Let’s Talk Trash

Written by Ella Cashman

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Today I saw a fellow college student finish a bottle of water and nonchalauntly chuck it to the ground. Not five paces in front of him was a recycling bin.

 

Who does he think he is?

 

First off, who even drinks bottled water anymore? I thought we were all on the same page about using reusable water bottles, but I guess some people missed the memo.

 

Also, how does this guy sleep at night? How does he live with himself? Either that water bottle is going to sit there FOREVER and NEVER decompose or someone else is going to have to pick it up after him. Not cool, dude.

 

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It’s not surprising to me that the average human generate  4.4 lbs of trash every day and most of the trash isn’t recyclable or biodegradable. Let that sink in. About half the the trash you’ve thrown away will actually never go away. Thanks to wastelands, it’s out of sight and out of mind, but never truly gone. Did you know it takes about 1,000 years before a plastic bag begins to break down? Your trash will be here long after you’re gone, and I don’t know about you guys, but that’s not how I want to make my mark on the world.

 

For everyone’s benefit I’ve compiled a short guide to help reduce your waste, specifically reducing your non-recyclable or biodegradable trash i.e. plastics and styrofoams. It’s not too late to make a difference!

 

Say No to School Supplies. All of your school supplies get beat up and thrown out at the end of the year anyways. Only buy the supplies you really need. Take notes on your laptop, but if you have to use a notebook, pick the composition notebook over the plastic spiral notebooks. Choose paper folders over plastic; they work just as well. Don’t buy binders; they pinch your fingers and they’re bulky anyways. Buy good ol’ no. 2 pencils over a pack of 25 plastic mechanical pencils.

 

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Plastic Bags. Plastic bags are the worst. We use them like they grow on trees. News Flash: they don’t! Some states have put a ban on plastic bags. However, until that day arrives for Minnesota, making the choice to use paper or reusable bags is not only one of the easiest things you can do, but it also eliminates you from having those plastic bags of plastic bags hanging around your home. Benefits of reusable bags: they hold more items and they look a lot better than plastic bags, which look trashy (pun intended).

 

Reusable Water Bottles. I hate that I have to include this because of all these tips, using a reusable water bottle is by far the easiest step you can take. It also saves you from spending money on overpriced bottled water. Cover your water bottle with cool stickers—you’ll become attached to it, and never leave it behind again.

 

Pass on Packaging. This one is can be difficult because it seems like everything these days is over-packaged. But, once you start consciously thinking about it, there are plenty of options that have less or alternative packaging. I recently switched to buying bars of soap that come in paper boxes, not wrapped in plastic or in plastic bottles. Try to buy boxed products whenever possible. Products like orange juice and laundry detergent often come in cardboard, which is much easier to recycle than plastic.

 

Stop Sucking. Plastics straws are not recyclable. At. All. Every straw you’ve ever used is still out there somewhere, probably missing you or wishing you had never used it in the first place. Honestly, we really don’t need straws, I think we can handle drinking without spilling on ourselves. Once you make the choice, it’s so easy to stop using straws. All you have to do is make an effort. Sometimes this means speaking up to the bartender or waiter and saying “Please don’t put a straw in my drink.” Other times, it’s a personal choice, when you’re getting your soft drink from the fountain and you simply skip the straw and lid.

 

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Carry Your Own Coffee Cup. If you’re anything like me and drink multiple cups of coffee a day, it becomes terribly wasteful to use a new cup for each Starbucks or Caribou refill. Cafes often use combinations of paper, plastic, and even styrofoam for their cups. Skip that nonsense and carry your own to-go mug. LIFE HACK: some coffee shops will give you a reduced price for bringing your own cup and, if you’re like me and you own a whopping big thermos, you get way more coffee in your reusable mug than what they give you in their cups.

 

Don’t Use Disposable Utensils. The University has made some awesome efforts in this area. Almost all of the food courts on campus provide biodegradable utensils. Skip plastic whenever possible and use washable or biodegradable cutlery.

 

Give up Gum.  Gum is made of a synthetic rubber, aka plastic, which means it can’t biodegrade and currently there is no way to recycle it. Quit the habit; nobody likes hearing wet, smacking mouth noises anyways.

 

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I know we’ve all seen lists like this before; most of these things won’t be new to you. But if we all know about these, then why aren’t we all doing them? It comes down to a choice—your choice to actively reduce your trash. The amount of waste we each create every day is disgusting, and it’s our duty to do all we can to reduce. It’s easy to forget about our trash because it’s out of sight, but it shouldn’t be out of mind. Humans are the earth’s worst enemy, be we are also it’s best ally. And to the guy I saw littering—I hope you read this and re-evaluate your life choices.