Tuesday Tip: 4 steps to reducing your waste

The world has a gargantuan garbage problem.

People now produce more than 2 billion tons of waste every year, most of which is burned, buried or shoved into the sea. At the current rate of ocean dumping—one garbage truck per minute—there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish by the year 2050.

We truly live in a throwaway society. Ninety-nine percent of what we buy gets trashed within six months. The average American tosses out three and a half pounds of stuff each day.

But there is a solution. The three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle. You’ve heard it before. You may be tired of hearing it. But it does work. Sweden is so good at recycling that it now has virtually no waste. In fact, it has to import garbage from other countries to keep its recycling plants running.

Here are 5 simple steps you can take to cut your household waste.

Bring your own bag

As noted above, plastic pollution is now a global crisis, with plastic bags cluttering landscapes and clogging oceans. If your city is not one of the enlightened few that has banned plastic bags, you can help by putting your purchases in your own cloth tote. There are many reusable grocery bags on the market. Check out these 16 different options at Recycling.com.

You can also easily reduce the number of plastic bottles you buy if you carry your own reusable beverage bottle. Have a look at a few recommendations in our recent post.

Stop wasting food

Americans toss a lot of food. In fact, around 40 percent of the food we produce ends up wasted. That works out to an average of 400 pounds per person each year. You can limit food waste at home with a few easy steps.

Shop smart: plan your meals, make a detailed list of what you need before you go to the store and stick to it. Eat your leftovers: get good containers and label them with a date to avoid spoilage. Date labels, which many times refer to peak quality rather than safety, are notoriously confusing and might lead you to throw out perfectly good food, so read carefully. Read more ideas in our food waste post.

4 steps to reducing your waste

Buy less packaging

It’s hard to avoid packaging when you shop. But you can choose items wrapped in less packaging when available. For example, you can buy in bulk. You can also select options packaged in aluminum or paper rather than plastic. And try to avoid items packaged in a mix of materials, such as paper with a plastic lining, because these are harder to recycle.

Bring your own cup

A lot of people think that disposable coffee cups, because they’re made of paper, are as recyclable as any other forms of paper packaging waste. Many are not. To avoid leaking, some cups are coated with a layer of polyethylene. As a result, the cups are almost never recycled creating huge problem.

For example, let’s look at Starbucks, the world’s largest coffee chain and a longtime target of CREDO activism against waste. Four billion Starbucks paper cups go into landfills every year because the cups are not recyclable. This is despite the company’s past promises (all broken) to develop a recyclable cup. Recently, in March, Starbucks again promised to develop a 100 percent recyclable and compostable paper cup within three years.

This is good news but until this better cup arrives (if ever) all of Starbucks’ billions of non-recyclable cups will continue to flood landfills and oceans, along with all the company’s non-recyclable plastic cup lids, straws, cutlery and packaging.

We live in an age of convenience and the price, to be perfectly frank, is the health of our planet. Let’s all spend a little time and effort and seek out less convenient, more Earth-friendly options and do our world a favor.

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