Recently the Solid Waste Authority renewed its contract with Covanta to continue burning waste for three more years. Trash fees have also escalated significantly in the last several years, from $33/ton in 2018 to $78/ton this year and may not stop there as the SWA’s new leadership seeks to stabilize it’s finances. Delaware County’s main landfill has about 17-20 years of space remaining for the incinerator’s ash. It’s important to find ways to reduce waste generated. Reusing, recycling and composting are helpful, but the most effective means to reduce waste is to not generate it in the first place. Here’s some ideas I’ve come across for reducing waste.
Some stores sell bulk goods. By using re-usable containers, less waste is generated. One such store nearby is Mom’s Organic Market in Bryn Mawr. Mom’s organic market also handles recycling of some items like batteries and cell phones. The Swarthmore Co-op has some goods in bulk as well. We also have two farmer’s markets in the area – the Swarthmore farmer’s market and the Media farmer’s market, both of which also sell bulk goods from local farmers. Community supported agriculture (CSA)’s also offer bulk goods, some examples nearby are Red Hill Farm and Indian Orchards.
Keep re-usable bags in your car. Media is considering a plastic bag ban and Nether Providence and Swarthmore may follow their lead. Plastic bags are difficult to recycle and unnecessary waste. Remember to bring a water bottle when you go out. Plastic single use water bottles often generate unnecessary waste so bring your own water bottle whenever you can.
Switch to using cloth towels and napkins instead of using paper towels and napkins. Use reusable silverware. A few years ago, Swarthmore College gave everyone a set of utensils in a travel container. I see faculty who keep the set in their office and bring them to meals at the college instead of having to use single-use utensils. Use reusable food containers. Instead of foil or plastic wrap, use reusable storage containers for leftovers and lunches. Takeout containers can make good containers for this.
A number of household products are being redesigned to generate less waste. There’s environmentally friendly laundry detergent and toiletries (from a New Zealand company!) for example that eliminate the plastic containers that these products usually come in. Many products are being redesigned to be more environmentally friendly such as compostable toothbrushes and kitchen sponges.
Other plastic containers can be avoided such as liquid soaps in plastic pump bottles. Because they contain a mix of plastic and metal and are difficult to clean out, they are difficult to recycle. Bar soap generates no such waste.
You can also opt out of marketing mail, eliminating unnecessary mail.