Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Watching my Waste Line

Ok. So I do NOT have a lot of time on my hands but, after the holidays I noticed how much crap, garbage and recycling was flowing OUT of the house. Makes one think more about what comes INTO the house. How much was it?

I was somewhat inspired by Jen, Rhyannon and Grant from The Clean Bin Project (this is their blog ... the project is also now a film). I am also a little OCD when it comes to statistics. And recycling. And what we waste outside the home.

SO, starting on January 1, I started quantifying how much was going into weekly recyling. It only added a few minutes to the sorting process with a small 5kg kitchen scale.

Full disclosure: I started from scratch; I did not count any pre-January 1 backlog such as Christmas wrapping leftovers (but see the bottom re: Hasbro!). Home includes 2 adults, one monster child, a large farting dog, and a small sickly cat.

Here are the grimy results to date (18 days):
- 21 lbs (9.7 kg) compost, to the back yard
- 10.5 lbs (4.75 kg) of paper, box & corrugated cardboard
- 6 lbs (2.75 kg) of hard plastic and jugs
- 3.8 lbs (1.75 kg) returnables (also worth $1.45)
- 3.8 lbs (1.75 kg) of aluminum and steel food cans
- almost 1.5 lbs of loose bag plastic ... actually, a lot by volume.

Diverted from landfill in just 18 days ... over 47 lbs. I projected that out for a year at that rate (I know, it's early) and it could amass to between 850 - 1000 lbs. I hate to think we are generating 2-3 lbs of recycling alone PER DAY on average even though almost half is compost ... and we still put out trashbags. Must be room for improvement ...

Sometimes I feel a little disgusted, with our little single-use habit. To paraphrase Andrew Winston from his awesome book, "Green Recovery" ... all that plastic is made from oil that we get from people who do not like us very much. And it lingers.

I remember a photo of a trade show my dad helped put together back in the 70s or 80s for the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture. It was a booth that showed how much a family of four ate in a year. I recall the multiple sides of beef, knowing they were for illustration, but it was funny thinking of those hanging in our basement gathering flies. And the stacks and stacks of boxes and cans.

A somewhat updated version made the rounds by viral email a while ago. They were from a photo essays by TIME called "What the world eats", featuring photos from Peter Menzel's book, "Hungry Planet". If you check it out, notice the ratio of packaging between the more processed foods we're accustomed to and that of the more basic and natural foods in other cultures.

Special kudos: HASBRO ... Hasbro has been ditching those plastic ties on toys (among other mega tons of package reduction). They switched to a very simple paper rattan (that I can toss into compost). You've helped reduce a lot of single-use waste we bring home ... and reduced opportunities for the same kids to learn cussin' from parents trying to open the G-- d--n things. Keep driving new standards to other producers.

Stay tuned. This is exciting stuff, no doubt.

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