A Year of Trash
On April 17th, 2018 I started my first rubbish jar. The reason I decided to do this was not to brag or to show off but to challenge myself, in the hope to demonstrate that low waste is in fact possible.
A year later, this is what my rubbish looks like:
As you can see I didn’t manage to stick to the jar, but overall I’m still quite impressed.
My plan of action has been to keep everything that would have gone to landfill plus some things that are recyclable and would fit in the box. So for example I kept the paper tags from second-hand clothes but not bigger pieces of paper or cardboard, i.e. boxes that I received whenever I bought something online. (I do reuse the boxes though!) I also discarded things like soft plastic food wrappings because, even though they would have fit, they smelled no matter how much I washed them. But I did keep all the plastic that I ended up with - more on my view on plastic later on.
So what was in my rubbish jar?
Tags from second-hand clothes
The occasional ice cream and chocolate wrappers, as well as vegan food containers I don’t make myself like cream cheese
Contact lenses (I wear these when I play basketball, I haven’t found a feasible alternative yet)
Floss (I floss so little that I’m still using the same floss I bought in the States in 2016 haha)
Packaging from online shopping (I try to avoid this but I do buy online sometimes)
Random items that I’ve had with me since before moving to New Zealand (!!), mostly makeup, face products and art supplies, all expired or not in good-enough conditions to be donated (I found a tattoo healing cream that I’ve kept since 2012 haha)
Stickers from marked-down food from work
Packaging that free food from work comes in (crisps, spreads, a shit ton of hummus)
A few straws that were given to me in spite of me asking for no straw
Paracetamol/pills plasticky dispensers as well as vitamins containers (I’ve recently upgraded to a glass dropper for my B12 and I’m looking into finding a pharmacy that refills your own container)
Three sunscreen tubes (welcome to New Zealand)
Broken rubber bands
Two plastic cups that were given to us without asking at LOTF (I remember this because it really bothered me)
Plasters (I will upgrade to compostable ones when I run out of those I already have)
Wrist bands to the gym/swimming pool/sauna
I found that at the beginning of my rubbish jar journey last year I was extremely motivated, but I kind of loosened it up a bit towards the end. In fact, my rubbish used to fit in the jar and one brown paper bag only up until the last couple of months, when life got in the way and I didn’t have the mental energy to do Zero Waste right.
But now that everything is settled again, I’m back at it, starting over and collecting my rubbish again from today.
This time round I really want to make an effort and buy zero plastic, as well as nothing that comes with any sort of landfill waste. I do believe that every time we spend money we are casting a vote to the kind of world we want, and by purchasing anything in plastic I am encouraging companies to produce more of it. instead, I want to make more of an effort to find alternatives and support companies that avoid plastic and landfill waste, as well as simply learn how to refuse more and live on less.
I also want to try and buy nothing new unless absolutely necessary, and when this happens I want to make sure it comes from a sustainable source.
I can say right now that I will still end up with some sort of plastic and landfill waste anyway as I get a lot of free food from work and some of that comes in a package, however I don’t feel like I’m feeding into the demand for more hummus in plastic tubs by picking up something from the staff bin that would be otherwise thrown away.
I hope this was somehow inspiring. Remember, we don’t need a few people doing Zero Waste perfectly, we need millions of people doing, well, as much as they can.