February 25th, 2011

20 Quick Ways to Reduce What’s in Your Trash

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Photo used under Creative Commons from Ace Solid Waste

Every year people get rid of billions of tons of trash. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American produces about 4.4 pounds (2 kg) of garbage a day, or a total of 29 pounds (13 kg) per week and 1,600 pounds (726 kg) a year.  All of this garbage has to go somewhere and that somewhere is usually a landfill. We are running out of space!

Where does all this garbage come from? Most of the stuff that we send off to landfills comes from single-use products and product packaging.  Our society is all about disposability- “use-and-toss” products are filling our garbage cans.  Let’s face it, we are a trash culture. The only way to reduce the amount of garbage we contribute to landfills is to learn how to reduce our consumption of use-and-toss products. 

Check out these 20 things you can do to reduce your trash:

Let me know which are keepers……..

  1. Paper towels-try out a cloth that can be washed.
  2. Paper plates and cups-use the real deal whenever possible or opt for reusable.
  3. Silverware-metal is the way to go.
  4. Plastic grocery bags-reusable bags are a great alternative.
  5. Bottled water-reusable bottles will hold all sorts of drinks.
  6. Individually packaged snacks-buy snacks in a regular sized bag and put single servings in reusable bags.
  7. Disposable Napkins-try reusable.
  8. Plastic baggies-replace with reusable bags that can be washed.
  9. Garbage bags– try to reuse bags that are not messy inside by emptying the garbage out and reusing the bag.
  10. Cotton balls-try using a cloth instead.
  11. Printer cartridges-get the old ones refilled rather than buying new cartridges.
  12. Batteries-invest in rechargeable batteries instead of disposable batteries.
  13. Mail-opt to receive statements and bills electronically when possible.
  14. Bubble wrapBeth at Fake Plastic Fish suggests trying to reuse something you already have for packaging-try newspaper or old rags.
  15. Plastic wrap and foil-use a container with a cover instead for food storage.
  16. Aluminum foil-use a pot with a cover or for storage, use a glass container.
  17. Razors-get reusable instead of single-use razors.
  18. Liquid hand soaps in plastic containers-get a few reusable, decorative containers and refill them.
  19. Disposable diapers-consider changing to cloth.
  20. Juice boxes– although easy and convenient these boxes could take 300-400 years to decompose in landfills and they are not recyclable. Reusable bottles are the way to go.

Don’t forget to recycle. Such simple ways to make every day earth day!

4 Responses to “20 Quick Ways to Reduce What’s in Your Trash”

  1. Great list!

    Re #18 about liquid hand soaps: I recently discovered castile soap to use as a refill. Because it’s so concentrated, only one capful is necessary (plus enough water to fill the container).

    Also, bar soaps trump liquid soaps from an environmental perspective, since they come in recyclable paper boxes or no packaging at all if you buy from local artisans. This year I might try making my own!

  2. I also agree that you’ve started a great list but I also want to make a suggestion as an alternative to abstaining from disposables. The reality is that people are simply not going to quit using disposables. For instance, when it comes to fast food restaurants or any one that has takeout or to-go services, disposables are and most likely will always be used. With that in mind but still wanting to address your goal of reducing waste in our landfills, how about using biodegradable disposables? If these products were compostable this would be a greast step toward reducing this waste.

  3. Thanks for the great tip on liquid hand soaps, Andrea. I will have to give castile soap a try. I use it for cleaning-I make my own soft scrub. I personally like bar soaps, but the liquid soaps are easier for my kids to use. I would love to hear about your adventures making your own soap.

  4. Interesting idea Steve. I agree that it is going to be a long process convincing others to abstain from using disposables-so maybe in the interim biodegradable disposables would be a good alternative. I would like to think that ultimately single-use items will be a thing of the past, which will in turn reduce the amount of items (biodegradable and compostable included) that end up in landfills. Even if one person switches over to reusables, or several people switch over to a few reusable items, the impact would be huge.

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Hi! I’m Lori, a recovering attorney, writer, and mom to three boys. Join me as I uncover and share the latest info on healthy living. Learn more.

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