I assume we are not the only household where each person has a regular chore. My husband takes out the trash typically and then also keeps track of the scheduled pick up so hauls the right bin out to the curb early enough on the pick-up day. Last week he was out of town and I noticed as I returned home from an errand that the neighbors’ trash and recycling cans were out so I dragged mine to the curb. Apparently I was too late and the truck had already come, so we will wait for the next pick-up.
The trash barrel is not a problem. We have one lone plastic bag in there for the past week. The recycling barrel is pretty full though and it will be interesting to see if we make it to the next pick-up two weeks from now. The glass recycling was not on the schedule for last week so at least I did not blooper with my delay for the glass!
I asked Zach Dotson to come over to help us figure out if we are sorting correctly and we found out we’re doing pretty well but there were some surprises.
We have small trash cans in the bedrooms and bathrooms and two larger cans in the kitchen. In the kitchen we do a regular sort of the trash and the recyclables. The week before Zach was to visit we saved overflowing recycling for his audit in a plastic sack which we later just set aside for later trash bin use.
We dumped and then sorted out the items I had put into my kitchen recycle bin. Zach sorted it all so we could much more easily see the amount of what kinds of things we had.
Not everything we thought was recyclable turned out to be. Here in McMinnville, plastic sandwich bags and other ziplocks are NOT able to be recycled. (in the future we will be working on an arrangement with the larger transfer station in Hillsboro to bring those and other items not processed in Mac.)
Also not able to be recycled are the plastic tops of plastic tubs like you use at the grocery store to buy salad items or freshly ground peanut butter (our weakness) or even good tops to better storage containers. (I just went through the periodic match the lid to the bottom and sure enough, came up with about three orphaned lids. Time to clear the drawer but unfortunately they now go to the landfill.)
I bake and love using parchment paper. I had been putting this into the recycling but Zach pointed out the box indicates it is compostible, so now it goes into counter top container I have for veggie trimmings and coffee grounds and carry out to our compost pile when that gets full.
I also learned that when I tossed the small metal caps from bottles into the recycling that causes a problem and then end up in the landfill. While they are usable by the recycling station, they are small and end up falling into nooks and crannies, sometimes fouling up the conveyor and usually ending up on the floor. Zach suggested putting metal caps inside a metal can and then crimping the can (smash it) to hold the caps inside.
Finally, I preserve a lot of food by canning so during the year we have a lot of lids to toss. (You can reuse canning lids if you are using the jars for storage of items that do not need to be sealed, but you should never try to reuse the canning lids if you plan on water bath or pressure canning food. Those are one use only to provide a secure seal to inhibit botulism growth in canned foods.) So metal lids with a plastic or rubberized gasket or lining into the trash. Also foil bags or wrappers that do not hold their shape (too much plastic in the mix) when squeezed. This was the post sort collection that will go to the trash…not bad for a week. (We’ll talk about reducing by substitute concepts for those plastic bags in a later blog.)
We also had Zach check out the small trash can in our downstairs bathroom which also has the washer and dryer. In that trash there were numerous used facial tissues. I have sinus issues and sometimes nose bleeds, so was happy to hear that “bodily fluids” are all compostible. I also asked Zach about feminine sanitary items and that answer is probably trash, as many contain plastic. But if a woman opts to use one without plastic it most likely is recyclable. Now don’t get squeamish…you know animal manure is used in composting. All these are things that are full of nutrients that the soil will enjoy.
Paper items are, as most people know, recyclable.
Dryer lint is for the most part compostible. There are some people who restrict that only to 100% cotton lint, but our clothing has some cloth that is part polyester, which, of course, is a petroleum base thread and not truly recyclable. Think about what kind of clothes you wear and if what you are drying in your home dryer is less than 50% polyester you can probably feel okay to put it in compost. An alternative use was suggested by a bird lover friend: leave small clumps of dryer lint in bushes for nest making material.
Finally, I found some items related to medicine I take has to be separated. The desiccant found in some vitamin bottles and other medicines can be reused in anything that is dry and you want to keep moisture out. I have some liquid medicine for my sinus problem that comes packaged as 5 plastic vials to one foil wrapper. The foil held its shape when squeezed so it can be put in recycling. The plastic vials are not the kind that McMinnville’s Recology center can handle, so I must put that into the trash going to the landfill where it will, unfortunately, sit there for 1000 years or more. And THAT kind of sad misplacement of an item is the reason our landfill is so large and we must all get on board with the mission of Zero Waste McMinnville!
And meanwhile, I can get a financial benefit because of this audit. I now know since we have diverted over 60% of our waste from the landfill by composting and recycling, we can exchange our large garbage bin for a smaller one and save money on our fee to Recology! SCORE!