Could You Fill Only One Trash Bin For Three Months?

A couple of months back, I read about the Clean Bin Project. It’s finished now, and here comes the documentary:

The participants maintained a single trash can for a year. At the end of the year, the participants had a little weigh-in to determine who’d generated the most waste.

A Single Trash Can Over Three Months

That’s pretty hardcore, so I started thinking about a less extreme challenge. What if we attempted to only generate a single trash can of garbage over three months? By ‘trash can’, I mean a largish indoor bin, like one of those free-standing, foot-pedal-operated ones you typically find in a kitchen.

That seems pretty achievable. We’ve got robust recycling here in BC, and an apartment composter that processes everything organic excepting bones and citrus fruit waste. The tricky bit would be not buying any big consumer items like, say, a new laptop, that’s accompanied by a lot of non-recyclable waste. We have no kids, which are, I gather, engines of consumer waste.

And we wouldn’t make it a challenge–I’m not a particularly competitive sort. I wouldn’t do it for the conservation alone. But it would be a good exercise in thinking more carefully about how much we consume, and how much ends up in a landfill. And maybe then I could convince a couple of friends, family members or readers to do the same thing.

In any case, our composter is on the fritz (the motor got all corroded), so we have to wait for replacement parts. If I can convince Julie, though, we might give it a try this winter.

Could you only fill one trash bin over three months?


  1. Soft plastics from packaging are what gets me, that and styrofoam trays that meat comes in (I rarely get it wrapped).

  2. I could go from weekly pickup to monthly pickup, but three months would be a bit of a stretch and a recipe for failure. A worthwhile exercise though, when you have to think what else you might be able to do with the item you are about to chuck in the trash, whether not buying it in the first place or checking out recycling possibilities for odd items. Our B&B guests would need to be notified about our intentions to reduce garbage, which might make some think twice before booking accommodation, and adversely, those with garbage reduction on their mind may prefer to come to a place that share the same goal.

    1. Ah, but you generate such sweet, sweet music, so it balances of your karma, Brother Miller.

  3. If I did not have my dog then I am pretty sure that I could do that. I don’t generate a lot of waste that does not get recycled or composted. Pet waste is the only major contributor to the landfill that I have as I tend to hold on to boxes just encase I decide to move etc.

  4. I’ll certainly try this for a monthly bin during the winter months. So give me September and you are on for October, November and December. What a challenge, but I like this.

  5. One of the “regional inconsistencies” that makes this such a difficult project is the variation in local recycling. I, for example, can recycle the foam trays that are part of meat packaging while Adriana (see above) cannot. I cannot recycle diapers while people living in Toronto can. I cannot recycle the brittle, transparent plastic containers used to sell berries (a major part of meals during the summer!) – can anyone?

    Generally, we’re pretty good — not “one trash can per year” good but on garbage pick up we often have only a very small single bag simply because it holds some plastic wrap from meat purchases and that plastic wrap really smells. We could, of course, rinse the wrap but then we’re simply moving into the category of large user of water. Recycling involves tradeoffs that aren’t always immediately obvious.

  6. You mention laptops as generators of large amounts of non-recyclable waste.

    I bought myself a new Lenovo a few months ago and quite frankly was amazed at how little packaging it came in, compared to say Dell whom I’d bought from previously.

    The laptop was suspended by two pieces of moulded plastic in the centre of it’s plain brown cardboard box. No foam, plastic covers, or other bits. Just a power supply and quick start guide. Not even any CDs.

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