In the last census taken in 2000, there was something like 500 families who live within the city limits of my home in Forsyth, Missouri. I’m going to guess there are more now and that doesn’t include all the folks like myself who have a Forsyth address but do not actually live inside the city itself. In any case, if you assume a family has four members in it then each family produces something in the neighborhood of sixteen pounds of trash per day. Here is the actual EPA documentation to support this figure:
“According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American produces about 4.4 pounds (2 kg) of garbage a day, or a total of 29 pounds (13 kg) per week and 1,600 pounds (726 kg) a year. This only takes into consideration the average household member and does not count industrial waste or commercial trash.”
So, that would come to 500 families x 16 pounds or 8,000 pounds produced each day. In a month that would form a rather large pile weighing about 240,000 pounds and in a year we have a small hill (mountain) coming in at two million eight hundred and eighty pounds that ends up mostly in landfills. Now that’s just the garbage for one small town in the middle of America! It seems to me that if this were really true then I must be throwing quite a bit of money away. But, just how much of that trash was actually recyclable? And what might it be worth? What proportion of this was paper, plastic or metal? I decided to find out by taking a week to record everything that was discarded in my household which consists of two people right now. In order to accomplish this I took four containers and plan to sort my trash into the following:
Container 1 Paper products
Container 2 Cans, aluminum and other metals
Container 3 Plastic bottles, wrapping, etc.
Container 4 Compostables like kitchen scraps and such
I also created a data file that would track the following:
Date the item was discarded
Category of item (paper, plastic or metal)
Short description of the item
Weight of the item in grams
Preparation needed to discard (washing, crushing, etc.)
I made this data file using a program called Filemaker Pro in order to be accountable and to generate a report sorted by category.
I started this effort on a Sunday afternoon by creating two boxes; one for cans and one for plastic that were placed in the kitchen pantry. The paper was to go into the existing trash receptacle by the sink. I have already been composting kitchen scraps for over a decade so that was taken care of. That evening, I made sure to dump all the trash cans so I would be ready to start the actual test for the period Monday through Sunday. In my next blog I will report on the results.
Update: I have decided to continue the experiment for at least two weeks. At the end of the first week I have been averaging just 1.76 pounds per day for two people. That’s considerably below the EPA average.I would like to continue on a bit further to see if this holds up.
Final Update: My results after two weeks were very similar. About 2 to 3 pounds per person per week. Not too shabby. Still what about recycling efforts here in the town of which I reside? A letter written to the local government inquiring as to their efforts at recycling was never received a response. Gee, I think I’m getting seeing a trend here!