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Inventory the waste in your household to help develop a plan to cut back on how much waste you create.

The average American throws out about 4.5 pounds of waste EACH DAY! That’s a lot of stuff to send to the landfill! The best way to figure out how to reduce our waste and divert materials from the landfill is to assess the waste we have and see what we can eliminate.

Let’s look at the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. We always say them in that order… with reduce as the first one.

Reduce is listed first because when we reduce our waste, we eliminate the need for the resources – we can be most effective by simply not creating the waste in the first place. The Waste Management Hierarchy explains that reducing our waste is the most important thing, followed by different ways of diverting our waste from landfills (such as reusing things, composting, recycling, and energy recovery).

  • Paper
  • Writing Utensils
  • Yard gloves or plastic gloves
  • Tarp or a trash bag cut open
  • A few days’ worth of your household trash

You can do this home waste assessment using just one or two days of your trash. There are two ways to do a waste assessment.

Option 1:
Collect your waste for a day or two as you normally would, and then examine it. This method allows you to truly look at and catalog everything, but it does require you to sort through your trash with gloves.

  1. Spread a tarp or a trash bag out on the floor or ground. If you work outside, make sure it’s not too windy or all your trash will blow away.
  2. Keep safety in mind – wear gloves as you sort through your trash. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly when you are done. Don’t touch anything sharp or potentially dangerous.
  3. Spread your waste out on the tarp.
  4. Sort your waste into categories such as food waste, snack wrappers, soiled paper, textiles, recyclable plastic bottles, recyclable paper, etc. Create a chart to log your materials.

Option 2:
Create a chart and document each piece of waste. This method requires a bit more work each time you throw something away but allows you to complete a waste audit without physically sorting through your trash.

  1. Create a chart to log your materials.
  2. Tape the chart to the wall near your waste receptacles.
  3. Every time you throw something away (trash, recycling, compost, energy bag), log it on the chart. This can be as simple as a quick tally.

After creating a chart of your waste, have a discussion as a whole house. Consider things you waste that you could reduce, reuse, or recycle.

  • Did you throw out food because it went bad? How could you make sure to use food before that happens?
  • Could you start composting at home?
  • Is there a reusable alternative?
  • Could you recycle some of the items that went in the garbage
  • Could you purchase items that have less packaging?
  • Could you simply manage without purchasing an item that produces a lot of waste?
  • Could you request that companies stop sending you mail advertising?

Making all these changes at once might be a huge task. After you consider your options, pick one or two things to focus on – how will you reduce your waste? Create one or two shared goals and a plan to reach them.

After a couple of weeks, repeat the process and see if you have made a difference.

We would love to see where this lesson led you! Share your photos and videos with us by tagging #StewardshipSchool and #KeepOmahaBeautiful.

Thank you to our Trees for Omaha program sponsors



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