How much garbage do you make per day?

I recently read Edward Humes’ new book, Garbology. One of the key facts out of the book is that the widely quoted EPA estimate, that the average American throws out 4.3 lbs of trash per day, is wrong. We actually generate more than 7 lbs each.

That 7 lbs can sneak up on you. I make most of the meals I eat, rarely indulging in take-out with its bags, plastic containers, utensils and unneeded condiments. On the other hand, when I eat a granola bar, there’s a wrapper, and they come 6 to a box. There’s no real way around this unless I’m going to make my own granola bars, which I won’t be doing. We generate a reasonable number of diapers. Not as many as some families with two non-potty trained kids because we don’t change wet diapers all that fast, but a good number nonetheless. We probably overbuy food at Costco and inevitably throw some spoils away (Kristen over at The Frugal Girl posts pictures of her food waste every Friday). We don’t drink bottled water or soda but we do drink beer. We buy individual microwavable mac & cheese containers for the kids. They get antsy about waiting 15 minutes for the boil-in-a-pan kind. We try not to buy much “stuff” (excess toys and trinkets, clothes no one wears) — a quest made easier by the fact that as a work-from-home type, I’m never in stores. But stuff finds its way into our lives nonetheless, with its packaging. Plus there’s a daily newspaper. Recycled, of course, but recycling is a different matter from not generating waste in the first place.

So I imagine we’re not far off from the 7 lbs. How do you think you stack up? Have you ever consciously tried to reduce your waste? Do you repurpose things? Re-use them? Like what?

Photo courtesy flickr user Wesley Fryer

6 thoughts on “How much garbage do you make per day?

  1. I requested removal from credit card and other mailing lists, which cut down the junk mail quite a bit.

  2. I remember reading about a couple in Australia or New Zealand that consciously tried to produce no garbage. They kept it to one bag (of non-recyclables) for a year.
    For me, we probably hit the 7 pounds for each adult and diaper wearing person in our household. I’d love to compost, but I love living in a townhouse with virtually no yard more. My parents and in-laws both have small ranches so they compost and cut down on trash that way, but have other ways of generating waste so it all evens out.

  3. I’m afraid to even guess. We have a kid in diapers, so even though we don’t change that often… that adds up. And the food wastage! Oh, it breaks my heart. We do compost, so that helps. At one point, we even used some gDiapers- you can compost the wet ones- but our laziness trumped out green streak on that one. (I liked them, actually, but never got in a good groove with them. I feel bad about that.)

    We do our best to cut down, but I’m sure we hit 7 lbs per day.

  4. Did anybody see the Sunset magazine article about the family in the Bay Area that produces no trash? It was very interesting. I think the cleanliness of our country encourages us to create more trash. Perhaps if it were not carted away so efficiently and I were forced to live among the stinking piles of my waste, I might make more of an effort to cut down. As it is, I try to be conscious of what we can re-use. Also, I’m a freezer fan. I freeze leftover pasta sauce, soup, stew, etc. This is also super convenient for those nights when we’ve got nothing planned for dinner.

    1. @Kelly- Humes’ book profiles a family like that. Maybe it’s the same family. Who knows? I found myself very, very curious about what the mother did with feminine products. Humes doesn’t delve into that. Perhaps they can be composted.

  5. She probably uses cloth or a reusable divacup or keeper. I went cloth years ago and the comfort factor is huge, green talk aside…cloth is soft, doesn’t bunch and pinch, and smells nicer.

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