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Pandemic Trash Got You Down?

Pandemic Trash Got You Down?

Listen, us too. COVID era food packaging has made this low-waste life a little trickier. Our family has definitely seen an increase in our household waste. Without access to the bulk bins, or BYO containers at our co-op we just have more food packaging coming into the house, period. 

The tricky part, is which waste do you fight against, and which do you accept. 

Take these potatoes for instance. They’re grown about 1.5 miles from my house by a local farming family. Before the pandemic their potatoes did not come in plastic, in fact the farm stand was fairly package-free. But they have had to make changes due to COVID - and now their potatoes come in this plastic sack. 

But I still buy these potatoes. Why? 

  1. Supporting my local businesses is more important now than ever.
  2. These are still the lowest-carbon potatoes I can buy (no transportation energy.)
  3. There is likely hidden plastic when buying potatoes from a larger grocery store, even if you can buy them loose.

Is all of the extra trash a bummer? Yup. Do I ask (very nicely) if they think they’ll go back to plastic-free sometime? Yup. But for now, I prioritize supporting this local business, and not giving them a hard time, because I know how challenging piloting a small business through COVID is. 

Now, what excess plastic do I choose to refuse? First, I refill anything and everything that I can (owning a refill shop helps!) Second, I continue to make waste a central part of each purchase that I make. I still frequent the bulk bins of my co-op. They aren’t letting me BYO my container yet, but I use the paper bags they provide, and I let it go. 

And then, on the back end we dispose of everything the best we possibly can by leaning on our Hierarchy of Waste: reduce, refill, reuse, recycle and rot.

We reorganized and expanded our trash bins to collect the new and increased waste we're seeing. We have: home compost, industrial compost, recycling, #4 plastics, and landfill trash, all labeled and optimized for us. It helps so much that everything has a place.

Next step: bribe, threaten and nag so the kids will separate the waste and take out the compost (they'll thank me someday.)