By: Ojaswee Chaudhary
Trashcans. They are stinky treasures of leftover pizza, half-open envelopes, and items too secretive to show parents. Underneath kitchen sinks and in many more corners sit the trash bins where people dispose their waste. Alarmingly, this waste is worth 1 million pounds of materials per person every year. Even though this country represents only 4.28% of the world’s population, American trash represents 30% of the world’s garbage.* Over many years, people have acquired habits of overusing or wrongly using the three main trash bins. Therefore, what is the best way to manage waste? The key to this puzzle is knowing how to use the three large, colored trash bins in the side yards of houses. What does one put in each bin? And more importantly, what shouldn’t go in each bin? Though waste disposal may seem confusing (What even is compost?!), this article will now explain the nitty gritty details of these bins: the compost bin, the recycling bin, and the trash bin. Believe it or not, throwing away household garbage in the right place could be the simplest and most ideal way for a person to preserve the planet.
The first trash bin to contemplate is the compost bin. This green or brown bin is designed for organic, compostable waste. In order for an item to be compostable, it has to be able to decompose or break down into natural elements in a way that produces nutrients. A common misconception is that anything that breaks down, or degrades, is able to go in this bin; this is incorrect because everything will degrade sometime (even if it takes a few thousand years), but, not everything will compost, or decay in a way that produces nutrients. Often, companies sneakily label their items as biodegradable, meaning ‘able to decompose’, however, this does not mean it can be composted. If an item belongs in the compost bin, the package should read “compostable,” “BPI certified”, or “meets ASTM-D6400 standard.” Even without the packaging it is important to know what truly belongs in this bin.
Categories of Items for the Compost Bin**
Today, there exists a prevalent and depressing issue of plastic ending up in oceans and killing poor baby turtles and other marine life. This problem relates to recycling. The misconception applies when one recycling stereotype comes into play: “recycling” always makes people think about plastic. Though it is recyclable, plastic rarely ends up being reused and instead kills 100 million marine animals every year. Nevertheless, the recycling bin is one of the most beneficial eco-friendly inventions. This blue or grey bin is designed for reusable items, ones that can be used to make new products. Recycled objects should be 1) clean and 2) loose. A loose item is on its own and separate from other items (not in bags or boxes).
Items That Are Not Recycled:
Items That Are Recycled:
Knowing what to put in the blue or grey recycling bin will make a better environment and allow people to truly embrace their inner Lorax. (Fact: almost every part of Thneedville could have been recycled!). On the other hand, not knowing what is recyclable causes damage. A recyclable item that is deposited in the landfill loses its reusability, leading to another cut-down tree. As people realize the importance of recycling, deforestation will decrease, pollution will lessen, marine life will survive, and humans will have Earth again!
The landfill bin, better known as the home of Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street, is the final bin to consider. This is not the “everything else” bin. This blue or grey bin is designed for all items that are destined to produce fossil fuels in landfills. The garbage just sits and makes methane until it rots. The landfill bin is a last resort and one must understand the specifics of this bin. By ensuring that minimal waste goes into this bin, landfill pollution and the bin’s foul stench decrease.
Items That Do Not Go In The Landfill:
Items That Go in the Landfill**
Notice how the dirtiest of household garbage (except food) belong in this bin. Putting these items in any other bin results in major expenses for decontaminating reusable or compostable items. Being conscious about the landfill bin will ensure less land pollution. Humans have the duty to properly dispose of what we take from the planet.
The words compost, recycle, and landfill are probably swimming in your mind by now, and here is a quick rundown: Organic materials that produce nutrients such as food and plants belong in the yard waste or food waste bins. Reusable, clean items including paper and cardboard go in the recycling bin. Household debris like hygiene products and pencils are meant for the landfill bin. Every trash service has their own regulations. A citizen, therefore, has the responsibility to be educated about their community. As much as one may want to recycle or compost, sometimes an item has lived its life; as said by environmental writer Jenny Price, “Remember that wanting the box to be recyclable will not make it so.” The truth is, throwing something away is not a no-brainer; it is a “use-your-brainer” because the Earth is counting on humans to be conscious. Organizing garbage has widespread impacts. Landfills release a fifth of the methane present in our atmosphere, causing major pollution. Un-fill our landfills! The 21.5 million tons of food that Americans produce each year could be composted and reduce greenhouse gases (in fact, as many greenhouse gases as two million cars emit). Learn to compost! Lastly, massive piles of garbage around the world are causing irreversible harm to wildlife. Save our animals! By proper organization of household waste, we will finally begin to experience a cleaner environment and live among positive change.
*Statistics about US waste: here and here
**Lists of items for bins (different for each county): here
*** Create a compost pile: here
Trash service websites: Republic, Waste Management, Recology
Science behind composting: here
Compost labels: here