|A Week of Waste: Day 1|
When I decided to start tracking the amount of waste I generate I made the choice to track everything, including the things I’d normally recycle or compost. The idea of this was not to pat myself on the back and say, “Hey, look how much I recycle and compost,” but instead to get a real idea of how much waste I generate, and that means all of it. In addition, I wanted to explore how much waste I would create if recycling and composting were not something that was available to me.
The option of recycling and composting is not one that is available to everyone. There are municipalities in the United States that still don’t offer curbside recycling. In a 2016 Pew Research study it was found 7 in 10 urban communities offered it while only 4 in 10 rural communities did and while other studies have found the availability to be slightly higher, only approximately 35% of the waste Americans generate is recovered through recycling.
Of the 28% of Americans that compost most are homeowners, which may indicate that the ability to compost is more available to those with some economic privilege. The Compost Council found only 200 communities in the United States offer curbside composting. According to the EPA food waste makes up 21.6% of the municipal solid waste that ends up in our landfills; and that doesn’t include other compostable waste such as some paper products and yard waste.
I had a couple of other rules too. Photos of things like toilet paper, tissues, etc. would be taken before I made use of them (there are some things no one wants to see), and I would count waste that I did not generate alone. I live with two roommates and so you will see some things I’m not solely responsible for, like toilet paper rolls, empty dish soap containers, and the like.
There are two things I noticed on my first day of tracking my waste for one week. The first is that it is difficult to resist the urge to change my habits right now. Taking a photo of each piece of waste has made me very much aware of just how much waste I actually generate; which is more than I expected. Even with recycling and composting there is still a lot that will end up in the garbage can.
The second thing is just how personal one’s trash is. In looking at the picture above you can tell that I start my morning with two cups of coffee, that I have a junk food habit, that I live with at least one cat, and that I go to the bathroom around six times a day – which now has me wondering if this is within the realm of normal.
As of this morning I’ve already photographed 11 pieces of waste…