Trash Vigeland and Her Rat Posse

Tess' Trash Challenge: Blog entry #7

Household cleaning really makes the bag fill up quick...

Nine days and counting and finally... this thing is getting heavy. Over the weekend I added cleaning materials to it... rags soaked with Windex and such. The conundrum there is, do I toss those rags, or clean them in the washing machine where the polluted water can go to the ocean. Ack! This is hard!

I know, I know, I should switch to more environmentally-friendly cleaning products. But we just haven't fully done that yet. (My husband swears things don't get as clean and that these products aren't worth the extra cost -- an ongoing debate in the household.) So my BFF Bag now smells like... ammonia, I guess.

There are also a couple more corn cobs in there. And a balled-up thing of tinfoil. Is that recyclable? Haven't heard back from the city yet. Other questionable items that I've been tossing in the recycle bin: plastic (Saran) wrap, dry cleaning bags, cosmetics packaging, Starbucks cups (is that a "beverage container" according to Pasadena recycling rules? I assume so...).

I've also avoided the weekly fridge clean-out during this challenge. You know... uneaten leftovers, past-date milk and other dairy, etc. Old lettuce and other veg can go in the composter. But the rest of it, well the food goes down the disposal and the packaging goes into recycling. But there are often things that get tossed in the trash. Maybe I'm buying too many groceries. So there's another lesson: No need to keep a full fridge!

I'm also finding that it's sometimes more expensive to try to save yourself from generating waste. Bought boneless, skinless chicken the other night so my bag o' bones wouldn't have even more bones... but boneless/skinless costs more (and of course, those bones probably went in the trash at the grocery meat department).

One interesting solution came up in a response on this blog. For those of you who haven't seen his posting, Keith Jackson lives near Toronto, Canada, and they have something called the Green Bin -- a dedicated container, like recycling and yard waste, that lets them put all kitchen waste (food) into a separate bin. The city hauls it away for mass composting.

Somebody told me that the U.S. did this in World War II... that they had separate bins for food waste and also for metal (for use in war-building materials). Can anybody tell me more about this? I wonder why it stopped?

A couple more highlights from your comments:

Rick wrote in an suggested that we all take non-compostable packaging back to the store it came from. Tell customer service that we're returning the unneeded and unwanted parts of our purchase. Now that would get manufacturers' attention! Perhaps do the same for non-recyclable packaging?

And the prize for most unusual waste-reduction scheme goes to another anonymous poster:

You should get a pair of pet rats. Yep! Their bedding is compostible and they just LOVE cooked chicken bones.

Trash Vigeland and her Rat Posse. Want to buy the movie rights?

Please let us know if you're joining the trash challenge. There's a link on the right-hand side of this page. If you want to check on the progress of one of my challenge compatriots, visit Beth Terry's site. She says after a day-and-a-half, her trash fits in her pants pocket.

Oh, if only...

About the author

Tess Vigeland is the host of Marketplace Money, where she takes a deep dive into why we do what we do with our money.

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