Let bygones be bygones. Good advice!
But these days – when those “bygones” are food, furniture, and heavy appliances–it’s critical to do it sustainably. Fortunately, there are new easier, and greener ways to compost recycle, and freecycle than ever before. We can now burden Mother Earth a lot less– –whether it’s food scraps or refrigerators –-whether yours is a solo or multi-person/animal household. It matters.
The average American consumer produces just under five pounds of trash each day, while a family creates about 18 pounds. This gives us all a not-so-grand total of 1,642 pounds per person annually. Or 6,570 pounds of trash per family annually, and far too much of it just goes into already overburdened landfills.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Starting with the big hunky stuff–
Keep appliances out of landfills. With only six percent of small appliances recycled and 2.1 million tons of major appliances sent to a landfill in 2017, appliance waste is on the uptick now in 2022. Here’s what happens when they get there:
Hazardous substances such as used oil, mercury, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are released. As well as excess greenhouse gas including but not limited to carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapor; plus ozone-depleting substances (ODS), often found in refrigerants, all released into the air we breathe.
Look into appliance recycling options. Holding onto an old appliance for too long, for example, can be worse for the planet than having it recycled. Using an inefficient refrigerator or washing machine, for example, can spike your energy consumption and add to greenhouse gas emissions.
Depending on the condition and efficiency of your appliance, it may be a good idea to donate or list it on a resale site, donate to a local thrift store or other venues that accept such donations. This option is especially appropriate for small appliances such as toasters or microwaves. Keep in mind the energy use/efficiency principle. Putting an inefficient appliance back into use can have negative long-term consequences, including high energy costs and increased energy use and emissions. In the market for a new gadget? Look for products from retailers who will exchange the new product for your old one. This ensures that the appliance will be disposed of properly and recycled for parts.
Check out “bounty programs.” Local energy providers often offer pick-up services, even providing energy vouchers for the transaction. Your local government’s Public Works Department may offer some variation of its bulk trash pick-up service, either for no cost or a small fee. Some businesses opt to sell their old appliances to haulers, who remove them and sell any valuable parts. These “bounty programs,” pay you for the ability to pick up your old units. The value here comes from ferrous metals, such as steel and iron, which are recovered upon disposal. According to The Steel Recycling Institute, 3.1 million tons of ferrous metals were recovered from discarded appliances in 2017.
Look into RAD: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has created the Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) program which identifies recycling partners that commit to a specific set of guidelines and utilize best practices and appliance recycling that “go beyond federal laws,” according to the EPA. This means recovering foam insulation and refrigerants, disposing of hazardous materials properly, and recycling all possible materials.
Maybe your fridge and stove aren’t the problems, what about that sagging couch in the basement that your bloodhound loves, or that unused wicker patio set?
- If the furniture is old but still useable and has no mildew, serious staining, or signs of bug infestation, you can list it on local neighborhood apps like Nextdoor or the Facebook marketplace for interested parties to pick up for free.
- Large national organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and Goodwill in most regions will pick up furniture and provide a tax deduction. Call and inquire. Or check to see if the local homeless center or animal shelters could use your second-hand furniture.
- Avoid the landfill. Check with your local recycling center to see if your furniture is eligible for pickup or drop-off.
- Junk haulers: Not free, but there are outfits will that pick up and break down your furniture to recycle. Check their prices before committing.
- No-No. It seems the easiest option but it’s the worst: leaving that sofa next to the nearest dumpster. Remember only a recycling center is able to determine what parts of that sectional are actually recyclable. The whole kit and caboodle doesn’t belong in the landfill.
No mess, less strain, and less guilt about waste. Check out new kitchen counter appliances (like the “Lomi”) that sit on the kitchen counter (or under) and gobble up leftovers while you sleep, so no more of those little mystery dishes in the fridge and no more overstuffed smelly garbage cans. You could be reducing your weekly trash by 50%. In the $400-price range, the Lomi, for example, converts everything from plastic forks and straws to egg shells and carrot tops into soil with the push of a button. The resulting rich soil can then go back into your garden and houseplants.
If you need something more budget-minded and if yours is a one or two-person household, there are a large variety of 1 to 4-gallon composters that will still reduce your carbon footprint while only setting you back between $35 and $150.
Or maybe you’d prefer the new curbside pick-up version of composting. There are local green companies nationwide that will come to your door to pick up your coffee grounds, egg shells, and dinner leftovers just like the sanitation companies do. But unlike old-fashioned garbage, those leftovers will find a new life transformed into new food for the earth.
These local companies usually supply you with a (4 gal) pail, lid, and compostable insert bags which you fill and they pick up weekly. Prices in the northeast run about $30 a month. Some offer a two-week free trial. Another plus, they will salvage the meat, fish, and bones that some home compost gadgets won’t touch.
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