Half of our household garbage ends up in landfills , and much of it could be recycled. When trash ends up in a landfill, the lack of air circulation prevents it from breaking down properly, which produces leachate and methane.
Leachate is a liquid that pools at the bottom of landfills, often contains dangerous chemicals, and can seep into groundwater when the lining deteriorates . The anaerobic conditions lead to the production of methane gas—in fact, household waste in landfills creates 15% of the human-related emissions in America .
The good news: each of us can reduce our landfill-bound waste by keeping the old “reduce, reuse, recycle” adage in mind.
- Reduce how much we buy and use—particularly items that are disposable or come in disposable packaging
- Reuse items in creative ways rather than throwing them out
- Recycle remaining items, and compost everything you can
Here are a few things to think about when trying to reduce your waste:
- Cook from scratch
- Buy foods in bulk using lightweight, reusable cotton bags
- Use reusable grocery bags
- Bring your own mug to the coffee shop
- Switch to metal safety razors with recyclable blades
- Make your own vinegar cleaner
- Reuse glass jars for storage or water glasses
- Replace paper towels and napkins with cloth
- Buy things that have a story
- Check thrift stores before buying new things
Many areas offer curbside pickup for recyclable materials like plastic, aluminum, paper, and sometimes glass. You can also take items like batteries, electronics, and plastic grocery bags to local drop off sites. To learn more about what you can recycle locally and where, visit Earth911.
When we compost our food scraps, newspapers, lawn clippings or raked leaves, and then add that finished compost back to the soil, we are facilitating the decomposition process and completing the soil cycle by returning those essential nutrients and microbial organisms back into the earth to be cycled through again and again. This will help care for and conserve the soil of our place, all while significantly reducing the waste that we add to landfills.
Start a backyard compost pile using the tips and ideas provided in this video.
Start an indoor worm composting system to turn kitchen scraps into nutrient-rich compost for your lawn or garden. It’s a great option for composting indoors, especially in small spaces like apartments. This how-to guide will help get you started with your own DIY vermicomposting bin.
When plastic ends up in the ocean, larger items break down into microplastics that are then ingested by marine life. This harms ocean biodiversity, and these particles can also end up in the human food chain. A Rocha’s marine team has put together a toolbox to help you learn more about these issues, reduce your personal plastic use, and even host a beach or river cleanup.
The following books and websites can help you learn more about garbage, landfills, and reducing your waste.
Going Zero Waste – a site full of hands-on tips, ideas, and recipes to reduce your waste
Zero-Waste Home – home of one of the founders of the zero-waste movement full of tons of practical resourcesThe Zero-Waste Lifestyle by Amy Korst – a straightforward book that will help you think about what you purchase, what you throw away, and how you can reduce your waste