ONE BILLION TONS OF TRASH EACH DAY…UP TO FIVE POUNDS PER PERSON, PER DAY. This is how much we currently produce in the United States. The amount of waste generated in the United States has doubled in the last fifty years.
What is a home waste audit?
This is a close look at the type and amount of trash produced by your household on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.
Why should I do this?
In case you haven’t heard, landfill space is a very valuable commodity in our state. Where to dispose of trash is becoming more and more of an issue. The more trash we produce, the faster our disposal capacity will be reached.
How do I do this?
Do exactly what you normally do. But before the trash is collected, strap on some rubber gloves and DIG IN! Take one week’s worth of recyclables and trash and spread it out on a tarp or an old shower curtain liner. Next, separate all the components into piles; recyclables on one side and non-recyclable on the other:
Material Recyclable Non-recyclable
PAPER Newspaper, magazines, unwanted mail, corrugated cardboard and catalogs Cereal boxes, six pack cartons, milk cartons, laminated corrugated cardboard, paper plates, towels, tissues, baby diapers
PLASTIC #1 & #2 – milk bottles, soda bottles, detergent bottles and individual beverage containers #’s 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 – toys, lighters, flower pots, styrofoam, razors, vinyl siding, dome cake pans, etc.
CANS AND BOTTLES Glass bottles and jars (all colors), aluminum, steel, aerosol cans Window glass, light bulbs, mirror glass, drinking glasses, ceramics, aluminum pie plates and foil
CLOTHING, TEXTILES Recyclable/Reusable by passing on to family and friends through collection boxes (Salvation Army, etc.) and thrift stores. Items too shabby to be passed on can be used as rags. Plastic shower curtains (Use for this waste audit!), fiberglass curtains, etc.
FOOD WASTE Compost fruit and vegetable scraps, egg shells, breads, pastas, grains, coffee grounds, tea bags. Meat, fats, bones, fish, dairy products, cat litter
AND THIS IS JUST WHAT YOU MIGHT FIND IN EVERYDAY TRASH! Many more items will be addressed later. Okay – now its time to assess your findings. If your recyclables piles are equal to or larger than your non-recyclable piles – Bravo! However, if you have a lot more on the non-recyclable side, there are steps you can take to change.
What is the next step?
Take a long, hard look at the non-recyclable side. What do you see that possibly could have been avoided? Let’s start with the top of the list and work down:
•Cereal boxes, six pack cartons – These are the hardest things to eliminate because there are virtually no alternatives other than buying in bulk, which may not be a viable option if your family is small.
•Juice boxes – buy large glass or canned juices and pour into smaller “sippers” for lunches.
•Milk cartons – if your family is large enough buy milk in one gallon recyclable plastic jugs.
•Other paperboard – look for the same items packaged in something recyclable.
•Paper plates, cups and towels – USE REUSABLES!
•Lighters and razors – USE REUSEABLES!
•Collect Styrofoam “peanuts” as they come in and either reuse them yourself or take them to a mailing business.
•Flower pots – most nurseries will take them back and reuse them.
•If you have a lot of plastic bags in colors other than clear and white, Walmart, Shoprite and Acme all have bins for these. Using reusable cloth bags for shopping will eliminate a lot of this waste.
Bulk Metal Items
•Begin making a pile of bulky metal items such as old folding chairs, broken metal lamps, bicycles, etc. Bring these items to a local scrap yard and earn some extra cash!
Are you starting to get the idea? Always be conscious about the amount of trash that you are creating. Think about how you could make changes that would cut down on this trash.
REUSE WHATEVER YOU CAN!
Some people have the attitude that if an item is recyclable, it doesn’t matter how much of the item you use; however, even recycling uses energy and resources.
What else can I do to “reduce”?
The following is a partial list of items found around homes on a less than regular basis. Here are some suggestions on how to properly manage different types of waste.
Material Recyclable Non-Recyclable
HAZARDOUS WASTE Motor oil and antifreeze – see oil and antifreeze drop off locations MUST BE HELD FOR HAZARDOUS WASTE DAY: Pesticides, lawn chemicals, bleach, insecticides, photographic chemicals, oil-based paint, lead acid batteries, etc.
YARD WASTE Compost leaves, grass clippings, and twigs Manure from meat eating animals: Dogs, cats, etc. Limit the following: pine needles, bay laurel (acids contained therein could interfere with decomposition)
CONSTRUCTION DEBRIS Concrete, brick, asphalt, tree stumps, scrap iron and metal, and tires Sheetrock, insulation, acoustic tiles, carpeting, padding, and vinyl flooring
ELECTRONICS Computers, cell phones, televisions, household batteries, stereo equipment, etc. can be dropped off at one of the Universal Waste Depots in Cumberland County at any time.