Trash talk! One of my very, very favorite subjects. A couple of weeks ago, my girls and I parked next to the garbage trucks in the grocery store parking lot so we could look into each truck’s compressor back. The girls were sure we’d get in trouble, but no one came running to make us back away and we got a nice up-close look at all of the small hard plastic bits and remnants of plastic bags that were too small or light to be pushed into place with the larger items. I wanted so badly to reach in and pick things out, these items that looked ready to flutter to the ground. I was itching to catalog what was there so I could compare it to the lists we’ve made of plastic bits we’ve found on our local beaches and at points higher up in our local watershed. My girls saw that glint in my eyes, though, and made me promise to keep my hands off the trash.
Since the trash I was looking at yesterday was all ours, my girls were fine with me carrying it around. I’d collected it on our windowsill, admiring the way the clear plastic and foil caught our beautiful fall sunshine today. Here’s the non-compostable, non-reusable, non-recyclable waste we’ve produced since Sunday dawned:
2 “sealed for your protection” plastic rings, 1 from a jar of pickles, the other from a jar of broth paste (which we use instead of broth in plastic-lined Tetra Paks or cans lined with BPA).
1 crinkly plastic wrapper from a mint. The girls got dinner from a big city taco truck with their dad on Sunday, and brought this mint home to share for dessert. It’s hard to cut a mint into even pieces, but we did it and then we had this wrapper to deal with.
1 lightweight foil wrapper from a bar of Trader Joe’s fair trade chocolate. I discovered the remnant of this chocolate bar in the cabinet while I was mixing up some school snacks, and I just couldn’t resist. The paper wrapper is in the recycling bin, but I can’t recycle this foil locally.
We also produced an incredible amount of compost on Monday. I had been putting off a long-overdue (very long!) cleaning of our fridge. But we had finally reached a point where there were mere inches of space at the front of each shelf for fresh food; the rest of the space was taken up by jars and jars of mysterious things.
41 jars, to be exact. They were evenly split between home-made frosting (I do a lot of baking for friends, and never want to throw out the frosting I don’t need for their cakes. But I don’t want to eat it, either) and mysterious brown dressings, also home-made. Judging by the numbers, I excel at mixing up sauces and dips in various shades of brown; some of them were miso-based, some fish sauce, some almond butter or peanut butter or tahini. But none of them were fresh any more, and had the mold to show for it. There were a few jars of old fruit from my batches of shrub (vinegar soda) and even some hard-boiled eggs that we all forgot to eat.
According to a federal study, the average United States citizen wastes 1 pound of food each day, that’s one pound wasted by each adult and child. I suppose our amount of waste from the fridge, which represents more than 3 months of food waste, is a bit less than that. But it’s still a lot. A shameful lot.
All of our waste is in our compost piles and worm bins now, so we’ll eventually use it to grow more food. Composting prepared but spoiled food is better than sending it to a landfill, I suppose, but it makes for a very high carbon footprint compost, that much I’m sure of. I’ve been focused on reducing our use of plastic, and we’ve made great strides in reducing our family’s solid waste, but we obviously have a long way to go when it comes to respectful use of food!
We do our best to pack zero-waste or low-waste lunches, and we bring our glass straws, wooden utensils, cloth napkins, glass and metal mugs, and dishes with us when we’re out and about. All of that has become second nature, and my girls love the food we pack to-go. Now I need to focus again on quantities at home, to keep those jars of sauces and whatnot from going into the fridge to begin with.