No Foolin’—March Garbage Review

Garbage and Recycling Accumulated for the Entire Month of March 2019

How fitting was it that April Fools Day was the day to review our March 2019 garbage and recycling? As you now, we’ve decided to track all of our garbage this year, which includes recycling, as it is really garbage too. This post chronicles the third month of our project (here’s January and February’s trash). As you’ll see, being really mindful and examining our trash is proving very effective in decreasing our waste stream.

Plan-Do-Study-Act Process

As a reminder, we have employed a Continuous Quality Improvement process developed by Deming. In this process, you identify a problem, come up with a theory on how you might get desired results, try out the change(s), study the outcome, and then repeat with any changes you determined were necessary. From our garbage study the past two months, we discovered that billing envelopes, commercial soy milk and tofu containers, over-the-counter eye wipes, and my job as a recipe tester contributed a lot of garbage, much of it not recyclable.

Our Garbage for March 2019:

Our Garbage for March 2019

We have significantly less garbage this month—we’re so thrilled! Here’s what’s in our trash:

  • Bob’s Red Mill plastic flour bag. I’m working through the stock of flour we had in our emergency supplies. I bought a box these a year and a half ago when we weren’t so zero waste and I’m cycling through them to use them up. We use our long-term emergency supplies as a second pantry and restock as I pull from it, so I’m resupplying with more eco-friendly packaging. I wish Bob’s wouldn’t use plastic bags.
  • Plastic tempeh packaging. I needed to use tempeh for one of the last projects to complete my Rouxbe Plant-Based Professional certification and have not yet made my way into making my own tempeh, so this made plastic trash. Making tempeh is on my list to learn, just like soy milk and tofu were. We don’t use a lot of tempeh, so it was lower on the to-do list.
  • Produce tags and stickers. Grrrrr. Still amassing these. Green onions are growing again in my garden and will have herbs again soon. I have decided that next winter I will have an indoor herb garden to decrease my reliance on plastic-tagged produce from the grocery store.
  • Plastic handle. I have a second Instant Pot that I use for teaching cooking classes and had carried it around in the box, but the box wasn’t holding up well to all that transport, so I broke it down and was left with this piece of plastic handle.
  • Miele vacuum cleaner bag. Sigh. Somehow I’d forgotten that the vacuum cleaner had these horrible bags. They are some fluffy synthetic fabric that you cannot empty and reuse. I contacted Miele to inquire if they had reusable ones and they don’t. I found a You-Tube video from a man from Australia who cuts his open, dumps the contents, tapes the bag back up and reuses them 4-5 times, but I’m not convinced that’s the best option for hygiene or long-term life of the vacuum cleaner. Plus, we have boxes and boxes of these bags already. I did, however, cut the bag open and dumped the contents into our compost to at least recycle that. The bag, however, goes into the trash. We’ll just sweep more often instead of vacuuming all the time. If we do have to replace the vacuum cleaner, we’ll get one without bags (Miele does make a bagless version now). Fortunately our shop vac is bagless, so we’ll use that to vacuum out our cars in the future.
  • Toiletries. We had a house guest who used a new deodorant stick with the throw-away initial cover. We used up a tube of toothpaste in a plastic tube and I finished an old tube of eyeliner.
  • DVD. I came across an old printer driver installation DVD. We download these anymore as they’re most current that way. Do they even supply these anymore? I hope not.
  • Plastic windows from envelopes and box of pasta. Our stack of plastic windows from mailing envelopes is wayyyyyy down from the past two months. Enrolling in paperless billing has made a HUGE impact on reducing trash. We had some inevitable ones due to it being tax season, but this is much improved!
  • Plastic packaging. I made a wax wrap for my mom and was left with the plastic package from the pine resin and used something that came in a package with plastic on it.

Lessons Learned:

  • Paperless billing for the win! Next month we should have even less plastic windows for the trash.
  • Making our own soy milk and tofu cut down on a lot of trash and recycling! No more tetrapaks or plastic tofu trays! And I finally found a local source for nigari, tofu coagulant, in bulk from San Juan Island Sea Salt in Friday Harbor, Washington. We took a Sunday drive up and filled a gallon jug and I even shared some with another zero waster, One Glass Jar.
  • Continue to seek out better-packaged toiletries. We finally found toothpaste in a metal tube, Davids Natural Toothpaste, and it even comes with a handy metal roller so you can get all the toothpaste out before sending the empty tube in the metal recycling! (Note: my previous version of of this post showed a photo with package of Eco Dent dental floss I’d picked up from a Zero Waste store. I’ve since discovered that while the packaging was zero waste (cardboard, thus shreddable and compostable), the floss itself was nylon, not compostable at all. I’d been tossing it in the commercial compost pickup, but now will collect with the toothbrush bristles and put in our garbage. Lesson learned, ALWAYS double-check items that say they are zero waste or sold in zero waste departments/stores. I’m back on the search for vegan, zero-waste dental floss). I’ll pick up a eyeliner pencil to replace the liquid liner that came in plastic.

More Zero Waste Dental Options

  • Stepping down from recipe testing significantly decreased our trash. While I enjoyed doing that contract work, it caused me a lot of anxiety due to the trash it created. I really enjoy finding zero waste alternatives when cooking and am thrilled to be back to doing that without constraints.
  • We’re going to have to sweep more if we don’t want to use a lot of vacuum cleaner bags. Buying a new vacuum cleaner is not an option for us right now. I will continue to at least dump the contents into the compost so there’s less stuff going to the dump. We’ll vacuum out our cars with the shop vac which is bagless, which will help. Let’s see how long it will be before we have another full vacuum bag to dispose of.
  • Buy more produce from the Farm Stand until our garden is back in production again. This cuts down on ties and stickers.

Our March 2019 Recycling

Our March 2019 Recycling

Our recycling is mega-reduced this month! Here’s what we’ve got this month:

  • Vitamin bottle. We finished up a bottle of Vitamin C we started taking when we were fighting colds. It was an older bottle and we won’t be replacing it.
  • Foil. Was a reused piece from another casserole. It got dirtied up this time.
  • Tin cans. I made a recipe with jackfruit and another with black olives, neither of which I can find without cans. I also used a can of tomato paste because I ran out of what I canned at home this summer.
  • Wine, beer, and liquor caps. At least these are metal and recyclable.
  • Safety razor blade. I’ve switched to using a safety razor and this is the first blade I’ve had to dispose of this year.
  • Canning jar lid and ring. These rusted because I used them on a pint jar used to weigh down apple cores when making apple cider vinegar.
  • Beer bottle. Leftover from what we bought for our Christmas party.

Lessons Learned:

  • We don’t need Vitamin C tablets. Was good to use these up but don’t replace them. Eat citrus and other foods rich in Vitamin C instead.
  • Great reduction in tin cans this month. Was decreased down to a minimum level of things we can’t get in any other packaging. Jackfruit and black olives aren’t things we use in large quantities. Make more tomato paste this year.
  • Find a different weight for making apple cider vinegar so we don’t ruin canning lids and rings.
  • Get growlers of beer when we finish these bottles.

First Quarter Results

I’ll let the photos speak volumes!

First Quarter Garbage

Look how much less volume we have! I can even take a square photo now.

First Quarter Recycling

I have to say, this process is really working for us. I’m not sure we’d really realize how much trash and recycling we were producing and how to change it if we weren’t examining it month-to-month like this. We haven’t put our garbage or recycling cans out yet this year and they aren’t even half full yet, and that’s with the smallest garbage can available to us by our garbage service! What’s even better is that our garbage doesn’t even smell. Everything is clean and dry, no food, so there’s nothing to rot or stink.

Have you started looking at your garbage and recycling? Are you using the Plan-Do-Study-Act Continuous Improvement process or something else? How is it going for you? Let me know! Tag me @trimazingVLC or hashtag #trimazing on Instagram so I can see your progress too!

Check out how we did next in What a Bunch of Garbage!

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