Every week, when I head out for my walk, I am rather disgusted with the amount of trash my neighborhood produces. There are many ways to reduce your garbage output so that the rubbish bin isn’t overflowing at the end of the week. Our planet only has so much space to dedicate to trash storage. One of the best ways to go green this year is to learn how to minimize what you throw away. Recycling for the home is the first step, of course. But, how do you cut back on the number of items that you are tossing in the bins at the end of the driveway? And is this really a problem that you need to care about?
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The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
So, WHY should you reduce your garbage output? Well, garbage doesn’t just disappear when you throw it away. Have you ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?
The average American throws away just over 4 pounds of garbage every day, adding up to a whopping 1,460 pounds of trash every year. We Americans make up roughly 5% of the worlds population but create 40% of the waste on this planet. Those numbers seem staggering to me! Where in the world is all that trash going? The obvious answer is to landfills, however studies over the last 10 or 15 years have indicated that a huge amount of this trash is ending up in the ocean. Yes, some of the trash that you throw into your garbage can is actually ending up far away in the ocean.
What is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?
Scientists have shown that ocean currents are concentrating this trash in a particularly LARGE pile and have even given it a name…The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (also called the Pacific Trash Vortex). Most estimates place it at approximately the same size as Texas, however some studies indicate that it may be as large as the continental U.S.
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Yes, a pile of GARBAGE that is almost the size of our entire country! This heap of trash is comprised mostly of minuscule particles of plastic, chemical sludge, abandoned fishing nets, and an assortment of debris that has gotten trapped there by ocean currents.
What is being done?
Some of the plastics floating around in this garbage heap end up in the stomachs of birds, fish, and sea turtles. Besides being indigestible, these small micro bits of plastic have a tendency to absorb toxic chemicals from the sludge that mimic certain hormones. This not only affects the fish and animals themselves but anything that comes along and eats THEM…like US! Your next plate of grilled salmon could be slightly toxic!
So, what is being done about this floating garbage heap? At this point, not too much. An assortment of coalitions have been formed, ships have sailed out to the area to study the size and scope of the problem, suggestions have been made, but truthfully, no one knows quite what to do with that much trash.
Can you image what this heap of floating debris is going to look like in 30 years if people don’t wise up and start reducing the amount of trash they produce? This is why you need to reduce your garbage output. Every little step counts when everyone takes it together.
Easy Ways to Reduce Your Garbage Output
Finding easy ways to reduce your garbage output will greatly reduce your carbon footprint. Here are a few simple tips that might help.
Don’t buy individually packaged items
Bottled water and individually wrapped snacks for your kids creates a TON of packaging waste. One of the easiest ways to reduce your garbage output is to invest in reusable containers. Buy a stainless steel water bottle and carry it with you daily. Buy a large pack of pretzels and put smaller portions into stainless steel lunch containers.
You will not only be reducing your garbage output but you will save a ton of money. Companies charge you a fortune for the packaging you are throwing away.
Use a compost bin
We throw out a ton of kitchen waste that doesn’t have to go in the trash can. Produce scraps, stale bread, egg shells and coffee grounds can be turned into compost rather easily. Once you have some nice, rich, compost, add it to the garden. You will be amazed at how much healthier your garden plants will be.
Along with your kitchen waste, you can also dry leaves and grass clippings from your yard. Get a kitchen counter compost bin so you have to make fewer trips to the yard.
Recycle everything you can
You probably know you can recycle #1 and #2 plastic, tin and glass but many trash companies take lots more than that! Check out Earth 911 to find out where to recycle cardboard, paint, electronics and many other items in your area. You can also check out my list of recycling resources as well. Learn how to recycle cartons even if they aren’t accepted by your trash company in my post about reducing your carbon footprint.
Find way’s to create LESS recycling. If you can find raw milk in glass bottles from a local farmer, you can return the bottles for them to use again. Same goes for egg cartons and people with chickens!
Learn to reuse everything you can
I have several articles on my site about reusing household items. You can find a new use for an otherwise useless THING and keep it out of the landfill. Here are a few resources that might help:
- 10 Ways to Reuse Coffee Grounds Around the House
- Creative Ways to Reuse Old Windows Instead of Throwing Them Away!
- How to Mend Socks and Ways to Reuse Them When You Can’t
- 15 Creative Ways to Reuse Plastic Milk Jugs
- How to Reuse Aluminum Foil
- Creative Ways to Reuse Your Mint Tins
- Upcycled DIY Ribbon Organizer You Can Make for Only Pennies!
Packaging of new products creates an amazing amount of trash since everything is wrapped in plastic and tucked into a box. Shop at consignments sales, thrift stores, garage sales, etc instead. Find high quality items that come without a scrap of packaging waste. Along with reducing your carbon footprint you will be saving money as well!
Stop your junk mail
It seems like every day I get several flyers, advertisements, and credit card offers. Stop this useless trash from even making it’s way into your home by adding your address to the National Do Not Mail list!
Do You Think You Could Live a A Rubbish Free Year?
I recently heard about an amazing story and had to do a little research to find out if it was actually true…it was! Matthew and Waveney from Christchurch, New Zealand decided to reduce their trash consumption DRASTICALLY! The challenge was for their household to create no garbage for the landfill for 1 year. They were allowed to fill ONE large trash bag for that entire year, which would then be thrown away at the end of the challenge. They did this in several ways and you can learn more HERE but I am truly amazed at what they accomplished.
Tips for a A Rubbish Free Year:
A rubbish free year requires that you take those ways to reduce your garbage output I gave you up top, and take them to the extreme. So, this is how you start your rubbish free year:
- Do not buy anything in non recyclable or disposable packaging
- Ask friends and family not to bring (or send) any trash when they come to visit
- Make homemade instead of buying (like granola bars)
- Compost everything possible
- Reduce, reuse, recycle, rehome (does someone else want it?)
- Buy second hand (amazing how much new stuff is wrapped up in!)
- Garden and preserve
- Be conscious of what you bring home. Bring a reusable container when you go out to eat so you can skip the Styrofoam AND help reduce restaurant food waste.
Less Rubbish is Great Too!
These are such simple ideas and we use a lot of them here in our house. They are not only green but frugal as well. Our trash production is amazing low…I actually see our trash guy just reach in and grab the bag or two from the can instead of hooking it to the trash truck. HOWEVER, I have one issue that I can’t seem to avoid. I have a very sensitive nose and garbage starts to smell after a few days.
I cannot imagine how hard it is to live rubbish free but just think of how much healthier our environment would be if we could do it!
The most important thing you can do to reduce your trash output is to be aware of what you are throwing away. Before you toss something into the trash can, ask yourself what ELSE you could be doing with it!
Do you know any other ways to reduce your garbage output?
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Diane has a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology with a Minor in Health Management and Policy. She spent many years working in cancer research, academics, and biotechnology. Concern over the growing incidence of human disease and the birth of her children led her to begin living a more natural life. She quickly realized that the information she was learning along the way could be beneficial to many others and started blogging as a way to share this knowledge with others. While passionate about health and the environment she can’t quite give up her favorite Cheetos and Diet Coke! Learn more about her HERE.