Home Waste Streams

Wow, that title really conjures up some graphic imagery for me. It would make a good meme to get my point across. Feel free to design one for me and leave it in the comments.

A waste stream is any method by which waste leaves your home. The most obvious example is trash- destined for the landfill. I want you to start thinking about the trash can as the absolute LAST RESORT for how things leave your home. Sound daunting? It’s easier than you think.

If we look at the standard of Reuse, Reduce, Recycle, then Trash, our task is somewhat simplified.

REUSE– When something is unloved or not needed anymore, it is destined to be reused by another. We have a box in the closet for Goodwill. All things worth reusing can go in the box, and when full it is donated to the charity.

There is also a Buy Nothing movement in my Facebook community. People like to ask for things before they buy them. Sharing what we aren’t using with our neighbors builds community and enables reuse of materials.

When clothing is worn out or socks are without a mate for too long, they go into a bag for donating to H&M clothing stores. These stores collect “fabric scraps” to recycle into new textiles. I just drop off a bag each time I’m in the mall, and they give me a 15% off coupon every time! So don’t throw any clothing into the garbage!

REDUCE– How can you minimize what you put into the trash can? Perhaps a portion of the packaging is recyclable but not all. Break it down, and see how much you can reduce what goes into your trash can.

Here is a brief primer on composting. I will have another post all about composting in the future, but all plant matter from your food can be composted at home. Even in an apartment! Blueberry bushes love your used coffee grounds as a soil amendment. Roses eat banana peels. I love to compost!

A crock or tin with a lid on the counter can hold your food waste until you move it to a larger container. A very cool and fancy counter-top composter is available at Uncommon Goods. This is the one I would have if I were a single apartment dweller in a big city. https://www.uncommongoods.com/product/living-composter

Less fancy, but perhaps more practical is this one: https://www.uncommongoods.com/product/kitchen-composter

Adding a dash of baking soda will help keep odors to a minimum. Many composters have a charcoal filter. Also, emptying it frequently is a must.

I also save up all Type 4 plastic bags for recycling at grocery stores. This includes grocery bags, dry cleaning bags, many of the packing materials from Amazon, etc. bread bags, inner cereal bags, etc. Just make sure they are clean and dry before you take them to the store.

RECYCLE– This a catch-all for cardboard cereal boxes, aluminum cans, junk mail, etc. Our trash service picks up co-mingled recycling, where all of these materials are mixed in our bin and sorted by the facility. Different areas process their recyclables in various ways. Don’t be shy, you can go to the website of your provider to find out what can be recycled and how. We use Waste Management, which is a large provider of services. Here is their link for convenience. https://www.wm.com/us/residential.

I recently contacted Waste Management about downsizing my garbage can. Currently, we have a 35-gallon can that is picked up weekly. I’m monitoring it to see if I can downsize to a 20-gallon can. Set your own goal for garbage reduction based on your living situation.

Another cool recycling option is called Terracycle. I’m new to using their services, but this company is finding ways to recycle things that are not typically recyclable. Just today I received an email about their contact lens recycling program. They conduct product-specific programs, where you can save up a bunch of materials and mail them in for free. Or, you can purchase a Zero Waste box, and put all sorts of non-recyclables in it and ship to the company. (I have not tried this yet).https://www.terracycle.com/en-US/

The most important thing to remember is to be conscious of your waste streams. If you are thinking about it, you are doing something about it. The most rewarding thing for me is when my children ask me, “Where does this go?” They are thinking about how waste leaves our home, and if we educate the children, the future will be brighter for us all. Have a beautiful day!

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