How Waste Works — More info on our Waste System

Where does our garbage go when we throw it "away"? The big picture of what happens when over 328 million people throw away 4.5 pounds of trash every day. April 13, 2020

Online Lesson: Reduce, Reuse, UPCYCLE!

Have you ever thought about what “away” means when you toss your trash into a garbage can? It’s okay, most people haven’t thought about it. Watch this video made by The Story of Stuff to find out more about what happens to our garbage when it leaves our trash bin.

The average person living in the United States throws away about 4.5 pounds of trash per day. That adds up with a population of over 329 million people! The good news is that once we have a deeper awareness of the environmental impacts associated with our waste and consumptive habits, it’s pretty easy and even fun to start making positive changes to divert waste. A good place to start is some of the “R’s” of zero waste:


Make efforts to reduce trash in the first place. Ideas include buying products with little or no packaging, especially plastic packaging. Buy only what you need and try to avoid impulse buying.


Say no to single-use plastics. Less purchases equal less waste added to landfills. Choose to buy good quality products designed to last longer.


Think of donating your clothing and other textiles to second-hand stores, siblings, friends, or neighbors. Upcycling is also a great way to repurpose items by extending the life of a material to make something different. All of the people in the community making masks right now to protect ourselves is a great example of reuse, thank you!


Wait, before you toss out something, can it be repaired? Maybe it’s a hole in a sweater or appliances like washing machines.


Question our consumer habits and think about the impacts of the life cycle of the product. What were the resources used to create it, how long will it last, can it be recycled or how long it will sit in the landfill.


Materials such as glass, paper, aluminum, tin, and some plastics are given another life and stay out of our landfills when we separate them out to be recycled. NW Recycling in downtown Bellingham serves Whatcom County’s recycling needs.
Rot Better known as compost which is a way to recycle food and other organic waste (leaves, grass clippings, weeds, etc) into nutrient-rich soil that can be used to grow food and in landscaping. Green Earth Technology here in Whatcom County is a local business that converts organic waste into compost that is used by our community to grow food and other plants.