Waste Free Feb: Week 4

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 4: Thursday, 28 February 2018

This Week’s Waste:1

  • Plastic pull top to almond milk (2)
  • Plastic wrapping of a frozen burrito
  • Mini bag of potato chips
  • Frozen pizza plastic shrink wrap
  • 2 protein bar wrappers
  • 1 candy bar wrapper
  • Crinkly plastic wrapping of a gas station pre-made sandwich
  • Cough drop wrapper
  • Weird sort of foil/plastic pita chip bag (Explain to me how your company is so concerned with not using animal products and being sustainably-sourced ingredients…yet doesn’t use recyclable packaging?)
  • Plastic fork and salad container from fast food restaurant (not pictured)

As a bit of a disclaimer: not long after I finished writing last week’s post, I boarded a last-minute plane to Virginia to attend the unexpected funeral of a loved one. As such, I had to do my best to be waste-free in an environment in which I was completely unprepared to do so. On the way home, exhausted from travelling and from a plethora of emotions, I simply wanted to eat fast, easy food and basically purchased without any thought. It lead to one of the…

Things I Learned This Week:

  • The above-mentioned fork and salad container were actually recyclable, but I thought I had nowhere to keep them. In hindsight, I should have washed them off in the bathroom and just left them in my car for the weekend while I was parked at the airport. There is always an alternative; it’s just about making that thought process a habit.
  • Being waste-free while traveling is heart-breaking and exhausting. I’m sure there was more waste from this last week than I included. I was too tired to remember, but I did my best to keep all my waste—I brought it back on the plane with me. When it came time for a bit of fast, easy comfort food, I was frustrated with the waste I ended up with—it shouldn’t be this difficult! One of my previous go-to stores for cheap and good produce has started pre-bagging all of their produce. It seems to me that it would create extra cost for them, on top of the waste. You can believe I will be contacting the company!
  • On a more positive note: did you know you can recycle your dead batteries and used printer cartridges? Your local electronics store (and possibly your office supply store, depending where you live) will have the resources to do this. I called ahead to be sure and was told it was a go to bring in my batteries. When I got to the store, though, the recycling station out front listed only rechargeable batteries. I went and talked to customer service and he said that technically they only take rechargeable batteries but were more than happy to take my load of dead alkaline batteries as well. Nervous that they were just trying to make a good impression, I asked what would they do with the batteries they weren’t technically supposed to take. Would they just throw them away? The customer service representative laughed and assured me that they would still be recycled–it just wasn’t an advertised service because it costs more to recycle alkaline batteries than rechargeable ones. I can go ahead and keep bringing them in. What a lovely guy!
  • I also took all of my plastic bags to the drop-off station at my closest grocery store, took my recycling to the county waste station, and am preparing for a bonfire tonight that will be kindled by some of the paper recycling.
  • 6Last, but certainly not least (I’ve been looking forward to this all month): I got take-out from our local Mexican restaurant in my own containers! Not only were they more than happy to take my containers back to the kitchen and put the food right in, they didn’t even mind that all I had was two small containers instead of one larger one. I am so excited about this oh-so-simple waste reduction method and will gladly be that obnoxious friend who forces everyone to bring their own leftover containers moving forward. I now keep a set of containers (as well as cutlery) in my car for any culinary emergencies.

Things I Plan to Carry on Beyond February:

  • Bringing my own take-away containers, for sure! I’ll also continue on with my own straw and water bottle. I’ve done this for ages but I will now be much more vigilant about remembering them.
  • I’ve said it before but one of the biggest realizations from this month was how much can be recycled that I didn’t realize, like some chip bags, vegetable packaging, little bits and pieces of beverage containers, and so on. I will do a double-check before putting a product in my shopping cart to see if there is an option with recyclable packaging.
  • I’m super excited to get my worms to add into the compost and am glad I took the time to learn a little bit more about composting. Our biggest change will be cutting the food up into smaller pieces before we dump it in the bin.
  • The whole point of this month was to become aware of how much waste I produce and wow, am I aware! I struggled a bit to fit the lid onto my jar. I understand very well what it’s like to be too tired to cook and what it’s like to be too poor to buy fancier, eco-friendly alternatives to pre-made food but I’ve realized that can’t be my excuse. Maybe I’ll have to set aside a bit more time to prepare my meals, maybe I’ll have to wake up ten minutes earlier to fix my lunch, maybe I’ll have to educate myself more on growing our own food. But doesn’t Mama Nature deserve just a few more minutes of my time and love?

What about you? What did you take away from this past month? Any small or big changes you’ll be making in your consumption habits? I’d love to hear about them, or get any tips you have for faster ways to prep waste-free.

Thanks so much for joining me during this month’s journey with all of its ups and downs. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and learned as much as I have. Happy recycling, friends!