Oh Shit! May Garbage & Recycling Review

We were on track to have one of the best garbage/recycling months yet!

And then…oh shit!


Last week we had two of our 7.5 grandkids (we have one in progress) stay with us for several days. We LOVE our grandkids, and all of our family for that matter, and look forward to having them over. We frequently have grandkids stay with us for overnights and longer, and it’s always a wonderful time. This was no exception.

But right before they came over, we realized there would be an impact on our trash. The 10-month-old is in disposable diapers and the 4-½-year-old is no longer in diapers/pull-ups but is particular in what he eats.


Now, before you get your poison pens out to write to tell me how awful I am to blog about what right now appears to be a negative issue with our family, please read on. This was really a good experience and brought about a lot of great discussion. In fact, the conversation started when Alan’s daughter walked in the door with boxes of supplies and the kids, apologizing, “I’m so sorry. I’m going to mess up your whole no-garbage thing!” She felt horrible and we felt bad that it made her feel bad. There are no surprises for Alan’s daughter when she reads this, as we talked about it at length when they brought the kids over, and it deals with an issue that hundreds of thousands of families have today—kids and garbage.

And it is a reality check that although we are striving to be zero waste, we are going to have family and friends visit that are not accustomed to this lifestyle. It’s taken us a year and conscious effort to get to where we are right now; it’s unfair to assume our guests are at the same place. For us, this is in no way a deterrent for having family or guests over!

Bag of dirty diapers and food containers (we used an old plastic bag that bird seed came in)

In four days time, we filled up a large bag of dirty diapers and plastic food containers from crackers, applesauce, and microwavable meals. It would not be reasonable to make Alan’s daughter change her son to cloth diapers or for us to radically try to change a 4-year-old’s food preferences in order for them to stay with us a few days. Staying with Grandpa and Cindy, away from their parents and familiar surroundings, was disruption enough! We just rolled with it!

We had to put the trash out for collection even though the can wasn’t full

And although the garbage can wasn’t full (remember it’s only a 20 gallon insert), this trash had to go—it stunk! We’d wanted to make it through July before having a pick up, but there was no way to keep this around.

May Garbage

Our May garbage, diapers and extra food containers excluded.

So here’s the rest of the trash. We kept this separate because we still wanted to see how we were doing, independent of diapers and food containers. It really was a great month for us, despite the outliers.

Note: If you’re joining my monthly garbage and recycling review for the first time, check out my initial post, What’s in Your Garbage?, to learn more about the process we are going through in our efforts to reduce garbage and recycling at our house.

Plastic Clam Shell Containers: I bought raspberries and strawberries out of season in plastic because our grandson spotted them at the grocery store and I was thrilled he wanted some fresh fruit. They are not available at the farmers market yet.

Plastic Protector from New Thermostat: We picked up a new thermostat to be more energy efficient and this protected the circuit panel from shipping damage.

Produce Twist Ties and Stickers: Less than usual as farmers markets have started up again this month.

Potting and Seed Starting Soil Bags: I need to find a bulk source for this. I didn’t have time to do that when I needed it, so I bought the largest bags I could find and will use those for bagging our monthly trash to avoid buying garbage bags.

Broken Light Timer: When we returned from our trip to Palm Desert I could hear this timer buzzing, which made me nervous that it could short out and catch on fire. It’s not worth the risk to keep. I did pull out the on/off inserts to use on other timers.

Plastic Container of Instant Broth: I used up existing supply we had purchased prior to transitioning to zero waste. I cannot get it clean, so it can’t go into the recycle bin.

Plastic Envelope Windows: Wow, so few of these this month, just 12!

Miscellaneous Plastic: These were parts from travel salt/pepper shakers and Bragg’s aminos. I shredded the cardboard salt/pepper containers and swapped out a cap for the leaking sprayer pump. You can see these in the last post about traveling with kitchen spices to reduce food waste.

Lessons Learned from Our Garbage:

  • Buying from local farms greatly reduces metal ties and stickers.
  • Buying seasonally reduces waste/buying out of season creates waste.
  • Paperless billing really helps decrease plastic waste!
  • Find bulk potting and seed starting soil before getting garden starts going next year.
  • Continue to use up and replace items with more zero waste packaging.
  • Risk of fire trumps zero waste. Do not keep things that could endanger our lives or home.

May’s Garbage Bag

May Recycling

Our May Recyclables

This was great! So little recycling to go out.

Plastic: The older grandson drinks cow’s milk. This came with his food stash. The other container is SluggoPlus, which I’d purchased last year and helps protect my vegetable starts from slugs, snails, and sow bugs. I have not been able to successfully protect my starts without it at this location. Slugs even eat the marigold starts here when they are young, which is what I’ve used where I’ve gardened before.

Paper: I used up a roll of Scotch tape.

Metal: I used two cans of tomatoes and two cans of fava beans (I’ve had these beans for a year and wanted to use them up. I have dried ones to replace them). Foil tops from grandson’s applesauce, also champagne and wine. Metal bottoms from salt/pepper shakers. Last of the beer bottle caps and cages from champagne bottles. And we discovered that our metal flag pole was completely broken. We have no idea how this happened but it was not repairable at all.

Lessons Learned from Our Recycling

  • I made better choices this month for cooking, which reduced containers.
  • Using growlers for beer and cider helps a ton.
  • Be careful how we store things so they don’t get broken.


It turned out to be a good garbage month, even with a few days with grandkids. This month illustrates how you can really see the impact a few things can have on garbage accumulation. Four days of diapers and plastic food containers created more garbage than we did our entire month. Change is hard, especially when you’re working parents of two young kids. I don’t fault them. They are doing other things to lessen their impact. Awareness is key, and they are aware and working on it. We all make our choices and changes where we can.

If you are a soon-to-be parent, there are options out there. Sometimes it’s easier to start a process at the beginning rather than making a change midway. Cloth diapers can be one of those things. Many locations have cloth diaper services. I thought this article by Mama Natural was a great overview on using cloth diapers. And kids can be picky eaters, especially when eating at someone else’s house.

Planting kabocha squash

We do try to incorporate fun activities that help the grandkids grow an appreciation for nature, vegetables, etc. All of our grandkids have helped with the vegetable garden in one way or another, whether planting or harvesting. And we let them pick things they’d like to eat from it. They dig in the worm bin and learn about composting food waste. We also take them to farmers markets, vegetable stands, and the grocery store to help get things. The 4-year-old exclaimed, “Holy Moly! That’s the biggest broccoli I’ve ever seen!” while at the grocery store and said he wanted to eat it for dinner with green peas I’d frozen from last year’s garden. Ok! He had a few bites and that’s good enough for us!

Big Broccoli!

But one of the best things that came out of this was the realization that we really don’t need to be paying for garbage service anymore. We’d been hoping to make seven months before putting out our trash and while putting it out the end of May might seem like a failure, it was only because of the smelly diapers, not due to a full can. And even if we have another instance of dirty diapers in the future, which I have no doubt as we will have future grandkid stay-overs, we can simply take whatever garbage we have at that time to the dump ourselves. This process has been terrific to show that we can reduce our trash to the point where we no longer need municipal garbage pickup.

What changes have you made in your trash? Has having kids or grandkids affected your zero waste goals? How have you adjusted?

See what happens next with our garbage and recycling in Goodbye Garbage Can!

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