What a Bunch of Garbage! Our Month 4 Garbage & Recycling Review
It’s time for our April garbage and recycling review. After March, where we’d cut down so much on our trash and recycling, I was so excited and hopeful that we were on a big downward trend…but that was not the case. We had a lot of trash this month. It’s not as much as when we started this process, but it’s more than we wanted.
I can’t blame Alan for it, which would be so much easier than the truth, but so not right! It’s mostly because of me! Our garbage suffered from a little bit of hubris in some of my cooking this month. And I was super clumsy at the end of the month and accidentally broke a bunch of stuff! To make matters worse, I cut myself when I broke stuff, leading to even MORE garbage. It was really frustrating.
So here it goes. (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). This is our month’s garbage, recycling, and lessons learned.
There is a lot of garbage here that I’m not proud of. Wait, I’m not proud of any of my garbage…I mean to say, I’m particularly disappointed in several things in our garbage this month.
Plastic Wrap – Alright, I’m going to start with the most embarrassing thing about this month’s garbage. I was asked to provide appetizers for the Duvall Chamber of Commerce again this year to showcase my food and cooking classes. Last year, my spread for 40 people created about 1/4 cup of garbage and I was super proud of this. This year, I decided I was going to make plant-based sushi because first, I’ve had a lot of requests for a vegan sushi-making class and I needed to write out my recipes, and second, I thought it’d be a great way to showcase how great plant-based food is. However, making sushi is not exactly zero waste, which you’ll see throughout my review today.
I really wanted to make a rainbow roll with avocado, oooh-nagi, and carrot lox wrapped on the outside, because, hubris. It’s gorgeous and showcases plant-based faux seafood, which was a hit last year. However, for this to look professional, you have to layer the slices on the top, wrap tightly with plastic wrap to mold the slices to the roll, and then cut through the wrap so the slices stay nicely on top. Now, if I’m making this for us at home, I don’t bother with the plastic wrap because I don’t care that it doesn’t look professional, but this was for a professional event.
But we didn’t have plastic wrap, haven’t had any in our house for over a year. So here’s how the text to Alan went down when I asked him to pick some up for me when he was out running errands:
me: Hey, would you plz pick me up some plastic wrap, like saran wrap, when you’re out?
Alan: Seriously? Are you ok?
And since I had the plastic wrap, I ended up using it on my trays of finished sushi to take to the event, rather than covering them in a less wasteful way. So, there’s several big balls of plastic wrap in our trash.
The package of plastic wrap is in our emergency supply bins in storage now. I can’t even look at it.
Plastic Packaging – Along with the plastic wrap, I needed nori sheets for sushi. I cannot find that in bulk. But I bought packages with the highest number of sheets per pack. I purchased a package of basil for the dessert because basil is not in season and only came in plastic. And I used panko crumbs to make crispy miso-glazed sweet potato rolls, so have a mylar bag from that. Normally I would have just used homemade bread crumbs for making it for us. <sigh>
I also have been working on making my own silken tofu. My experiment with nigari didn’t work and after researching, decided to try gypsum powder instead. I picked up two packages from an Asian market. I have since found a bulk resource for gypsum powder, which I will share in my upcoming post on making silken tofu.
The Epsom Salts bag is the last one from pre-zero waste purchasing days. We are buying from bulk bins from now on.
Batteries…those dang plastic packages!
Bubble-Wrap Lined Mailers – I redid my vegetable garden irrigation this month. My old system leaked horribly at the connections and I needed to extend it to the seven new beds I installed last year. I found a great new system when I volunteered with Tilth Alliance’s Soil and Water Stewardship program and decided to install it (post coming soon). However, I could not find the parts locally and had to order them online. I requested no plastic packaging and most things came in a big cardboard box with paper filler. Unfortunately there were some parts not in their warehouse that they had shipped directly from their suppliers in bubble-wrap lined mailers. I hate those because I can’t open them in a way where they can be reused and I cannot separate the paper from the bubble wrap.
Plastic Envelope Windows – The one beacon through all this garbage is the dramatically decreased amount of plastic envelope windows! Switching to paperless billing has markedly improved this. It was tax time, however, so there were many things in the mail related to taxes that we could not get paperless, as legally some things apparently have to come hard copy.
Plastic Lining from Paper Sack – I bought a 50 pound bulk paper bag of baking soda and when I went to send it through the paper shredder to put in our compost, discovered that the inside and outside paper had a layer of hidden plastic sandwiched in between! I tediously pulled apart the laminated material, shredded the paper, and had a pile of ridiculous plastic. I’ll find another source from now on.
Foam Paint Roller and Plastic Packaging – I finally had time to work on refinishing a headboard I’d picked up from my Buy Nothing group. I thought I’d need to use a roller to apply a smooth layer of primer, but it turns out the brush worked way better. I could not clean the primer out of the foam roller. A brush did a nicer job and is a much better zero waste option anyway as I can easily clean it.
Broken Ceramic – Somehow my favorite shaker container of baking soda slipped out of my hand when cleaning the kitchen sink and broke. It’s not recyclable material (other than the metal cap). And I cut myself when I broke it. Leading to…
Band-aids, Wrappers, Stickers, Labels – Band-aid wrappers and the peels for exposing the adhesive are not recyclable. I used glass bottles of brown rice vinegar, rice seasoning, etc. and removed plastic labels, which are in the trash. I’m reusing the glass jars/bottles. I replaced our water filter for the refrigerator (recycled the filter through a mail-based service) and it came with a stupid sheet of stickers for every month so you can label when you installed the filter. We had some produce stickers and miscellaneous wrappers.
Miscellaneous Plastic – A foam-core nail file (Alan’s, from pre-zero waste days. I’ve used metal Diamond Deb nail files my whole life, which never wear out and are recyclable. I have some from when I was a teenager that I still use). A sharpie I found in our tool box that was dried up. A plastic name badge from Alan’s recent trip to the US Masters Swimming Spring Nationals swim meet (I did save the lanyard in my box of other lanyards I use for my classes). A broken Easter decoration someone gave me a few years ago (I pulled off all of the usable items from it and am re-purposing those). Tape dispenser roll, a pre-zero waste purchase, and container from Teflon tape thread I needed for my garden irrigation project. The cap from a container of soy-whip (to be described in recycling). Personal care item containers (last individual eye drop container for Alan and last container of shaving cream from pre-zero waste purchase).
Scheesh. Did you make it through all of that?
Lessons Learned from Our Garbage:
- Really consider the impact of our menu on our waste stream. Is that meal worth the trash? People at the Chamber meeting remembered how little garbage I created when I catered the year before and I was embarrassed when they asked about the amount of trash this event created.
- Buy local as much as possible. If you can’t find local, ask that any mail order items be shipped in one container and to hold shipments for back-ordered items so they can be shipped together.
- Use reusable tools for home improvement, such as washable brushes and rollers.
- Continue to look for durable or recyclable personal care items/packaging.
- Band-aids make a lot of garbage. Use compostable cotton wrapping if you can.
- Paperless billing really helps decrease plastic waste!
- Find new source for baking soda that doesn’t use a laminated plastic/paper sack.
- Be careful with breakable containers, slow down, so you don’t break them and injure yourself!
Most of our recycling was due to my catering decision, and thus, avoidable.
Metal – My decision to make a coconut milk-based dessert for the Chamber meeting added six metal cans to our recycling. In addition, I went with a whipped topping garnish and instead of using the beautiful iSi container Alan bought me for Christmas, and purchased a container of soy whip from the store. I hadn’t devoted enough time to learning how to use the iSi system, so I didn’t trust I could make it work at my event. I also had a container of wasabi powder and the top from a container rice seasoning. I used the last of my home-canned tomatoes this month so used a metal tin of tomatoes. I made kimchi this month and used a tin of pineapple juice, trying to use up old supply. We also had beer caps, wine/champagne caps, and the metal top to the ceramic shaker container I broke.
Glass – We’re using up the beer we bought in bottles at Christmas and will be using the growlers when those are gone. The amber bottle contained Complement spray, the Vitamin B12, D3, and DHA/EPA supplement we use, and I cannot get the fishy smell/taste out of the bottle or plastic spray top, so we just recycle the bottle. And, I broke two mason jars, a quart and half-gallon size.
Plastic – All personal care items. We cannot get eye care items without plastic packaging. I used the last of my Aveda hair product and am now exclusively using castile soap and apple cider vinegar on my hair. Alan is still using Aveda shampoo and body wash and still buying the largest containers possible to reduce the number of containers.
Lessons Learned from Our Recycling
- Really consider the impact of our menu on our waste stream. Is that meal worth the recycling? Consider zero waste garnishes, such as herbs, grated citrus peels, etc.
- Grow more tomatoes this year so we have enough canned to last the entire year.
- Use growlers for beer.
- Be careful with glass containers so you don’t break them and cut yourself.
- Learn how to use the iSi container! (Hey, there’s a blog post topic idea!)
- Continue to buy the largest containers possible if we have to buy things in plastic, to reduce number of plastic containers in our recycling.
Here’s our garbage packaged up to go into the trash can. Note that this month we could not fit it all into one single package, like we’d been able to do in past months.
And here’s our four month accumulation of garbage. We have an insert in our trash can that limits it to 20 gallons. We’re about halfway full at this point, so should be able to make eight months before putting out the trash for pick up, if we continue to keep our garbage production down.
We did have an electronic air filter installed this month, so we won’t have any more disposable air filters, like you see here, in our trash. We’re super excited about this!
So that was our April garbage and recycling review. We are human, just like you, and we do have times where we just don’t do as good of a job as we’d like. But by using the Plan-Do-Study-Act process, we see how our decisions and behaviors impact our trash and allows us to learn and apply better processes. We will strive to do better this month. We are gone the first week on a vacation, but don’t you fret, we’re working hard on our trip to minimize our trash and I’m really excited to share tips and tricks we’ve discovered! Zero Waste doesn’t take a vacation!
Cindy Thompson, MS, is a certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator; an American Council on Exercise certified Health Coach, Peer Fitness Trainer, and Fitness Nutrition Specialist; Tilth Alliance Soil and Water Steward; 5 Gyres Ambassador; Rouxbe Culinary School Plant-Based Professional; and retired fire captain and paramedic. She provides health and lifestyle coaching at Trimazing! Vegan Lifestyle & Health Coaching. Cindy can be reached at email@example.com.
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