You can reduce household waste. Running your own household, whether you have a bed/sitting room or a free-standing house can produce a lot of waste material. It comes into your home in a variety of formats: junk mail, fast food containers, produce packaging and even by products of your own handicrafts. No household can continually accumulate all of these items within its own borders and remain a functional entity.
But where can it go? One of the slogans bandied about these days is “not in my backyard.” No one really wants all of these bits and pieces taking up space in their environment.
Recycling has been considered to be one way to deal with all those things that are no longer wanted in a home. Discard items can range from junk mail to clothing that no longer fits, and even furniture that has outlived its usefulness. Old appliances, car parts, and worn out tools can add to the effluvium. In modern households, discard items can include electronics – cell phones, computers, battery operated “smart” toys, and more. Recycling seems like good alternative to throwing things “away” since there is no real “away” that doesn’t involve someone’s backyard. But recycling is still an imperfect process, and you can’t really be sure that the stuff you drop off at the recycling plant doesn’t wind up in the landfill after all.
Reducing the waste in your home is a sure way to keep things out of the landfill. You can do this through several simple measures:
- Sign up for the National Do Not Mail list (US), or the Mail Preference Service (UK) This will stop most of the junk mail before it arrives in your mailbox. If there are stores from which you want to receive ads or notices, request email instead of physical mail. The store will actually save money on postage, and you will still be informed of sales. The only exception to this is stores that send out coupons, because many stores have place a moratorium on computer print-out coupons because of the high fraud rate.
- Take your own shopping bags to the store, and insist that the store use them. With that said, you will need a system for keeping your bags clean. The store does not want to deal with soiled shopping bags, and you don’t want your groceries or new clothing placed into dirty bags. Canvas or denim bags can be washed in a washing machine right after shopping and stored in a closet or drawer where they are safe from contamination. If your domicile has (say it softly) a roach or flea infestation, store the bags inside a tub, or inside a plastic bag, that will close tightly to keep out insects
- Buy in bulk. One large bag of flour creates one container’s worth of “throw away” whereas two bags creates two bags.
- Buy items in reusable or recyclable containers. Glass and plastic containers can often be washed and used as containers or even dishes inside your home. While they are not lovely, glass jars make perfectly functional drinking glasses and butter tubs can be used as bowls. Any lidded container can be used to hold leftovers, small household items such as buttons, screws, pins or paper clips.
- Many items that we throw away are potential craft items, or even reusable items. String off pet food or flour sacks can be wound into a ball and kept for those moments when something needs tied. The same thing is true of the twist ties and plastic tab fasteners that come on bread wrappers and similar items. Use one of those yogurt or butter tubs you have saved to contain these useful things. Cracker boxes and cereal boxes can be saved and given to children to use as craft items – or you can even use them for your own crafty needs.
- Give away wearable clothing that no longer fits, or – if it is in good condition – place it for sale with a consignment shop that sells second hand clothing. Either way, you create a win-win situation – you gain closet and drawer space, and someone else gains clothing that is wearable at a reasonable price. If you gave the clothing to a charity, you can gain a tax write-off; if you placed it with a consignment shop, you gain some spare change.
- Make non-wearable items into cleaning rags, quilts or rag rugs. Small items can be made into pot-holders or even into pillows.
- Create a compost container and use the results to raise earth worms (a marketable cash enterprise) or to garden – even if your garden space is limited to a window sill or artificially lighted area.
- Electronics and used appliances can also be donated to some charitable institutions. Good Will, for example, will take some things to be remade and then sold in their stores. Check with your local charities to see which ones take these items. Otherwise, check with recycling centers to see where these items should be dropped off.
- Look for recycling centers that take items you do not wish to keep or reuse, rather than placing them in your general trash pickup. These sites have excellent resources for locating your nearest recycling centre: RecycleNow (UK) and RecycleNation (US)
Unfortunately, some things have a limited reusability. While some, such as food containers made of metal, glass or even plastic, can be recycled, there are other types of wrapping that cannot be conveniently recycled. Some things are so mixed up that they give recycling centers difficulty, and those things do end up in landfills. Diligently search for ways to recycle as much as possible, however. There is no “away” to throw refuse and anywhere there is a landfill or trash dump, it is in someone’s backyard.