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9 ELIMINATE ALL WASTE

This action focuses on reducing ALL waste through composting, changed buying habits and a new awareness of the materials we use each day.

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why?

eliminate-all-waste Pie ChartThe ultimate 'end-goal' of all the actions within this waste section is to move towards creating lifestyle habits which essentially create 'no waste'. In this case, waste is defined as any material which requires fossil fuels to transport, process or landfill it after its useful life. This means that any item, whether compostable or recyclable is considered to be waste if it is thrown into a trash bin or down a garbage disposal. In addition, this definition classifies recyclables as waste due to the necessary energy it takes to transport and process them after their useful life. While recycling is currently certainly a better option than disposing of material, the ultimate goal would be to not create this waste in the first place. Thus, this ambitious 'end goal' action focuses on attempting to eliminate all materials which are considered waste according to this definition.

There are many small steps which make-up a larger goal of eliminating waste entirely. This action combines many smaller actions outlined previously in this section to create a goal of eliminating all waste during the duration of the project. All three categories of waste are addressed: Non-recyclable (23% of all waste in the United States), Recyclables (44%) and Compostable waste (33%).


how to do this action:

The small steps which make up this action are outlined below:
NON-RECYCLABLE WASTE:

There are many types of non-recyclable waste. Though this category is the smallest of the three waste categories (23% of all waste), it also includes the most diverse range of waste types. The best way to go about eliminating ALL non-recyclable, non-compostable waste is to examine what kind of non-recyclable waste stream you create in a typical week. Collect and inventory all non-recyclable waste for one week and come up with a plan of action for choosing alternative (recyclable) options, or simply eliminate the use of products which result in non-recyclable waste. The following are some examples of typical items which may be a part of this waste stream:

Food packaging:

Food packaging accounts for a large percentage of short-term daily waste. Although many food products are packaged in recyclable packaging, some are not. Eliminating this waste stream is easily accommodated by buying items in bulk rather than in individual packaging. Changing your purchasing habits to bulk food buying can save money, waste less food and provide fresher and healthier food options. For more information, see here: Waste Action 7: Eliminate All Food Packaging.

Eliminate disposable plastic waste:

We live in a throw-away society. Although 30% of total plastic waste is recyclable, 12% of America's annual waste stream is made up of plastic products which are manufactured to be thrown away. These products take the form of millions of items; plastic baggies, disposable razors, beauty products, diapers and many more. For more information about eliminating non-recyclable plastic waste see, here: Waste Action 4: Eliminate Disposable Plastic Waste.

Eliminate to-go food waste:

To-go food containers, including coffee cups, water bottles and take-out food contribute to a large portion of every day waste. The American population tosses out enough paper bags and plastic cups, forks and spoons every year to circle the equator 300 times (www.cleanair.org). The waste stream of take-out food waste is typically plastic, but could be recyclable or non-recyclable. This action requires that all take-out food be packaged in recyclable or reusable containers and focuses on both bringing food from home (meals and snacks) as well as eliminating the waste from take-out food and beverages from coffee shops, fast food venues and restaurants. For more information, see here: Waste Action 2: Eliminate To-Go Food Packaging Waste.

RECYCLABLES:

Recyclable materials often fall into similar categories as seen in the non-recyclable waste section. Following are some examples of recyclable waste which is likely a part of your weekly waste stream:

Recyclable plastic and glass:

A large portion of recyclable plastic and glass goes into food packaging. Buying all food in bulk reusable and refillable containers can eliminate food packaging waste entirely. Buying food in bulk is a very different way of grocery shopping, but it provides a variety of benefits beyond eliminating food packaging waste including purchasing fresher, healthier food items, saving money and wasting less food by being able to purchase the exact quantity you need. For more information about bulk food buying to eliminate food packaging waste, see here: Waste Action 7: Eliminate All Food Packaging.

Paper:

Paper products make up 31% of our total waste stream, and the majority of the recyclable waste stream. Much of this paper use is for short-term use—avoidable waste such as receipts, printer paper, junk mail and to-do lists. For more information about eliminating paper waste, see here: Waste Action 3: Eliminate All Short-Term Paper Waste.

There will be many other recyclable items which are a part of your specific waste stream. Track your use of recyclables during the week before the project to further your understanding of what materials are used and can be replaced or eliminated.

COMPOSTABLES:

There are multiple methods for composting organic material depending on your lifestyle habits and type of residence. Primarily, the two options are as follows:

(1) Composting food scraps indoors via worm composting bin. See this link: Waste Action 6: Compost Food Scraps Via Worm Bin.

(2) Composting food scraps and yard waste in an outdoor composting bin. See this link: Waste Action 5: Compost All Organics Outdoors.

The above links outline two different methods. If living in a space without a yard, the best option is to compost food scraps indoors. If living in a house with a yard, it is necessary to compost outdoors so that yard waste can be composted along with food. If desired, those participants with yard waste may compost food scraps indoors with a worm compost bin and have an outdoor composting bin for yard waste as well.

For the duration of the project, you are responsible for dealing with ALL organic waste by composting. This means no leftovers down the garbage disposal or wastebasket!


what will be measured?

KEY QUESTIONS

The goal of this action is to track the experience of those experimenting with eliminating ALL waste. The focus of this action is on all three categories of waste: non-recyclables, recyclables and compost. Participants must evaluate their non-recyclable and recyclable waste use and find alternative options, or eliminate this use entirely through changed buying and lifestyle habits. Organics must be composted either via worm-bin or outdoor compost.

QUANTITATIVE QUESTION: How many types of waste were collected when attempting to eliminate ALL waste?

QUALITATIVE QUESTION: How does the experience of eliminating all waste (including recyclables) affect your happiness, convenience, health and costs?

BASELINE WEEK TRACKING

QUANTITATIVE
During the baseline tracking week before the project begins, use the corresponding spreadsheet (WST9_BASELINE) to track each item of non-organic waste which is created for one week. Record a replacement item or buying strategy that could serve as an alternative to this item or note that this item does not need to be purchased in the future.

QUALITATIVE


Qualitative Scale

Using the above scale as a visual, rate each of the following criteria on the spreadsheet (WST9_BASELINE) as it relates to your current waste consumption habits:

  • 1. SATISFACTION/HAPPINESS
    (Overall, how much enjoyment or dissatisfaction do you get out of doing and completing this behavior?)

  • 2. CONVENIENCE
    (How easy/difficult and accessible/inaccessible is this behavior for you to do and complete?)

  • 3. HEALTH
    (How healthy/unhealthy and safe/unsafe does this behavior make you feel?)

  • 4. COST
    (How much does this behavior cost? Use positive numbers for being above average and negative numbers for being below average and zero for being average.)

IMPLEMENTATION PHASE TRACKING

QUANTITATIVE
Starting on the first day of the project, no waste can be created. If any waste is collected, save it for the duration of the project so that these items can be analyzed at the end. An important insight which can be gained from the experience of trying to create no waste is to reveal products which have no other purchasing option. The images below are examples of ‘inevitable’ waste which might be collected throughout the project. For example, even if greens are purchased in bunches rather than in plastic packaging, they are still bunched together using twist ties. Another example is the plastic seal on milk which was purchased in reusable glass containers. Although this waste seems small (and IS compared to the waste a typical American lifestyle produces each day), it adds up and reveals where positive change can continue to occur. In this way, it is important to document what kinds of ‘unavoidable waste’ is created which attempting this ambitious goal.

Use the corresponding spreadsheet (WST9_QUANTITATIVE) to track all items that are collected as waste that are unable to be recycled or composted. Do this by collecting them in separate containers throughout the project.

QUALITATIVE
Part 1 - Ranking


Qualitative Scale

Using the above scale as a visual, rate each of the following criteria individually each week on the spreadsheet (WST9_QUALITATIVE). Your answers should not be rated in comparison to your baseline week, but in general as a reflection of how you are feeling.

  • 1. SATISFACTION/HAPPINESS
    (Overall, how much enjoyment or dissatisfaction do you get out of doing and completing this behavior?)

  • 2. CONVENIENCE
    (How easy/difficult and accessible/inaccessible is this behavior for you to do and complete?)

  • 3. HEALTH
    (How healthy/unhealthy and safe/unsafe does this behavior make you feel?)

  • 4. COST
    (How much does this behavior cost? Use positive numbers for being above average and negative numbers for being below average and zero for being average.)

Part 2 - Blogging
Keep a narrative log of your experiences as you implement this action and how it has affected your life. Some of the following questions might be helpful as you reflect upon your experiences.

What challenges made this action difficult to complete? Why? What was easy and or fulfilling about completing this action? Were there any tools or systems you devised to help yourself in completing this action? What other tools or design/infrastructure changes would be helpful to make this action something you would be willing and interested in continuing to incorporate into your life? Did this action help or hinder you from interacting with other people in your life? How and why? What types of waste seemed to be unavoidable?


waste-collection

resources

ACTIONS TO REFERENCE
Waste Action 1: Recycle All Possible Materials
Waste Action 2: Eliminate To-Go Food Waste
Waste Action 3: Eliminate All Short-Term Paper Waste Waste Action 4: Eliminate Disposable Plastic Waste
Waste Action 5: Compost All Organics Outdoors
Waste Action 6: Compost All Organics Via Worm Bin
Waste Action 7: Eliminate All Food Packaging
ACTION SPREADSHEETS

The spreadsheets referred to above can be found in the Excel file at the following link:

WST9_Eliminate All Waste Spreadsheet

If you prefer to enter your responses by hand, printable PDFs of each spreadsheet can be found at the following links (at the end of the project, all data will have to be entered into the Excel spreadsheet):

WST9_BASELINE
WST9_QUANTITATIVE
WST9_QUALITATIVE