Garbage disposal is an increasingly hazardous problem for North American communities. Not only are landfill capacities shrinking, but a high percentage of our trash disposal is dangerously toxic. The amount of garbage generated in the United States is staggering and continues to grow. In her environmental handbook You Can Make A Difference, Judith Guest points out that in “the United States and Canada combined, the amount of trash has doubled in the last thirty years and currently stands at some 200 million tons per year, or about 3.5 pounds per person per day” (Getis 6).
If these numbers alarm you, you may want to consider implementing some of the following practices to cut down on your own amount of trash.
1. Perhaps the easiest way to reduce trash is to favor durable, reusable items over single-use, disposable ones. For instance, if you’re having guests over try using washable cloth napkins instead of paper napkins. Borrow glasses, dishes, and silverware from friends rather than going through a pile of disposable tableware. Afterwards, store leftovers in reusable Tupperware rather than covering it with aluminum foil or saran wrap.
When sopping up spills, don’t reach for the paper towels – use a sponge or cloth towel. When preparing lunch, skip the traditional brown paper bag and use a lunch box, instead. If you drink coffee on your morning commute to work, put it in a travel mug or thermos rather than a styrofoam cup that will take many, many years to decompose.
2. Today, many products come in bulky, unnecessary wrappings and containers. A single person’s trash accumulation can be reduced dramatically if he simply avoids overly packaged goods. You can purchase loose fruits and veggies as well as bulk candies and nuts instead of heavily packaged ones. You might switch to bars or soap or sticks of butter that are wrapped in paper rather than liquid body soap or tubs of butter, both of which come in cumbersome nonbiodegradable plastics. Don’t buy foods that come in single-serving units such as individually wrapped slices of cheese or packages of cupcakes.
3. A trash-reducing tip that most people will find appealing is to stop junk mail, which is actually a serious waste of resources. You can contact the following address to request that your name be removed from junk mail listings: Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008. You can also detach your address label from any unwanted advertising mail and send it back to the company with a request to be removed from their mailing system.
4.Reusing items will not only reduce your trash, but will also save you money. You can use the Sunday comics to wrap gifts, or you can reuse gift paper, bows, and ribbons. You can reuse paper bags from the grocery store to line wastepaper baskets. You can use rechargeable batteries. If you get creative, I’m sure you can come up with plenty of ways to get a second use out of items you would normally toss.
5. If you have no further use for certain household items, consider donating them. You can donate clothing, baby toys, furniture, appliances and more to Goodwill, churches, or a variety of different charities.
People like you can make a big difference in our worldwide trash problem by adopting small changes and making better choices. The health and longevity of our planet depend on it!
Works cited: You Can Make a Difference by Judith Getis, 1999.