Waste Free Feb: Week 1

Just as a refresher: #WasteFreeFeb is about becoming aware of the waste you produce during the month of February. If it can’t be recycled or reused, you must keep it and put it in the container you have chosen for the month. Our Research Manager, Maggie, chose a jar (roughly a pint in size) and chose to do this for the entire month, although she encourages people to participate in any way they can, even if it’s just for a week or weekend. 

Maggie writes:

End of Week 1: Thursday 8 February 2018

I’m rather low on the income scale and rather high on the work hours scale, and I was worried I wouldn’t have the time or money to do this properly. What I’ve found is that a lot more of what I normally buy is recyclable than I realized and I can find ways to prepare ahead without spending an entire afternoon cooking for the week to come (always make extra at dinner for the next day’s leftovers, store my food in a way that keeps it fresher longer, take a few extra minutes when putting away groceries to divvy up some of the food into snack or meal sized portions to grab on the go).

Despite some uncomfortable realizations about how much waste I produce, how many recyclable things I’ve been throwing away unaware, and some heart-rending emotions about the waste our society produces as a whole, I’m hopeful this month will be a bit more manageable than I had originally anticipated. I guess we’ll find out when I update next week!

This week’s waste:

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Maggie’s jar after Week 1
  • 2 produce stickers (from avocados, mmmm)
  • The label from the recyclable hummus container
  • 2 granola bar wrappers (I wonder if there are any granola bar wrappers that are recyclable?)
  • The plastic seal from a salad dressing bottle
  • The backing to a sticker (because people deserve stickers for a job well done)
  • The outer wrapping of a frozen pizza that was inside a recyclable cardboard box
  •  The weird absorbent pad at the bottom of my recyclable carton of fresh raspberries

Things I Learned This Week:

  • It’s all about being prepared! (Apparently this month is also going to give me an awareness of how scattered my brain is.)
  • Most packaging, although it’s less common on off-brand bargain versions, will tell you what’s recyclable about it. Many will even tell you what to do with the various components of the packaging.

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    Recycling labels on the bottom of a cardboard box
  • The plastic bag return at your local grocery store can also accept many other items such as toilet paper wrapping, bread bags, many bags that enclose crackers or cereal or vegetables. For example:

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    Plastic bags that can be recycled
  • There are many different places you can bring your own container, and dealing with the possible responses builds character, right? This week I asked the people at the deli counter to put the meat and cheese they were slicing into the reusable containers I had brought with me. This actually didn’t cause as much of a kerfuffle as I thought it might…however, asking them to also include the little plastic sheeting they slice it onto (and would be throwing away) did get me a look or two.
  • Bringing your own plastic straw in your purse or bag or car is easy…remembering to actually use it will require some practice.

Things I Want to Be on the Lookout for Next Week:

  • I have a designated spot for all my different types of recyclables in the house.
  • Can I actually recycle them here at the waste station in tiny little Archer, FL? What about Gainesville? Normally, in small towns, what is accepted and what isn’t?
  • What are the pros and cons of burning my paper recyclables vs finding a place that takes all the various kinds? We have a fire pit out back that we use on a regular basis to host small bonfires, and I just use my various paper/cardboard as kindling. What are people’s thoughts on this?
  • What do all those colored dots and squares mean on packaging? Does this have anything to do with recycling? Or is it more like the number codes on produce stickers?

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    What are these dots?

Tips, Tricks, and Thoughts

  • Did you know that if a server puts a straw on your table, even if you don’t open it, they still throw them away? You have to stop them early on from reaching for that straw & tell them you have your own, or you just don’t need one. If you’re lucky, the reusable straw you have is one of those brightly colored, twisty shaped straws.

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    Composting!
  • Many people don’t want to have a small compost unit on their kitchen counter because they’re afraid it will smell bad. My compost container is one of those mini ice buckets with a lid (actually, quite a fancy one, but I never host any fancy parties, so…). There’s no actual seal to this lid, I open it multiple times a day to add more food scraps, and nobody has noticed any sort of smell, including my own hyper-sensitive nosed self. We do have a larger compost outside that I can dump it in when it gets full—our outside compost is just open to the air because we have a sizable property, but there are loads of different compost options that can be adapted to urban living.
  • More and more grocery stores are providing bulk options. Not only does buying in bulk save you money, but for all these stores you can bring in your own container, have them weigh it, then subtract that weight from your total after you’ve filled your container with the product of your choice!
  • Reusable produce bags are cheap, super easy, and the cashiers can see the stickers through them well enough to scan and have never commented on them being inconvenient this past year of me using them. I happened to get mine for free from a lovely friend who had ordered a set and didn’t need the full thing.

I can’t wait to share with you how next week goes in Waste Free Feb!