4R’s Tip – Pay Attention to Waste

Okay, I’ve ragged on plastics enough. I think you get the point… they’re a big problem. So let’s start looking at ways to manage how much plastic and waste we generate.

Click here if you’re new to Jen’s blog and want to know what it’s all about.

They say awareness is half the battle.
When it comes to waste, it’s more than half!

Photo by Emmet on Pexels.com

Keep Track of How Often You Take Out Trash and Recycling, Learn How To Reduce It

First, let’s recognize that our recycling is also waste. It may not go in your garbage can, but it is waste that we generate. And with recycling programs proving to be inefficient, we need to recognize that what we put in a recycling bin has a good chance of ending up in a landfill or ocean.

Honestly, it feels like all this excess packaging just crept up on us and now it’s everywhere! The best way I’ve found to help me reduce the waste I create is to keep track. This can be easier than you might think.

How Much Waste Do You Generate?

Keeping track of how often you take out trash and recycling can help you think twice about packaging and what you buy. Here are some ways to do that.

  • If you have a wall calendar, mark the days when you take out trash with an asterisk and recycling with a triangle. This is my method since I already use a wall calendar to track my writing word count each day.
    • I take out recycling every 3 – 4 weeks, trash usually less. Yes, I’m only one person so that makes a difference, but knowing how often I do this helps me think about what I buy and the packaging those purchases generate.
  • No wall calendar? Record it on your phone. Open whatever calendar app you use and add an “R” on the day you recycled, a “T” on the day you took out the trash.
  • Get a little white board or find someplace to write it down. Make two columns, one with an “R” at the top and one with a “T” then write the date when you perform the task.
    • This might be a good way to reuse printer paper that’s blank on one side. Keep it in your kitchen junk drawer (come on, admit it, we all have one) and record the date on it. This can be an easy way to count how many times you take out waste when you look back at the end of the month.

Taking it out doesn’t mean when you take it to the curb for pick-up, it means when you empty your kitchen trash or recycling bin. You may carry it to a community dumpster, or put it in your curbside tote/collection bin. The goal is to monitor how much waste you are generating in your home.

At the end of the month look back on how often you took out trash and recycling. If you’re doing this once a week, or more, you’ll start to notice how much you fill your bins and hopefully be encouraged to do it less.

  • Put a recurring event in your phone as a reminder to look at this tracking at the end of each month. Trust me, it feels good when you see it happening less.
  • This trick may not be for you (like I’ve said – pick what works in your life), but if you do this you will find you reduce the waste you generate by being aware of it.

Ways To Reduce Waste

So how do we cut down on the amount of waste we generate? Here are a few ideas that may help.

  • Cut back on eating out and Save Money. Take time to plan your meals each week. If you currently eat out more than twice a week, or buy lunch every day rather than carry it, you will see significant savings pretty quickly.
    • No one can change overnight, but if you set a goal to reduce how much you go to a drive-thru or pick up carry out meals you not only save money but you also help save the planet. Make it a goal to eat out once a week. It will start to feel special and not the norm – what a treat!
  • Shop at a zero waste store. They’re available online and in most areas. To find one near you check out the litterless zero waste grocery guide to search by state. They list resources for grocery, household, and health items. A good place to find bulk stores that let you BYO containers.
    • Loop Store has partnered with major grocery chains to offer zero waste options around the world, including Canada, France, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Check their site to find zero waste groceries in your area.
    • Zero Waste Store offers household and health products with plastic-free packaging, carbon neutral shipping, and they give to 1% for the planet.
    • Zero Grocery is a US delivery service available on the west coast. They deliver your groceries in reusable containers that they pick up next time you order.
    • Zero Waste Canada is a site where Canadians can search a shopping directory for available stores.
    • Green Matters put together a great resource to find zero waste stores, which includes used products and zero waste shopping in and around major US cities.
  • Avoid prepackaged products. This can be challenging, and I know I’ve mentioned it before, but we can’t let up on finding ways to avoid the packaging that comes with our food, or anything for that matter. Here’s something I didn’t know until recently:
    • The paperboard boxes frozen food comes in are coated with plastic to keep them from melting when they get wet. So these containers aren’t easy to recycle, even if your service takes them it’s not likely to happen because of the coating. Try to cut back on prepackaged frozen foods. Cook in big batches and freeze it yourself. You can repurpose food containers for this, like yogurt and cottage cheese containers – I do this when I make batches of soup or pasta sauce.

I threw some tips at you already on how to reduce buying plastics, like going to a meat market or shopping at a farmer’s market, but there are always more ways to do this. Get creative and think of some on your own. Write to me and share your ideas. Who knows I might use your tip!

Why It’s Important

According to the US EPA, in 2018 Americans generated 4.9 pounds of trash per person per day. The results of a study released in 2019 reported that 2.1 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste (MSW) are generated globally each year

Considering that only 9% of plastics have ever been recycled and a lot of our waste is plastics, most of it won’t get recycled. At least not with the systems we currently have in place. Yes, recycling infrastructure is getting better, but it won’t make a lot of difference if we keep generating insane amounts of waste.

Because we generate so much waste, a lot ends up in our oceans which are a major source of life for humans. There are now five giant garbage islands, and lots of little ones, growing in our seas. We need to focus on preventing these from growing.

  • When entertaining, make your event zero waste.
  • Tell friends to find good resources, like this blog, to learn how to make changes in their lives that will help our planet.
  • Volunteer to help with recycling education and events in your area. 
    • Those e-waste events most communities have are usually run by volunteers. 

With Much Gratitude

That’s it for this week. I hope this helped. Please drop me a line anytime if you have questions or comments. I love hearing from you.

If you filled out my recycling survey and included a question, I will likely respond soon (if I haven’t already). There have been a lot of good questions and I want to give each my attention. I also may include them in future posts. I will also be sharing the survey results in the future, so stick with me to learn how the survey does. 

Note: Along with a number of very hard-working people, I’m waging an all-out war. A fight for our planet. Please join me and consider supporting my efforts. I do not get paid to write this blog, none of the products I recommend sponsor me, so any support you can send my way would help, even just a few bucks.

Thank you for reading these tips and subscribing. Pat yourself on the back for doing your part. Remember, every little bit helps. Don’t fuss if you aren’t always able to do this stuff, keep trying, and don’t give up. It usually takes about 21 days to build a habit. 

You got this!

All my best, 


jen.thilman (at) gmail.com

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