Trash talk

We’re just about a month into the project, and Eric and I have already had a nice surprise: Our garbage output has gone down considerably.

On our last collection date, we had less than one bag of trash, and a half a bin of recycling. For the whole house. In two weeks.

I mean, we still have a ways to go, obviously -- this is a 32 gallon trash can. But I'm beginning to think we can do it.

I mean, we still have a ways to go, obviously — this is a 32 gallon trash can. But I’m beginning to think we can do it.

I guess when your cart only has a few packaged items, though, both trash and recycling are bound to go down. 🙂

And here I thought we were doing pretty good when we moved to every other week garbage collection a couple of years ago. Eric says if we keep this up, we could go to once a month pick up. To put this in perspective, he was the one who resisted changing our weekly service to begin with because he liked the idea of having it “just in case.” So yeah, that is HUGE.

But it’s the recycling that excites me the most.

If we lived in the city, we’d have weekly pick up, but we don’t – we’re in the county, where the recycling truck comes every other week. When Eric built our house 13 years ago, he made me a recycling closet in some dead space between heating vents (or something, details are boring), and that’s always been a godsend because I can just shut the door on that whole mess and pretend it isn’t threatening to spill over. We have three county-issued bins that Eric sorts everything into the night before, and we generally use all three … or maybe only two if it’s a really good couple of weeks. But we’ve never, ever had just one bin, and a half-bin at that. It’s absolutely unprecedented in this household.

I guess if I can show you my face covered in coffee grounds, I can show you our messy recycling closet.

I guess if I can show you my face covered in coffee grounds, I can show you our messy recycling closet and glass jar overflow area.

I’m astounded.

This little victory has given me quite a boost. I’m often overwhelmed by the vastness of what we’ve undertaken and how futile it all seems (like when I see five disposable coffee cups on desks throughout the office in the morning to my one reusable) – but it gives me such hope to see that what we’re doing is working. We’re not ready to keep all of our trash in a glass jar yet or whatever the gold standard is for zero waste these days, because there’s still too much for that (and anyway, Johanna’s ice cream cartons, her “bye” item, wouldn’t fit. Ha), but having such noticeable results from just the little bit I’ve managed to accomplish in the kitchen so far? That’s amazing.

Oh, and hey: The recycling crew took the foil wrapper from the cream cheese – I wasn’t so sure it actually qualified as foil, so that was good news. Nothing got left behind.

And P.S., I had no idea how lucky we are to have curbside recycling service. Until I started reading your comments, I just thought everyone had that. I’m beginning to see that I have some advantages with my project that not everyone enjoys. Although if we implemented compost pick up like they have in Portland, that would be great. (Hint hint, county! Although I guess I could look into that with a private firm. That has to exist, right?)

Next up: I’ve been researching ways to deal with food scraps, and I’m hoping to try a couple out this weekend.

9 Responses to Trash talk

  1. That’s great! I didn’t realize that recycling pick-up was such a luxury either until we moved to TN. I just sorted ours – a single bin’s worth for the month – to take to the recycling center today.

  2. I finally struck off a to do list item the other week, which was: write a letter to my local coucil suggesting compost. We have a council collected bin service with the motto “Zero Waste” so I got right in there! As an apartment dweller, I need the help of the ‘greater good’ and share the spoils for those with gardens (commercially even!).

    It’s great when you feel the surge of the progress you’ve made. We would take out one shopping bag sized amount of trash a week, and our building of 12 apartments have five trash wheelie bins – my parents have one for their home, so I already feel like our building is lower than average. BUt damn! People put their recycling in plastic bags, so EVERY time I’m in the bin room, I’m resorting the trash! The BF just stands by….

    • Good for you! I’d totally be fine with giving our scraps to a commercial compost vendor, too — anything to just keep it out of the trash!

      Ditto for the trash sorting. Now THAT is commitment to the cause.

  3. Our recycling company doesn’t look through the recycling before they take it. I have no idea if some of it gets rejected. I hope I am not fowling up my whole bin with the wrong items. We have single stream recycling so it all goes in one bin. I would love to have compost pick up as well. One day when we live in the country I will have a compost heap. I may try a back yard compost bin next year.

    • Our county has a website where you can get a listing of what they accept and what they don’t — do you think yours has something like that you could look up? It is rather handy that our recycling company does sort through right on the spot. I think maybe they have different compartments in the truck, though.

      • I’m sure they do. I think I’ve looked at it before. I just think it would be neat if they checked it all. I would be the annoying person chatting with the truck driver about plastic bottles and cardboard boxes. I think I would like to be the person who sorts recycling as a part time job.

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