Zero Waste: An Experiment

Plastic. It’s everywhere: in our phones, cars, water bottles, and food containers. It seems that you can’t go a day without seeing or using it. The United States produces about 38 million tons of plastic waste every year, and the average American tosses around six pounds of trash a day. Although some of this trash is recycled, most of it winds up in landfills or in the ocean. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a direct result of dumping our trash into the ocean, and marine life is suffering because of it. Most people say something must be done, but at heart they are pessimistic. There secretly think there really is no solution: plastic will overwhelm us and the world will be destroyed by thoughtless humans. Few of them have offered any solutions, except for cutting out carbon emissions by not flying in planes and using public transportation instead of a car.  Neither of these would do anything about plastic. But there are others who have offered a solution that changes the very core of our consumer lifestyle to make it more environmentally friendly. They eliminated all waste from their lives and joined the zero waste movement. 

Because our planet cannot hold all of the trash that we produce, we have two solutions: to move to  another planet, or stop producing trash. While moving may sound like an adventurous and easy way to deal with our problems, reducing our waste is a much simpler way out of this sticky situation that we have managed to create. What is zero waste and how do you manage to live that lifestyle? Going zero waste is a lifestyle that has become popular over the last few years. It is a lifestyle  where the participant produces no trash by reducing the number of non-recyclable items they use and by replacing single-use items with multipurpose reusable items. It is a common misconception that recyclable plastic and cardboard are alright to use. According to an article by Livia Albeck-Ripka in The New York Times, there are now nearly 6,000 tons of recycled plastic and cardboard piling up in the Harvey and Sons recycling facility in Westborough, Massachusetts. This 80,000-square-foot facility is half-full of recycling, and we have limited options as to what we can do when this space runs out. This is why it is so important to reduce our trash.  

Our mission: We plan to go about our normal lives for one week, collect data on the amount of trash we produce, and find out what makes up that trash. The following week, we will attempt to go zero waste and produce as little trash as possible. Again, we will take notes, collect any of the trash that we produce, and compare our data from the last two weeks to see what happened. Once we are finished we will report back to you. You can join us if you’d like, and we can go on this zero waste journey together.


Miranda Connolly

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