Megean Weldon has to stop and think about the last time she took a trash can to the curb to be picked up. Maybe because that was in April and now it’s November. “I got obsessed with the idea of what can I do to limit my trash other than take my bags to the store and use a reusable water bottle,” Weldon said. “… It blew my mind, and I thought I could surely do it.”
Weldon, who lives in St. Joseph with her husband and child, strives to live a “zero waste” lifestyle, a philosophy that encourages the reduction of use or the redesign of all products to be recycled back into nature or the marketplace, eliminating or reducing the use of landfills or incinerators.
“There are still things that I partake in that cause trash, but I don’t live a disposable lifestyle like I did,” Weldon, 30, said. “We’ve gotten so accustomed and used to having everything we want within arm’s reach at all times. It’s really causing so much harm.”
The average American produces more than four pounds of waste per day, more than half of which is taken to the nation’s more than 3,500 landfills. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 75 percent of the waste produced is recyclable.
The St. Joseph Sanitary Landfill takes approximately 350 to 400 tons of materials a day. Some of the material can be recycled, but it’s often an issue of convenience and cost to the individual, landfill superintendent Bill Blacketer said.
“It’s pretty much everything from A to Z,” he said of the landfill’s contents. “We never know what’s coming through the gate next. Obviously, it’s a lot of plastic and a lot of paper products. It varies from truck to truck.”
Zero-waste practices include bulk food purchases, composting and alternatives to disposable items, including paper towels, plastic bags and disposable diapers, with the goal of reducing the amount of waste that is generated. Items that can’t be reused, recycled or composted often are avoided.
Weldon, who started working toward producing less waste several years ago, makes her own hygiene products and makeup from bulk ingredients packaged in cardboard and glass, and she purchases bulk food in cloth bags.
Her family also frequents restaurants that allow them to bring in their own reusable containers. Weldon chronicles their experiences on her “Zero Waste Nerd” blog.
“We started experimenting with different ideas. We stopped using plastic bags and stopped buying plastic water bottles,” she said. “Once we figured out one thing, we would figure out the next thing.”