Waste Free Feb: Week 3

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 3: Friday 23 February 2018

This Week’s Waste:1

  • One of those red plastic lattice bag that onions come in (from onions bought like three months ago)
  • A plastic wrapping for Chocolate Digestive Biscuits (because they are the most delicious thing ever)
  • The bottle seal for a bottle of Greek dressing
  • The weird waxy wrapping from a stick of butter
  • **A piece of chewing gum (see note below!)

Things I Learned This Week:

  • So much about composting! Our compost bin is a bit different than the standard one you might find in a neighborhood backyard because we’re out tin the middle of nowhere. It’s large, uncovered, and open to the air. Here are a few specific things I learned to help us compost more efficiently (because honestly I knew nothing about it before):
    • Cutting things up into smaller chunks helps the decomposition process. (This makes sense if you think about it but is something we don’t do with the produce scraps that the tortoises can’t eat.)
    • You can compost wooden matchsticks after burning the chemicals on the head off. I’ve been doing this but wasn’t sure if it was okay–I now officially know that it is.
    • For a normal system, add scraps of paper or cardboard to the compost to help regulate moisture; they’ll compost as well as help keep the system healthier.
    • I’m really looking forward to the spring–I can’t wait to add some worms!
    • **Chewing gum: You really shouldn’t compost gum because it takes a long time to break down. Most gums are entirely synthetic nowadays, which means that you have to throw it away. I don’t chew much gum, but I do occasionally…like this week.2
  • I gained a polystyrene cup on a day that I was running Preserve visitors around all day. I had limited time to eat and the closest place only had this kind of cup. I was prepared to add it to my waste list but then I flipped over cup. On the bottom, I saw a recycling triangle with a six inside and a PS below. This lured me into into the black hole that is Styrofoam/polystyrene recycling. I honestly didn’t know that recycling Styrofoam was an option—although the process isn’t easy.
    • First, there is a difference between Styrofoam and polystyrene (it’s not just the difference between what different countries call it). The majority of food storage is made of is polystyrene, much of which is actually recyclable (although it tends to be repurposed more than recycled). I have yet to find a local place that will accept it but Florida supposedly has four places that will. As I continue to look into recycling polystyrene, I am hanging onto the cup (and any others I run into) and not putting it in my waste. I am determined to fight the good fight against polystyrene for food purposes!3

Things I Am Thinking About For The Last Week:

  • I would love to turn recycling like this into a habit—it’s so easy as long as I have my reusable cup/mug/thermos with me! I just have to remember them even when I’m rushing, which is something I’ve struggled with this week. I think maybe keep a backup set in my car (and remember to wash and put back in my car after use).
  • An unintentional byproduct of this week has been a small dip in the pool of plastic reduction. Yes, most plastic is recyclable but plastic waste remains a major environmental problem. There are a variety of informative and trustworthy websites and videos online to help you learn about the plastic epidemic in our country and the world. Plastic is especially harmful when it gets into the oceans. I’m looking into all sorts of plastic alternatives. I’m even willing to try shampoo bars (I’ll let you know how it goes).

I’ve actually kind of enjoyed this past week, not because I did particularly “well” but because it’s becoming part of my life rather than a chore for the month. Incorporating low-waste habits into my routine means that I’m creating less waste but also that I can accept when I do create waste because I know the effort is there.

What about you? Have you tried to go waste-free at all this month? What about just a week? Just a day? Just a meal?

Have you thought about having a compost in your backyard (especially if you’re a gardener)?

What do you know about shampoo bars? Do you have any recommendations for me?

I hope you’ve all had an excellent week, enjoyed the warm weather, and taken your reusable shopping bags with you out into the sun!