curb. It feels like such an accomplishment!
My husband and I are admittedly a bit fanatical about recycling and reducing. As examples, we cloth-diapered even in and out of apartment buildings and have been known to track down availability of recycling pickup on a block or apartment building that had no obvious existing service. We also sit in a place of privilege; our eyes were opened to how much could be recycled and composted when living in San Francisco (hands down most aggressive program in the country), and we currently live an aggressive recycling town – Portland, OR. Still, we were a bit skeptical that we could manage once-a-month pickup.
Let’s just try it for one month. If we can’t manage, we can call the trash people and change it.
We probably uttered that phrase at least a dozen times that first month. 3 pickups later and we are still managing. How have we done it? Reducing solid waste requires reducing the amount of waste brought into the home through strategic purchasing and reuse while shifting a large amount of the trash stream to recycling and compost.
· Learn the rules of your recycling program.
o Curbside pickup generally can include almost everything paper and glass and most plastic. Exceptions include freezer boxes (has plastic laminated within), soiled paper products (worries about contamination), and plastic bags (mucks up the machines).
o Trash collectors often pick up recycling (and yard waste) every week even with a once-monthly trash pickup.
o Sometimes there are places (recyclers and some grocers) in your city that will take plastics that curbside will not. Make a bin to set aside for this purpose.
· Place multiple recycle bins in your house just as you have multiple trash bins.
· Rethink once-used paper goods by switching to cloth napkins, dishcloths, cloth diapers, etc. Old sheets + sewing machine make great reusable cloth.
· Repurpose trashed clothes; donate good condition clothes.
· Say no to bags and packaging when shopping.
· Rethink your kitchen habits.
o Buy meat from a meat counter instead of packaged on Styrofoam trays.
o Stop buying frozen box goods and soup boxes since these cannot be recycled. The soup boxes are actually our one guilty pleasure since our 3-year old apparently subsists on boxed tomato soup.
o Realistically plan out portion sizes to either eat the entire meal OR have enough for a true leftover.
o Stop going to take-out places that over package their food. Note that pizza boxes cannot be recycled but can be composted.
· Compost as much as you can. We put everything but meat remnants and citrus in ours. Citrus goes down the garbage disposal. Note that grains in large quantities will attract rats if you don’t have a predator-proof recycling system.
It has been easier than I imagined moving to once-a-month pickup in our home. I think we are even going to have room to spare this month. But even if you can’t envision your family managing once-a-month, consider committing to an every-other-week pickup. As a bonus, you can often get the same cost savings if you are willing to dive in with a neighbor and share cans.
Is there an item that seems to demand more of your trash bin than you would like? What ways do you reduce trash and encourage recycling in your home?