What’s in our 2014 jar of annual waste?

By November 25, 2014 No Comments

The most common question I get these days is:

What’s in the quart size jar of waste that your family produces each year?

Well, each year is different in contents and weight, but we recently closed our jar for the year 2014 (we take our tally from October 16th to October 15th), and here is what’s in it, from right to left:


Photo paper that I “hole-punched” for an art project (more on that in a different post): These are photo holiday cards that were sent out to us by acquaintances that are not aware of our lifestyle.

Worn-out biking gear: A bike glove with gel protection that punctured and some handlebar tape that felt apart.

Fashion editing bits: The straps that I removed from a pair of secondhand synthetic sandals (I usually buy leather), the decorative zipper pulls that Leo wanted off his secondhand backpack. The “moisture absorbent” device, also pictured, came in one of the backpack’s pockets.

Laminated cards: An insurance card from our previous dental insurance and a business license that I laminated years ago and found in the 2006 tax folder that we recycled. The laminating decisions that I made then are still haunting me 🙂

Stickers: Plastic produce stickers, cheese labels, and unsightly warning label that I removed from the electrical cord of a secondhand light.

Home repair waste: Paint chips and old caulking that needed to be replaced, and four fuses from four attempts at trying to repair our receiver ourselves (The repair shop did a much better job at finding the fault!)

Hygiene waste:  The broken spoolie of my wooden mascara wand (I composted the handle) and five Band-Aids. We do not have Band-Aids at home, but four were applied onto my sons’ arms after vaccinations, before we could say no; and one was applied on Scott’s arm by a first aid team, after a biking accident on the mountain.

Backing of stickers, such as USPS stamps, a UPS receipt, and the replacement handlebar tape, that I mentioned above.

Gardening waste: A green plastic tie, found in my yard (dragged under a shoe from somewhere else, maybe?) and the last dust mask we had (now, we use a bandanna instead).

Travel waste: An expired passport cover (the pages were recyclable) and checked luggage labels. We only use carry-ons, but last year for Thanksgiving, we visited family in Texas. As a hostess gift, I decided to bring homemade pickles without realizing that my luggage would have to be checked for security reasons (more than 4 oz jar).

Kids waste: A bubble gum and a party favor airplane that my 14 year old accepted from his orthodontist. “Just to bug you, mom”, he said. Ah the joys of having teenagers! In his defense, he expected it to be made of balsa wood, but this styrofoam version broke within the first five minutes, of course.

My other teenager, Leo (now 13) says that I am a hoarder because I have kept our waste since October 2010 (4 quart size jars). I tend to agree with him that it’s silly for me to keep them. What do you think I should do with their content?

  • Throw in the trash for the landfill?
  • Take to the closest county that burns its waste for energy? (I will be traveling through there in a few days)
  • Fill bottle bricks? (I could fill one that I pick up on the beach)
  • Throw in the ocean? (Kidding 😉

I have mixed feelings about all of these options, and would love to hear your voice! Please take the poll on the right.

UPDATE: Thanks to the 836 of you who voted, here are the results of the poll:

  • Throw in the trash for the landfill?   42 (5%)
  • Take to the closest county that burns its waste for energy?  526 (62%)
  • Fill bottle bricks?  268 (32%)

Many of the comments here and on Zero Waste Home’s Facebook page suggested using the jars as-is or as an art piece to raise awareness, something I might be considering…  But what I have learned from this exercise, is that a post explaining the problems around incineration is much needed! Stay tuned.

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