Reducing the Amount of Waste
The best and often the easiest way to reduce the amount of waste from your household that ends up in a land fill is to take steps to generate less waste in the first place.
Very small and simple changes in the way you live can have dramatic effects on how much waste you generate. You, as a consumer, have considerable power to reduce the amount of waste going to land fill by choosing to buy products that use less packaging or are packaged in recyclable materials.
It is also worth remembering that although recycling an item of waste is better than disposing of it in the normal trash, a lot of energy is consumed for both the recycling process and the transportation of the waste to and from the recycling center. Any steps you make that reduce or eliminate the use of an item you would normally recycle or throw away will have a significant positive impact on the environment. Choosing products that are reusable and long lasting instead of single-use disposable products will save a lot of waste and also save money over the long term.
Recycling is great but finding ways to reduce or reuse waste is even better.
We have put together some ideas on how to reduce your use of particular types of materials so that you end up throwing less waste material away.
- Buy a battery charger and switch to using rechargeable batteries in your portable electronic devices: camera, remote control etc. This change will also save you money over the long term.
- For information on battery recycling click here.
This may sound obvious but try to cook only the amount of food that you are going to eat. If you have leftovers, take them to work for lunch the following day or reuse them in the following day's meal.
If you have a garden why not grow your own food to help reduce the amount of packaging you throw away. If you live in an apartment you can still grow herbs or some small vegetables in window boxes or in plant pots inside your home.
Vegetable peel, fruit and other non-meat food waste can be composted in your garden. See our garden waste recycling page for more details.
If you don't have a garden you can create a small wormery to turn your kitchen scraps into vermicompost. Click here for advice on how to make and maintain your own wormery for just a few dollars.
Organic waste such as vegetable peels and garden trimmings can be composted in your garden instead of being thrown in the trash.
We have a box of GE energy smart 75 CFLs that we use in our office. This particular CFL uses 20 watts of electricity to produce the same amount of light as a 75 watt incandescent light bulb and should last, on average, 12,000 hours. On the box it claims that each CFL will save us $66 over the course of its lifetime when compared to using the equivalent incandescent light bulb. To test this claim we did a quick calculation based on the real NJ electricity price at the time ($0.176 per kWh from PSEG)
Option 1. 75 W incandescent light bulbs
One incandescent light bulb should last 1000 hours. Therefore we need 12 incandescent light bulbs for 12,000 hours of light production.
A 75W incandescent light bulb operating for 12,000 hours will consume 900 kWh of electricity.
Cost of the light bulbs = $3.60 (Twelve 75 W light bulbs)
Cost of electricity = $158.40 (900 kWh)
Total Cost = $162.00 (plus 12 used light bulbs)
Option 2. Compact fluorescent light bulb
One CFL costs $2.53 and should last an average of 12,000 hours. If the CFL runs at 20 watts for 12,000 hours it will consume 240 kWh of electricity.
Cost of the light bulbs = $2.53 (one CFL)
Cost of electricity = $42.24 (240 kWh)
Total Cost = $44.77 (plus one used CFL).
Saving per CFL = $117.23 (in NJ).
Switching to using energy saving light bulbs will not only save you money on your electricity bill but because a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) lasts up to ten times longer than a traditional incandescent light bulb they will need replacing less often, resulting in a reduction in both packaging waste and the number of light bulbs that end up in the trash.
Compact fluorescent light bulbs contain small amounts of mercury and should not be thrown in the normal trash once they have been used. For more information on how to recycle old compact fluorescent light bulbs click here.
You don't need to replace every incandescent light bulb in your home all at once. Start by replacing incandescent bulbs with CFL's or LED's, for the lights that you leave on for long periods of time each day. These are the lights where you will see the greatest savings on your electricity bill. Then as the other incandescent bulbs around your home break, you can replace them with more energy efficient alternatives.
By 2015 it is anticipated that LED light bulbs will have improved substantially, so that they become the light bulb of choice, instead of CFLs so we do not recommend buying large numbers of spare CFL bulbs as greater savings will be made in future by replacing broken light bulbs with LEDs.
- New developments in energy efficient lighting are being made each year. One business in New York has developed a revolutionary new type of light bulb that uses Electron Stimulated Luminescence technology which they say has a better quality of light that CFL's and no toxic chemcials.
- For more information see Vu1's website.
- NJ Department of Energy sells discounted CFL's for a wide range of applications, via their website.
Reduce the amount of packaged goods you buy at the supermarket.
Buy loose fruit and vegetables at the supermarket instead of the pre-packaged kind. Often this is cheaper and additionally allows you to buy just the amount you need so you will end up throwing less food away too. You can take the clear plastic bags back to the store and reuse them multiple times.
Buy items that are packaged in containers made from materials that are easy to recycle: glass, metal tins, cardboard/paperboard or plastic bottles (type #1 or #2) and avoid items that are difficult to recycle.
- For items that can be stored for a long time consider buying larger box sizes. Less material goes into making one large box than into multiple small boxes so overall, you end up putting less waste in the trash.
Paper1. Reduce the amount of junk mail you receive.
- Register with the Direct Mail Association Mail Preference Service. Click here for the dmachoice.org web page. Unfortunately this will not stop all junk mail from landing in your mail box as companies check this list on a voluntary basis but registration can reduce the amount of junk mail you receive by up to 75%.
- Collect all the junk mail you receive over a period of a few weeks. Then spend an hour phoning these companies and requesting to be removed from their database or mailing list.
- R.L. Polk & Company
email@example.com R.L. Polk does direct marketing for the automobile industry. Send an email asking them to remove your information from their database. You will need to provide you full name and address.
1 Valpak Ave. N.
St. Petersburg, FL 33716
Have the Valpak mailing label handy and fill in your information exactly as it is printed. If you like coupons but don’t want to receive all that mail, go to www.valpak.com to choose and print coupons by geographical location.
- Valassis Direct Mail, Inc.
PO Box 249
Windsor , CT 06095
1-800-437-0479, between 8:30 and 5:00 EST
Select "consumer" and then "I would like to be removed from your mailing list."
Attn: Consumer Requests
1020 E. 1st St.
Papillion, NE 68046
Send a letter with all the variations of your name, address and phone number asking to suppress your name from their lists. They are a large provider of marketing lists.
- Epsilon Data Services
Abacus Cooperative Databases
P.O. Box 1478
Broomfield, CO 80038
Send an email with “remove” in the subject line and your full name, including middle initial, and address in the message. If you changed your address over the past six months, include your previous address as well.3. Stop credit card solicitations.
- To eliminate credit card promotional mailings, call 1-888-567-8688 (that's 888-5OPT-OUT) or visit www.optoutprescreen.com.
5. Charity Mail
- If you want to reduce the frequency of mail you receive from a charity or stop it altogether you can complete the sample letter form prepared by The American Institute on Philanthropy. Simply include your personal information (name and address) as written on the envelope from the charity with this completed form and mail it to the charity using the address they have given you.
- If you have access to the internet at home, switch to receiving utility bills and bank statements online. Often companies will give you a small discount for switching to paperless billing.
- Many businesses now give you the option of viewing your pay slip online instead of receiving a paper copy every few weeks. Ask your human resources department if your company provides this option.
- Check your printer settings to see if it has an option for printing on both sides of the paper and change the default setting to use this option. You will still be able to print on single sides of the paper when you need to.
- You can easily switch to using washable, reusable drying cloths/dish cloths instead of paper towels. Paper towels cannot be recycled (although you can add them to your garden compost) so it is especially beneficial to reduce the amount of paper towels that you use.
- Buy durable plastic or china plates that can be washed and reused instead of disposable paper plates.
- Use a glass or mug instead of paper or plastic single-use disposable cups.
Bottled Water vs Water Filtration System
We did our own calculation to compare the cost of bottled water with a typical water filtration system. It is recommended that an adult should drink 68 fl oz (2 litres) of water every day so we calculated the cost of that much water over one year. If you do the math then one adult should drink 194 gallons (730 litres) of water each year.
At our local Target we found the cost of the cheapest bottled water in the store (a multipack of twenty four Poland Spring water bottles for $3.98) along with a multipack of Brita water filter cartridges (6 Brita cartridges for $24.69).
Option 1. Poland Spring bottled water
1 year of water for 1 adult = 194 gallons
194 gallons is equivalent to 60.8 multipacks of Poland Spring water (twenty four 16.9 fl oz bottles per pack).
Total cost = $241.92 (plus 1460 used plastic bottles)
Option 2. Brita water filtration system
One Brita cartridge will purify 40 gallons of tap water.
1 adult drinking 194 gallons each year will require 5 Brita cartridges (one 6 cartridge multipack)
Total cost = $24.69 (plus 5 used plastic cartridges)
It costs 9 times as much to buy bottled water than it does to use a water filtration system.
1. Reduce the amount of bottled water you buy.
- Tap water is perfectly safe to drink in New Jersey so you could try drinking that instead of bottled water. If you don't like the taste of tap water you can buy a water filter jug or faucet filter that will remove the ions from the water that give tap water its mineral taste.
- Switching to using a water filtration system instead of drinking bottled water really is a no brainer. It costs at least nine times as much to purchase bottled water than it does to purify the same volume of water, using a water purification system in your home.
- Both Brita and TerraFlo water filtration systems have recycling programs for their old filtration cartridges. Used Brita filters (water pitcher filters only - not faucet filters or refridgerator filters) can be taken to select Whole Foods stores and placed in the Preserve recycling collection box. TerraFlo filters can be mailed back to them for recycling at their own facility.
- If you are going to purify well water instead of municipal tap, you should consult with a water purification expert to create a purification system specific to your requirements.
- If you wish to carry bottled water with you, buy reusable stainless steel bottles and fill them with filtered tap water from your home or office. We recommend stainless steel over plastic bottles. The plastic chemicals from a plastic bottle can leach into the water if the bottle is kept in a warm environment for a long period of time, such as inside a car on a sunny day. Although the amount of chemical contamination is very small and unlikely to be detrimental to your health it seems sensible to avoid this problem altogether. The following companies sell stainless steel bottles for $10-$20.
2. Reusable shopping bags.
- All supermarkets and a number of other retail chains sell discounted cloth/fabric shopping bags that can be reused over and over again. Switching to these bags instead of disposable plastic bags will help to reduce the amount of plastic you throw away. Most supermarkets also offer a small discount on your shopping for every bag you reuse.
- In addition, take the clear plastic bags you use for the loose vegetables in the supermarket back to the store the next time you shop and reuse them instead of getting new ones each time.
- Reusable bags are not just for the supermarket. Take your own bags with you when you go to the mall as well.
- Find a convenient place in your home to store the reusable bags so that you don't forget them when you go to the shops. For instance you could hang them from your door handle or from a hook on the back of your front door so that the next time you go to the car, you pick them up and put them in the trunk, ready for your next shopping trip.
3. For those people with new born babies.
- Disposable diapers generate huge amounts of waste. Consider using washable, reusable cloth diapers instead.
Examples of companies that sell reusable cloth diapers.
4. The drinks fountain or drinks machine at work
- Take a mug from home to work and use that instead of the disposable plastic/paper cups provided.
Saving water in your home or business can be an easy way to reduce your water and energy bills. Old faucets, showers and toilets use a lot more water than they actually need to use. You can halve water use from your bathroom using inexpensive changes to your bathroom fittings.
The toilet is the device that uses the most water in the average US home (27% of water use inside your home).
To save water - Option 1. Buy a new WaterSense Toilet.
- Modern toilets displaying the WaterSense logo use 1 - 1.5 gallons of water per flush, instead of the 3.5 - 7 gallons of water used to flush older toilet models (installed before 1992). Installing a more efficient toilet will provide the greatest savings to your water bill for an average US household. According to the EPA, a family of four should expect to save about $90 per year on their water bill if they install an new WaterSense toilet.
To save water - Option 2. Retrofit your old toilet so it uses less water.
- One way to reduce the amount of water your toilet uses per flush is to take an old milk jug (clean), fill it completely with water, replace the lid, and then place the milk jug in the cistern tank of the toilet. Position the milk jug so that it does not get in the way of the flushing mechanism. As the milk jug remains full when the toilet is flushed its effectively reduces the volume of water in the cistern tank by about 0.8 gallons every time you flush. You do not alter the depth of water in the toilet cistern tank (only the volume), so the water pressure remains the same as it was before you added the filled milk jug; the flow rate and quality of the toilet flush should remain the same, even though less water is being used.
- You can alternatively buy a durable plastic bag that can be hung inside the cistern to perform the same function as a filled milk jug (to reduce the volume of water used per flush). These cost $1- $2 and will save 0.8 gallons per flush.
- An additional way to save water use by your toilet is to fit a simple device that redirects some of the water that would be used to flush the toilet bowl, via the overflow pipe, into the cistern tank instead. These devices can further reduce the water consumption of a standard toilet by 0.5 gallons per flush. and costs $1 - $2.
- For a cost of around $3 (excluding delivery) you can reduce your toilet's water consumption by 1.3 gallons per flush and the average home will recoup the cost in less than a month.
2. The Shower
17% of water used inside the average US home is used in the shower or bath tub. Any water savings you make here will reduce both your water consumption and your energy use, as you will need less gas or electricity to provide hot water. Federal legislation dictates that all new shower heads should have a maximum flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute but older showers, installed before 1994 will likely have much higher flow rates (3-7 gallons per minute). Usually the flow rate is marked on the outside of the shower head so you can check your own shower to find the maximum flow rate of your shower. Modern shower heads increase the aeration of the water creating the sensation of high water pressure without actually requiring as much water.
You will of course notice a reduction in the amount of water, so we suggest that if you do install a low flow shower head that you buy one with multiple settings so it can be adjusted to a setting that you like. Different people in your home will likely prefer different settings so having the option to choose is pretty valuable for keeping everyone happy.
Low flow shower heads can be purchased from any home improvement store, supermarket and also from online shops. These are a few examples.
As an alternative to replacing the shower head itself, you can instead buy a shower faucet (connects between your shower head and the hose line) to reduce the flow of water entering your shower head. That way you can keep the shower head you really like but still reduce the water consumption of your shower.
3. Sink Faucets
16% of water used in an average US home is through faucets in your kitchen and bathroom sinks. You can easily install low flow faucets yourself to reduce the flow of water when you leave the tap running. You just unsrew the old one and screw in the replacement. If you wish to keep your existing fittings it is very simple to take out the plastic insert low flow device from a low flow faucet and insert it into your old faucet. That way you get the more efficient water use but get to keep the bathroom fittings that you like. In a kitchen where water is used to wash dishes and fill pans for cooking you are likely to want a higher flow rate (1.5 to 2.5 gallons per minute) than in your bathroom sink.
A low flow faucet costs between $2 and $4 depending on the design and supplier and can halve the flow of water. Older bathroom faucets have flow rates of 2 gallons per minute but low flow faucets can reduce the amount of water down to 0.5, or 1.0 gallons per minute. Home improvement stores usually sell the complete tap assembly but you really only need to replace the actual faucet and you do not need any specialist tools to do this job; faucets can be unscrewed by hand in most cases. As mentioned earlier you can still keep your existing fittings if you prefer the way they look. You only need to replace the plastic water aerator insert inside the faucet. The USA landlord website has a handy video demonstrating how to change a faucet and it also shows the effect on the water flow so you can get an idea what the water flow looks like after installing a low flow faucet.
4. Clothes Washing Machine
Front loading washing machines use 40% less water than top loading washing machines so when you replace you washing machine try to purchase one that conserves water and uses less electricity. If you reduce water consumption you will save money through reduced energy bills and water bills. Look for an Energy Star and WaterSense model when buying a new washing machine.
Also consider drying clothes by hanging them on a drying rack, instead of using a tumble dryer. A tumble dryer uses a lot of electricity to generate the heat required to dry your clothes. Drying clothes naturally may take longer (usually 36-48 hours) but you will immediately notice the savings on your monthly electricity bill.
More information and water saving tips can be found at ....