Use-Less-Plastic Tip: Learn From Your Trash

Here's how to generate your own personal plastic-reduction list.  This idea continues the use-less-plastic theme from an earlier post.

Let your trash show you what you need to change.  Make your plastic trash easy to examine by separating all plastic (yes, including recyclables) from other trash into its own container as you throw it away. 

This is especially important if you're throwing away food rather than composting, or if you have a smoker in your household.  Anything  smelly, rotting, or dirty mixed in with your plastic will be a great excuse not to take that plastic out and examine it.  You want to look at it all; set it up so that you actually will.

For a complete view of your plastic usage, bring home and include plastic trash you generate at work and commuting. When your container is full, empty it on your floor and see what you've got.  Make stacks of different plastic items. You may want, depending on your household, to look at one day of trash, or a week, even a month.  (First time for me was one day; two subsequent studies included about a month of plastic each.)

Do a written tally to capture the information you find.  How many plastic forks?  How many small bulk plastic bags?  larger bulk bags?  styrofoam cups? bottle caps? disposable razors?  yogurt containers?  whatever your trash contains? From your tally, it will be easy to make a list of things you want to change. 

Post your list somewhere conspicuous; mine's on my fridge door, where I see it daily. My list is a work in progress.  In the year-plus since I first created it, I have slowly crossed items off as I discover and start practicing non-plastic alternatives.  Also I have continued to add to the list as I use up longer-lasting products like dish soap.

Even though I'm still far from 100% at delivering on the Plastic-Free Pledge I made, now I can review my list, choose another change to make, start figuring out how to do it, and see that I am making progress.

Most recently, after months of gathering information (read:  procrastination), I finally made my first veggie burgers to replace those convenient frozen plastic-wrapped ones I'd bought for years, which regularly added another piece of throw-away plastic wrap.  My first homemade burgers:  yum! cheap! no plastic!

Time to sign off now:  gotta find out why I can't buy bulk tofu in the co-op, unlike in some Asian markets.  The world doesn't need that discarded plastic tofu packaging, but I do want my organic non-GMO tofu.

Did you have an experience studying your plastic trash that you want to discuss?  Do you have a plastic-reducing tip to share?  Please let us know.

Both No Impact Week and My Plastic-Free Life (formerly Fake Plastic Fish) have good information on learning from your trash.

Photo courtesy of Fabi Fliervoet, flickr