Top 10 Things I Have Learned from 6 Months of No Garbage

This week is kind of a big milestone. We are officially ONE HALF of the way through our Year of No Garbage. We are very excited about it, and by this I mean that I am very excited about it.

Ever wonder what six months of accumulated caps looks like?

In honor of the occasion I have compiled a list of the…

Top Ten Things I Have Learned So Far:

1. Plastics are made out of fossil fuels.

Maybe everyone already knew this but me. What astounds me about this fact is that oil is at the heart of so many bad, bad things: the source of not only the greenhouse gases that accelerate global warming, BUT ALSO the plastic pollution of our oceans, AND the micro-plastics in our drinking water. Shall we get into the debate about chemical fertilizers? It is also responsible for taking Friends off of Netflix. Probably.

2. There is no such thing as “not recyclable.”

It’s just a matter of the lengths we are willing to go to in terms of cost and effort.

3. SO MANY plastics can be recycled in the supermarket plastic bag recycling bin.

This is a deeply underused resource that everyone should know about. Bread bags, plastic overwrap, Ziploc bags, produce bags, bubble wrap and plastic mailers can ALL be recycled in these bins. Tell everyone.

Six months of “Assorted Plastic Thing-a-ma-bobs”

4. Just because something is labeled “compostable” doesn’t actually mean you can compost it.

Amazingly enough.

5. “Chemical Recycling” is a euphemism for “burning garbage.”

Of course it is.

6. Where our recyclables go, now that China no longer accepts them.

Municipalities have had to decide between paying a small fortune for recycling companies to take recyclables and sending them to the landfill. I don’t like recycling’s chances.

Six months of Saran Wrap despite the fact that everyone is instructed to say they’re highly allergic to it

7. No matter what the internet says, you can’t just send your old toothpaste tubes to Terracycle.

But if you can deal with their system, you can pay them to recycle everything from toothbrushes to cigarette butts. This is ninja-level recycling.

8. You can’t recycle shredded paper, but you can compost it.

I know, right? And contrary to popular belief, you can compost meat, cooking oil and bones too. Just use a container (to keep pests down) and give it time.

Six months of wine corks being Pinterested

9. No one ever died from paper towel deprivation.


10. The key to living a more earth-friendly life— or one of them— is slowing down and being thoughtful.

Ask questions. Make a phone call. Fix things. Go out of your way. Think twice. Three times. Don’t give up on objects quite so fast.


Things I have yet to find out:

1. Why aren’t plastics infinitely recyclable, like aluminum or glass?

2. What is the difference between “biodegradable” and “compostable”?

3. Can anything good be done with thermal-paper receipts? Or packing tape? Or broken glass? Old cassette tapes? Here’s a tough one: photographic prints. Remember “free double prints”? Ugh.

4. Can hard plastic with no recycling numbers be recycled? Or is it from another dimension?

5. Is taking out the compost really “the grossest job in the world”? Or is that just what my kids say?


I have six more months to figure these things out and more. What Garbage/Recycling/Zero Waste questions do YOU have? Let me know and I’ll try to answer them.

Have a happy Fourth of July!

8 thoughts on “Top 10 Things I Have Learned from 6 Months of No Garbage

  1. What a relief to know that my ordinary, every week grocery store recycle bins will take the excess bits and bobs of plastic. One less trip to make to a different store.
    Six months is a long time, I’m so envious of your eco-conscious family. We do not have all, ahem, members onboard. We keep trudging along just the same.

    Congrats on your halfway mark! It’s all downhill from here (in a good way)!

  2. I don’t mind taking out the compost! A few years when I was living with my parents I read a composting booklet, got invested in it, and started adding more brown leaves and turning the pile, and one day I noticed there appeared to be some steam emanating when I turned it (which is a good thing!) and I felt very proud of myself. 😆 I’m back home again temporarily so I need to rekindle that interest. My mom also got some chicks for the first time! They’re about a month old now.

    1. I just finished reading your second book, plan to read the first now and look forward to your next one! 😊

    2. I’m with you- there are WAY worse jobs than taking out the compost. Dealing with mice in ANY WAY for example. Congrats on the chicks- ours are finally big enough to be let out of the coop and I am quite unreasonably proud. 🙂

      1. Oh NO! I haven’t had that problem yet- we have mice in other places, -ick- but not the compost. They’re so small I don’t know how you’d keep them out, unless you go to those barrel composters that rotate. I’m not fond of them, however, because I’m not strong enough to turn them 🙂

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