I don’t really care if you’re saying that most of it ends up in the trash anyways. 1% of something is better than nothing at all. So in my quest to optimize every aspect of my life, I have been trying to reduce garbage as much as possible by turning to composting and recycling instead. In fact, most of what we throw in the trash can go in one or the other. I will give a few examples of such things here and how you can easily switch to being green and still keep it simple.
Some of My Stats
I like stats, no, I love stats! Here are some informal stats from before and after I started composting.
Table showing the difference before and after I started composting at the apartment (for two people).
|Before compost||After compost|
|Garbage||3 medium sized bags||1 medium sized bag|
|Compost||0 very small bag||4 very small bags|
|Recycling||20% of a bin||20% of a bin|
Naturally, it can vary from one week to another, but in general it’s what I get. The amount of extra work required to put the stuff in the compost instead of the garbage is so negligible you won’t believe it. In fact I end up almost never using the garbage again except for stuff I try not to buy. Main culprit: Styrofoam. Styrofoam is one of the few product that here in Gatineau we cannot put in the compost/recycling even if it’s written on it. In fact, its easier to find what you cannot put in compost/recycle bin than what you can, let’s have a look!
What Goes Where?
Here are a few examples of what CANNOT be put in the compost bin.
- Dust and dirt
- Human parts like hair, nails and the like
- Dead animals
- Plastic and plastic bags
- Pet hair
- Dental floss
- Anything that goes in the recycle bin
- And a few more things
On the other hand, what you CAN put in the compost bin is most table leftovers. That is but not limited to:
- fruits and vegetables
- and so on…
For a rule of thumb I ask myself: can I eat it? If the answer is yes then it goes in the compost bin. As you can see by the nice table above, it greatly reduced my output of garbage, can’t complain about that.
For more information you should consult you city’s Website. Here in Gatineau (Québec), we have a really good information portal (in French only). It might at least give you a better idea of what it can look like when a city has all the three alternatives.
That’s a more tricky one, most of the time electronics can be recycled at certain businesses or dropped off somewhere according to your city (ecocentres for Gatineau). Electronics can contain dangerous materials like mercury that can contaminate like crazy. Therefore it’s a good idea to recycle them where they will either reuse them, recycle what they can or in the worst case, trash them. Same thing goes for batteries which contain acid that’s not really good for the environment either.
- computer parts like a motherboard, graphics card and so on;
- router, mouse, keyboards and the like;
- countertop electronics like a toaster-over;
- batteries (of course).
Oil, Car batteries and Other Stuff
Most of the time can be brought to a Canadian Tire (not affiliated) nearby and be disposed there. Especially motor oil can be very damaging and can’t be put in the sink at all. It’s easy to just don’t bother but when you think about it, you can get a gallon of windshield washer at the same time!
Some products are just too dangerous for the environment as well as for any of the three options (garbage, recycling and composting). Therefore, your city should have special places where you can dispose of them. Here in Gatineau you have to bring every item to an ecocentre to be really responsible. I am conscious that it might not be the first priority of everyone to organize an ecocentre family trip but hey, what about we turn your backyard into a dump for all this stuff?!
This is a real problem, especially in Québec where they just cannot keep up with the demand. They have a nice Website thought… but that’s just beside the point. My source is from an owner of a garage near where I live. He says they are having a real hard time getting rid of the scrap tires before winter. So much pollution comes from this but yet, it doesn’t seem to be a priority for some reason here in Quebec as far as I know.
By the way, the Website I linked above will give you great advice on how to recycle on a broader scale for Canada, you might also want to refer to this one as well. It contains the Website from each province.
That’s where you should put most of the stuff! Here is what CAN go in the bin.
- plastic wrap;
- tin foil, metal cans and the like;
- water bottles (even if you should not use them at all);
- most plastic products;
- cardboard and boxes;
- pretty much any glass product.
Need more information? Again, you should consult your city’s Website. Gatineau’s Web page on recycling to give you an idea of what might be accepted or not.
No Excuses, My Opinion!
I don’t really have time to give a crap about if only 1 % of what I don’t put in the garbage is effectively going to the right place. 1 % is far better than nothing. In addition, staying in an apartment with no garage to store the city’s provided compost bin, I bet you can do it especially if you own a single family home! If your city does not collect compost it’s a good idea to mention it at the next community meeting because its just way behind on its environmental plan compared to others.
If you want another strong point, it helps that the compost truck passes once a week for the odors. In addition, I am using these bags (affiliate) to keep odors out and my compost bin clean. Obviously you don’t have to do the same thing as I am, you can simply use newspaper. Don’t have newspaper delivered? Sometimes free newspaper can be found in key places downtown (especially if you work in this area). Still, if you think it can become expensive to use the bags? Just run the numbers yourself. You can keep those about 3 days before it starts to smell. 365.25 days a year / 3 days the bag lasts = 121.75, if the box contains 44 bags for 12 $, it will cost about 33.20$ per year. for a family of four I estimate around 60 $ per year. Still think this is expensive? Compare it to your cell phone bill for one month. Conclusion: composting is not expensive.
You don’t think you have what it takes? I faith that you can follow this little trick I figured out. Make it as easy as possible to compost/recycle and as hard as possible to use the garbage. Compost bin is right near the door of the apartment while the garbage is completely at the back, far far away! Laziness wins every time!
What’s the Point? Here Is My Conclusion.
Not convinced? Below are some benefits I found by changing my garbage management habits :
- Save what’s left of the environment – well I don’t have to argue on this one very long, compost is a natural way to dispose and reuse the food we don’t eat. Recycling, even if only 10 % ends up being recycled, it’s still 10 % less garbage.
- Optimizing aspects of your life and consuming less. By composting and recycling, it sort of help you learn that what you buy might have some impact on the environment. Then you will hopefully reduce the amount of products you buy and find another sense for not consuming useless crap you don’t need in first place. This has double benefits because all that crap from dollar store won’t end up in the trash as well!
- You will most probably be tempted to buy stuff that goes in the compost and the recycle bin. An example would be to stop (or reduce) buying Styrofoam encompassed meat and the like and find alternatives.
- Hopefully you will realize that most fruits and vegetables are exempt of tax and that it’s a really great way to save on those because god knows we tend to pay our fair share here in Canada.
- The cost of compost and recycle material treatment is a lot less that the cost of garbage treatment, city saving money here.
- You will become financially independent sooner (if that’s your goal) because of less consumption of useless stuff. See the things can escalate pretty quickly and everything comes down to the lifestyle change needed for getting off that ridiculous rat race of buying this and that for nothing. More money in your pocket for investing.
Saying thank you on behalf of Mother Nature.