Daily Dose of Waste. Part 1.

Quickly after thinking up this trash blog project, I got to wondering: How much trash do I really throw away? I mean, I like to keep the environment in mind. I have to be keeping my waste to a bare minimum, right? I figured, what better way to get to the bottom of this than to collect all the trash I created during 1 day.

1 day of trash accumulation


24 hours later, this is what I had to show for it. 8.2lbs. in all. I can’t say whether you think this looks like a lot of trash, but personally, I was somewhat appalled with what I had to lay out in front of me. When you multiply this by 365 days in a year and the nearly 330 million people that live in the united states, the amount of trash is staggering. According to the EPA the exact amount of waste is about 292 million tons annually. That means the average person produces almost 1,800lbs. of waste annually. Based on what I happened to produce today, I am far above that number at 2,900lbs.

Municipal solid waste (MSW) breakdown by materials

It’s easy to forget all the small things we get rid of on a daily basis from the cotton swabs and floss picks to start out the day to the countless wrappers and packages we receive our products in. Throughout this process I had to stop myself from instinctively just tossing these things into the garbage. This served to show me how second nature our trash is to us. We often don’t give it much thought at all. We simply toss it in the bin and other than maybe moving it out to the curb, it’s mostly forgotten. This is precisely why I think our environmental issues have grown to the state they have. Out of sight is out of mind.

I also had an unexpected lesson from this process: you can tell a lot about a person from their trash. Looking through it, the daily decisions I make become a lot more apparent. It was evident that many of the pieces of trash I had accumulated were a result of using a product/service that was a more convenient option. While I love the convenience of an at home meal delivery kit, there is a lot of individual materials that end up getting tossed because of this desire. Really the direct to consumer products (the things shipped directly to ourselves) are likely the largest contributors to the total trash creation in my case.

I would challenge you to do something similar for yourself. You don’t need to actually collect your trash like I did, but in order to think differently, you need to approach your day-to-day life differently. Spend at least a day or more taking a mental note of every little piece of trash you throw away. Think about was this piece of trash really necessary or was there another way you could have avoided it. Through small actions like this, we can collectively reduce our consumption and thus make a large impact on our total waste production.

Author: Miles Quinn

Miles has been in the packaging field for over 5 years after studying packaging science at Clemson University. He moved to Reno, NV after graduating and has fallen in love with the area. He has a passion for environmentalism and is hoping to make an impact both locally and on a large scale

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