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Reducing Trash During COVID Quarantine


Over the past six months, Americans' at-home time has gone through the roof. One of the side-effects of the shutdown has been a dramatic increase in residential waste and recycling. All of your trash - from your plate scrapings to your shredded work documents - now ends up in your carts. That creates several issues:

  • You may not have room in your cart(s) for everything you want to get rid of.
  • You may find your cart(s) heavier and harder to move.
  • Our drivers have a harder time getting through their route, which may decrease their speed and efficiency.
  • Your family may see that your habits generate more waste than you thought.

Here are some of the ways you can reduce your weekly waste output.

Avoid single-use plates and utensils.

Although you may find yourself unloading the dishwasher more often, avoid the temptation to use paper plates and plastic utensils.

Reuse plastic takeout containers.

There has never been a better time to order takeout from your favorite local restaurants! Save the plastic containers for leftovers, storing other food, organizing kids' craft supplies, storing screws and nails, etc. Just check the bottom of the container to make sure it's microwave, freezer, and/or dishwasher safe.

Skip pre-cut/packaged fruits and vegetables.

Most grocery stores offer conveniently pre-sliced fruits and vegetables, wrapped in plastic or stored in plastic containers. Not only does this generate more waste, but pre-cut foods tend to go bad faster! Go all-natural and buy whole fruits and vegetables.

Make your own juices, smoothies, sauces, stocks/soups, and baby food.

These foods/drinks are often just pureed, processed versions of food you can buy whole. Instead of buying foods/drinks in plastic, glass, or squeeze pouches, spend a little extra time to whip up your own. It'll be fresher and more delicious, as well as generate less waste!

Invest in a reusable water bottle or opt for glassware.

Whether you're still on-the-go or staying home, you can avoid plastic water bottles by using reusable glassware or water bottles. Just remember to wash and sanitize your bottle often, especially if you're taking it out of your home.

Learn about composting.

Vegetable peels, eggshells, coffee grounds, grass clippings, leaves, and kitchen scraps can be turned into compost for your garden. Invest in composting supplies and learn the process, and you'll have healthy compost in 3-12 months. If you don't have a garden but still want to keep organic waste out of the landfill, contact local farms to see if they can use compost.

(For the record, food waste is a healthy part of the landfill system. When it breaks down, it generates methane gas that we use to power our Compressed Natural Gas vehicles. So whether you compost or not, your food waste will be put to good use!)

Reduce junk mail and paper bills.

Take yourself off of mailing lists. Change your magazine subscriptions to digital-only. Ask to receive bills via email instead of by mail. Here are some resources for reducing the amount of paper waste that ends up in your mailbox (and ultimately, your recycling bin.)

At the end of the day, any effort to reduce waste is worthwhile. We recognize that these days, some waste is unavoidable. Many grocery stores are forbidding reusable grocery bags, and cafes are refusing refillable coffee cups, because of the risk of contamination. Now might not be a good time to buy second-hand clothes and furniture. And if you can't eat in a restaurant, takeout containers are a necessity.

Just make choices that are smart, safe, and sustainable for you, your family, and your garbage can!