Household waste refers to any unwanted material generated in a residential environment, such as food waste, paper, glass, metals, plastics, styrofoam, textiles, etc. Increasing human population and economic growth has led to an increasing amount of household waste generated, as well as an increasing diversity in the materials found in household waste (Rousta & Bolton, 2019). This situation makes household waste management more costly and increases the negative impacts of waste on the environment. Fortunately, that’s not the end to the story! There is something simple, we can all do to improve this situation, and that is – sorting out waste from the source!
Sorting waste effectively from the source, that is in our households, is a crucial task we can all do to improve household waste management and promote recycling and the circular economy (Rousta & Bolton, 2019). Household waste can be sorted out into 4 main groups which are, compost, recyclables, garbage, and hazardous waste. Unfortunately, not all municipalities are capable of providing the collection and disposal services for all these categories.
Compost: This refers to the organic waste from our households which is biodegradable such as food waste, yard waste, and even wet paper products. Organic household waste is a valuable resource which should be diverted from the landfill, check out this article to learn more.
Recyclables: These are materials which can be processed and used as input to create new products such as paper, cardboards, plastics, tins, cans, etc.
Garbage: This is waste which is not suitable for compost and recycling
Hazardous waste: This is a small proportion of household waste and includes materials that are toxic, flammable, corrosive, explosive, or environmentally hazardous, such as batteries, mercury-containing bulbs, paint, solvents, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, printer cartridges, unemptied aerosol cans, nail polish, etc. This waste category requires specialized treatment and disposal, and it is best to enquire from their retailers or from your municipality how best to get rid of them.
While numerous households are increasingly adopting the practice of sorting out their waste, many remain unclear on how to do it effectively. Here are 10 things to take into consideration when sorting out your household waste.
- Check the rules first! Understanding your local waste management and recycling programs is necessary to ensure that you dispose of materials properly. For example, not all plastics which are designed to be recycled are accepted in every local recycling program. If you are unsure, check the rules first before putting something in the recycling bin.
- Simplify composting! Keep a compost bin or container visible by placing it beside the garbage bin or on your counter to easily remember to sort out compostable material when throwing away your kitchen waste.
- Quick cleaning! Remove food remains from recyclables (such as pizza boxes, cans, tins, aluminium foil, etc) before putting in recycling bin. Materials contaminated with food can not be recycled as they can contaminate the recycling stream. A quick rinse or “spatula-clean” should be sufficient before putting materials in the recycling bin.
- Be careful with sharp objects! Do not put sharp objects such as broken glasses, broken bulbs, etc directly in the garbage or recycling bin, as they pose hazards to collection workers and equipment. Instead wrap them in several sheets of paper or a box before disposing of them.
- Separate plastics! Plastic bags, films, wraps, and Styrofoam should be separated from recyclables (such as boxes, and paper products) before placing them in the recycling bin. Most local recycling programs do not accept these plastic materials for recycling, so failing to remove them from recyclables would contaminate and disrupt the recycling stream. As much as possible opt to reduce your use of plastic products, and seek to reuse them many times before disposing
- Used oils, fats and grease should not be poured down the drain as this can lead to blockages, rather pour them into sealable containers and discard with your garbage
- No crumbling! Stop crumbling paper before discarding, this diminishes the potential of the paper to be used as a resource to make new products. The more intact a paper is, the more its worth for making new products as its fibers (cellulose) are stronger increasing the number of times is can be recycled.
- Worthless paper. Did you know many types of paper can not be recycled? Papers such as greaseproof and plasticized paper, receipt paper from machines, paper with adhesive glue, carbon paper, tax coupons, etc should be put in the garbage bin. Others such as used paper napkins, and paper towels which can not be recycled can instead be composted.
- Seek help from retailers or manufacturers! While certain waste products such as electronics, appliances, etc, might not be recycled through your local waste management programs, numerous retailers and manufacturers offer several options to donate or recycle these materials. If you are unsure how to get rid of something, seek help from your retailer or manufacturer.
- Backyard composting! This is a simple alternative and requires little investment for those in municipalities which do not provide compost collection services. This can go a long way to give you a productive garden and will significantly reduce your curbside garbage. All what you need is a good compost bin and a varied mix of organic waste such as fruit and vegetable waste which contain a lot of water mixed with drier materials such as stale bread, dead leaves and paper. Avoid putting meat and dairy products in your backyard compost as these can produce strong odors and attract animals.
Please share with us in the comment section any tips you use when sorting out your household waste. We would be delighted to hear back from you!
Barba, M. (2018, December). 13 Tips on sorting waste. Accessed May 26, 2022. https://believe.earth/en/13-tips-on-sorting-waste/
Citizens Information. (2021, September). Recycling domestic waste. Accessed May 26, 2022. https://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/environment/waste_and_recycling/domestic_recycling_services.html#l18ff1
Gorilla Bins. (2020, August). How to sort properly sort your garbage at home. Accessed May 26, 2022. http://www.gorillabins.ca/blog/how-to-properly-sort-your-garbage-at-home/#:~:text=Consider%20adopting%20a%20system%20that,separate%20garbage%20in%20your%20home.
Government of Canada. (2021, April). Reducing municipal solid waste. Accessed May 26, 2022. https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/managing-reducing-waste/municipal-solid/reducing.html
Lecomte, C. (2021, July). How to sort and dispose of household waste responsibly. Accessed May 26, 2022. https://www.ecohome.net/guides/3206/waste-management-compost-and-recycling/
Rousta, K., & Bolton, K. (2019). Sorting household waste at the source. In M. J. Taherzadeh, K. Bolton, J. Wong, & A. Pandey, Sustainable resource recovery and zero waste approaches (pp. 105-114). Elsevier. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/C2017-0-04415-4
United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). How do I recycle? Common recyclables. Accessed May 26, 2022. https://www.epa.gov/recycle/how-do-i-recycle-common-recyclables
United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Frequent questions on recycling. Accessed May 26, 2022. https://www.epa.gov/recycle/frequent-questions-recycling#recycling101
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