This post is for Blog Action Day – 7 Steps to Getting Rid of your Household Waste.
Over the past couple of decades I’ve lived in a variety of houses (in three different countries), and held an equally astonishing number of jobs. The net result? I’ve got a lot of stuff.
Recently I embarked on a major clean-up. My goal is not necessarily to get rid of everything (after all, I still want to live comfortably); just to reduce my monthly household waste to a measly 1,000cc per month. This is the size of a litre of water, or a couple of pints of beer.
If you’re also embarking on a bit of a cleanup, here’s a look at the fundamental question
I want to get rid of x – where does it go?
Rest assured, there’s a way to get rid of almost anything (in an environmentally-friendly way, of course).
Whenever you’re doing a bit of a cleanup, pick up anything you haven’t used in a while (or clothing you no longer wear) and ask yourself – ‘could someone else use this?‘. If the answer’s ‘yes‘, and you’re ready to get rid of it, take it to your nearest charity shop.
You end up with a cleaner house, and they have an item which can be used by someone else. It’s a win-win.
For items which you no longer want, but are actually quite valuable (such as antiques, furniture or paintings); online auction sites such as eBay are often the way to go. Put all of the eBay items to one side, think about them carefully, and do your homework. It can pay handsome rewards.
Once you’ve completed the first two steps, you may be left with several items (particularly if this is a major cleanout) that are quite bulky, in need of repair, and not particularly valuable. Perhaps you still have a video recorder gathering dust beneath your new big-screen TV and hi-def DVD player. Or maybe you have an old record player, even though an iPod is your new best friend. Whatever the case, a garage sale may be just the way to go.
Anything can be recycled – though it often takes less effort to just produce a new one. However, several items are great for recycling. They can be easily sorted, broken down and re-used in a variety of ways.
The items most easily recycled are :
- glass bottles
- paper and carboard
- some types of plastic (it’s usually marked to make it easier)
With a little effort (often a drive to a dedicated collection centre), the following can be recycled :
- car tyres
- light bulbs
- printer cartridges
- telephone books (NB : these are highly sought after by those who are looking to practice their tearing skills. If you’ve got a spare phone book or two, let me know. I’ll find it a good home).
In many parts of the world, local governments will make recycling an easy process by supplying bins or bags designed for collecting bottles, cardboard etc – and collecting them regularly. If you don’t happen to live in an area such as this, these sites list local recycling centres in the UK and US :
Now that all of the big stuff is out of the way, it’s time to move into the kitchen and bathroom. Yes, even leftover food scraps and peelings can be easily disposed of. The Worm Farm series over on the Former Fat Guy Blog will help you out when it comes to setting one up.
Once your worm farm is ready to go (and it’s no more difficult than putting a plant in the garden), it’ll help out by disposing of :
- kitchen scraps
- coffee grounds, tea bags and tea leaves
As you can see, worms have a varied diet. The bonus is that the farm produces it’s own fertiliser (aroma-free) for use on your gardens.
Time now to head outside. If you have a fairly sizeable yard with a number of trees and large bushes, consider investing in a wood chipper or mulcher. This will enable you to quickly convert the unwanted branches, prunings and leaves into mulch which can then be placed back on the garden.
The gardens will look great, the mulch serves a number of useful purposes (such as weed control and the regulation of water supply) and there’ll be much less material to throw away each week. Perfect.
Finally, that staple of sustainable gardening – composting. A compost heap or bin is easy to construct, simple to maintain and an extremely efficient way to convert much of your garden waste into nutritious fertiliser.
Composting enables you to convert the following items into a useful product :
- grass clippings
- vegetable waste
As you can see, this works well with both the worm farming and mulching approaches. It’s fairly common to see all three working together.
What actually ends up in the trash can?
The short answer : not that much at all.
The longer version (including suggested changes) :
- batteries : use rechargeable wherever possible (personal favourites – solar chargers, such as this). This is not only cheaper, it means having fewer batteries (and less waste).
- old computer parts : give them away (rather than throwing them out). Whenever possible, keep them all together – suddenly there’s an instant project opportunity for someone looking to learn more about computers.
- some types of plastics : the key part of this is simply to avoid them. Whenever you buy something, take a look at the packaging. If you don’t think ‘recyclable‘, look at another product.
Manufacturers are gradually changing because of this approach.