Garbage is filling up our landfills each year and it doesn’t seem to be easing up. In Canada, 31 million tonnes of garbage is produced each year and in the US, over 200 million tonnes of municipal solid waste was thrown away in 2018.
In order to change this trend, we all need to do our part. Each household can make a small contribution to a greener future by making the right choices and changing small habits every day in our kitchens. Here are some simple tips to implement in your kitchen.
Composting is a microbial process that converts plant materials and food scraps into a usable rich, organic matter that fertilizes soil. Composting provides the right environment for bacteria, fungi and other decomposing organisms like worms and sowbugs to convert these organic waste to fertilizers.
If your local waste management system doesn’t have a composting program, consider separating food scraps from other non compostable garbage yourself and throwing them into your garden (if you have one). This is the best way to reduce and divert organic compostable matter from the landfills.
2. Just-in-Time Food Consumption
Instead of cramming your refrigerator with bulk purchases of food that you have to freeze, consider consuming fresh food from the market. Picking up food when you need it, reduces the need to package and store food which, in turn, reduces the demand for more plastics and packaging.
Not only do you benefit from healthier, fresh food but you also reduce your exposure to carcinogenic chemicals, such as nitrites and sorbates, that are often used to preserve food especially in canned, processed or pickled products.
3. Recycle What You Can
Whenever possible, instead of throwing packaging materials into your garbage, separate and recycle them. Refer to the recycling number and find out how your community is recycling these packages.
If you live in a condo, perhaps there is a guide on how to separate your packaging and garbage so they are directed to the right bins. For example, some buildings may have a garbage chute that separates organic matter from garbage and recyclable products. Do your best to follow these guidelines. One error can spoil an entire bag of recyclable products.
If you live in a strata building, like a townhome, follow your waste management program and ensure you have all the necessary tools like compost pails and recycling boxes.
4. No Styrofoam Packaged Products
Many municipalities do not accept styrofoam for recycling. In fact, styrofoam is made of polystyrene which is petroleum based and typically non recyclable. Some municipalities do accept it as part of their recycling program but it goes through a lengthy process.
Try not to buy food that is packaged in styrofoam. For municipalities that don’t accept styrofoam, this packaging becomes garbage. Be conscious of how products are packaged and ensure that you are not contributing to waste because the food you are purchasing is packaged in the wrong materials.
5. Reduce Food Scraps with Leftover Recipes
Get good at using leftovers to make meals and you will help to reduce the food waste problem. Approximately 81% of all municipal waste is food material. By learning how to make meals with leftovers, your kitchen can reduce the amount of food that is thrown away in garbage.
6. Use Cloth for Clean Ups
This is an easy one but sometimes hard to implement. When we have paper towels around, we tend to use it instead of reusable cloth. We may think that paper is recyclable and easily biodegradable but we have to remember that every time we throw paper towels, we are adding to the waste pollution problem.
Instead of using a roll of paper towels, use a washable cloth that you can easily wash clean and reuse. J cloths are the best for wiping down counters and other table surfaces. Wash it and reuse it.
7. Machine Dish wash instead of Hand Washing
Some may think that washing dishes by hand is more sustainable (minimized water use) but in fact, washing by hand may use up more water than a dishwasher. Many of today’s dishwashers are energy efficient and use less water when you choose a short wash setting.
If you decide to wash by hand, have a system in place so you don’t leave the water running for too long. The part that makes water use more wasteful when hand washing dishes is when you let the water run until it gets warm and then let it run as you are sudsing and cleaning off the grime. Consider an energy efficient dishwasher to get the job done quickly and more efficiently.
8. Remove Coffee Pods from Your Morning Ritual
When Keurig came out with a convenient way to make single serve cup coffee with K-cups, it was a popular option to multi cup coffee grinds. It offered less hassle with preparation and offered a large assortment of flavors. Unfortunately, unless you deconstruct the pods before disposing, they are not recycle friendly. The K-cups are made of a combination of plastic, aluminum, paper filter and coffee grinds. In order for them to be recycled, you need to remove the pods from the casing and separate them and place them in the right recycling bins.
To reduce the possibility of waste and garbage, consider using single serve instant coffee, reusable coffee pods with coffee grinds or coffee filters for single cups. All these options will help keep K-cups out of the landfills.
These simple changes can make a huge difference when households across the country start to adopt small sustainable practices in their kitchen. If we find alternative ways to our current habits and recycle as much as possible, we can divert garbage from the landfills.