Trash audit shows too much waste

Results of a waste audit show I need help
By Kris Scheuer

(Originally published Sept. 4 in Town Crier)

I want to reduce my waste output.
It’s not currently realistic for me to produce zero garbage, but I wanted to examine what I’m throwing out to determine how I can lessen my contribution to landfill.
After the 39-day garbage strike, I promised to do my own waste audit and here’s what I found.
At home
I produced one-and-a-half grocery-size bags worth of trash between Aug. 3 to Sept. 3. This includes all trash in my bathroom, bedroom and kitchen garbage bins. But it doesn’t include anything tossed in the blue bin for recycling or organics placed in my green bin.
Bathroom waste
There was about a cantaloupe-sized amount of waste consisting of about 20 cotton swabs, dental floss, sanitary products and packaging, lots of tissues and a plastic foundation makeup tube.
How can I do better? If I had two garbage bins or a bin divided in two, I could use one side for non-organic waste like dental floss and the other for sanitary products (minus the packaging) and tissues that can go in the green bin. Bedroom garbage
Here again, I produced about a cantaloupe-sized amount of garbage consisting of some dental floss, foil wrap and hair that had accumulated on the carpet — items that can’t be recycled. I also had a lot of tissues, receipts and paper price tags from things I’d bought.
How to improve? The tissues could go in the green bin and the receipts and price tags in the blue bin.
Kitchen trash
In this case, I had one retail-size shopping bag of garbage. It contained plastic packaging from frozen fries, frozen fruit, a milk bag, receipts, an old phone card, tin foil, tissues, paper towel and three soiled clear plastic bags.
Ways to do better? Paper towels and tissues can be mixed with organic waste instead of refuse.
I keep all my organic waste in clear plastic bags in the freezer (no fruit flies) until it’s time for green bin pickup. I aim to finish more of what’s on my plate and make sure I don’t buy more than I can eat before the perishable food turns bad. This way, I’ll produce less organic waste in the first place. To reduce my home waste, I would have to give up dental floss and cotton swabs, which aren’t recyclable, and look for alternatives, and I need to throw tissues that I use in the bathroom and bedroom in with the organic waste I keep in the kitchen.

Work waste
I bring my lunch to work with reusable containers and cutlery. I use a reusable mug for the hot tea I buy at a café down the street, meaning no paper cups and polystyrene lids to throw out.
Where I need to improve…
I do buy snacks like toasted bagels wrapped in wax paper and banana bread in plastic wrap, so that packaging gets tossed. And if I bring snacks like granola bars in foil wrappers, that packaging isn’t recyclable.
How I am improving now…
I used to throw any uneaten food in the trash (no green bin at the office). Now I take food scraps and used tea bags home with me for the green bin, and I take Styrofoam containers (accepted in the blue bin) home to be recycled.

Garbage on the go
The bad…
When I’m not at work or at home, I still produce waste. This has been a little harder to manage.
I go to a lot of festivals in the summer and buy food and drinks at these events. At one, for example, I purchased a blended fruit drink that came in a plastic cup with a lid and straw that I tossed when done.
When I go out for a meal, leftovers pose a problem. If I don’t clean my plate at a restaurant, that food gets tossed out (maybe in a green bin). If I take the remainders home with me, it may mean they get packed in a recyclable Styrofoam container but that seems like a waste for the short time I’ll use the packaging.
The good…
On those days I work at our city hall office and have scraps leftover from lunch, I use the green bins outside in Nathan Phillip’s Square.
My waste audit includes a cheat as I place empty, clear plastic containers for blueberries or cherry tomatoes in my recycling. This packaging isn’t currently accepted in the blue bin. So if I had placed those in the trash where they should be, my waste output would have been higher.
If you have waste problems or solutions, please let me know at kscheuer@


2 responses to “Trash audit shows too much waste

  1. Yeah. I know. Wierd plastic packaging that us hard to know what to do with.
    I know the milk bags are not recyclable yet, but the city is working on it. But plastic retail bags can go in the blue box.

  2. I noticed during the strike that our kitchen garbage can was basically full of clear plastic – odd packaging that i didn’t know whether it could be recycled, milk bags, soiled food bags. Very eye opening. I curse plastic!

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