Households in Carver County are creating and throwing away more waste than ever. From junk mail to excess paint to food scraps, this garbage takes time and money to deal with. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to reduce your waste at home. Besides, nobody likes taking out the trash!
Reduce Excess Paper
A good portion of what you throw in the garbage each day is paper. Much of the paper generated in our homes comes in the mail. The average American household receives more than 500 pieces of advertising mail each year.
Check with your local utilities and service providers – phone, gas, electric, water & sewer, garbage, cable, internet, banking, credit cards – request paperless statements. Typically, there is no cost to enroll, view, or pay your bills online.
The benefits include:
• It’s easy and secure!
• Viewing your bill online any time, any where, from any Internet connection.
• Reducing the risk of paper bills with your name and address getting lost or stolen.
• Money savings by reducing the need for checks, stamps and trips to the post office.
• Scheduling your payments online save time and avoid incurring late fees.
You can also take action and reduce the amount of unwanted mail you receive by following the easy steps listed on the Junk Mail page.
Reduce Packaging Waste
Packaging makes up 30 percent of municipal solid waste. You can reduce the amount of packaging you throw in the garbage by purchasing items that have less packaging. In addition, over-packaged products often cost more than less-packaged products. This means that you can save money when buying products with less packaging.
• Reduce the amount of packaging by purchasing concentrates and diluting them with water in reusable containers.
• Avoid single-serving products in favor of larger servings or buying in bulk.
• Take your own reusable cloth bag so you don’t need “paper or plastic”.
Mercury evaporates easily and travels great distances through the atmosphere. It is a nerve toxin which ends up in our lakes and rivers, where it accumulates in fish and other creatures. Humans may be at risk if they regularly eat mercury-contaminated fish. Mercury is especially dangerous when ingested by children, pregnant women, and women planning to have children in the future.
The best way to keep mercury out of the home and the environment is to avoid mercury-containing products in the first place. If you do have any of the items listed below, be responsible, and make sure they are taken to the Environmental Center for proper management at the end of their life cycle.
• Fever and cooking thermometers
• Tilt switches in many thermostats
• Steam irons with 15-minute automatic shut-off
• Neon lamps, older batteries
• Fluorescent lamps
• Switches that stop washing machines when the top is open
• “Silent” wall switches
• Mercury vapor, high pressure sodium and metal halide lamps
When buying these types of products, look for non-mercury alternatives, like digital fever thermometers and alcohol-based cooking thermometers. Replacing your home thermostat? Consider a digital or electronic one that contains no mercury.
Did you Know? It is against the law to throw mercury-containing products away in the garbage. Proper management of mercury-containing products means keeping the mercury intact and bringing it to the Environmental Center. Efforts like these to remove mercury from our garbage has meant lower mercury emission levels from waste disposal.
Prevent Food Waste
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 27 percent of the nation’s total food supply — 97 billion pounds — went to waste in 1995. Food is wasted in many ways, such as preparing too much, letting fresh food go bad and buying too much.
Planning meals and creating a list of what you need before you go to the grocery store will help you buy exactly what you need. Composting leftover fruit and vegetable food waste with your yard waste helps create high-nutrient compost. Donate excess canned goods to a food shelf.
Making better use of the food you buy will save you money and reduce how much food you throw away. Composting the remaining food waste will provide you with a great additive for your garden.
Use The Least Hazardous Cleaning Products
In a state the size of Minnesota — about 4.4 million people — approximately 572 tons of liquid cleaners and 132 tons of toilet bowl cleaners are washed down the drain each month.
Read the labels of cleaners and look for the signal words — caution, warning, danger, poison — which indicate the level of hazard. Use the least hazardous product to do the job. (“Caution” is least hazardous and “danger” is most hazardous. Extremely toxic products must also include the word “poison.”)
Read the instructions on how to use cleaning products and be sure to use the correct amount. Remember, you won’t get twice the results by using twice as much.
Reading labels gives you information on how to use a cleaning product correctly and how dangerous a product might be. You could also consider using a substitute for cleaning projects around the house. For example, vinegar and water work well to wash windows and floors. Another idea is to share any excess products with someone else who can use them, such as your neighbor or friend. Instead of buying many different types of cleaners, use one general-purpose cleaner.
With so many choices of products to clean your house, it can be difficult to choose the best one for your household. Buying cleaning products with the least dangerous signal word and using substitutes will reduce the amount of hazardous chemicals in your home.
Buy The Right Amount Of Paint For The Job
A large amount of paint collected at Minnesota’s household hazardous waste sites is still usable. If stored correctly, paint stays in good condition for a long time. If it mixes smoothly, it can still be used.
Before you begin a painting project, measure the area first. Calculate the area to be painted (height x width = total square feet). One gallon covers about 400 square feet.
To prevent paint from drying out, cover the paint can (use its original container) with plastic wrap, replace the lid securely and store upside down. Protect your paint from freezing. Use leftover paint for touch-up jobs, smaller projects or as a primer.
Using low-VOC or water-based paints, stains, finishes and paint strippers will help keep hazardous chemicals out of your home. Prevent waste through wise purchasing; calculate the right amount of paint for the job. Use leftover paint up instead of throwing it away.
You can find more information about reducing waste at home at www.rethinkrecycling.com.