November's Trash Jar

To be completely honest, I was unsure whether or not to include a trash record component for Trashless in Toronto. One of my goals with this blog is to show what it's like to transition from a consumption-based lifestyle to a more circular, low-waste one. While I think being able to keep years worth of trash in a jar is incredible and inspiring to many people, I also think that sometimes it can make the zero-waste or low-waste lifestyle look unattainable or unrealistic. For me, its less about how much I can fit in the jar and for how long, and more about understanding the waste that I am creating and using that information as a feedback loop to improve for the next month. I also hope to show readers that I make mistakes all the time and end up filling my jar way more than I'd sometimes like, despite doing my best to be waste conscious, and that this is okay. I do not believe that the zero-waste journey is about perfection - it's the awareness of one's actions and impact that I think is one of the central tenets of living a more circular, zero-waste lifestyle.


The two pictures below encompass all the trash I created in the month of November, albeit with a couple caveats. Returning to the aforementioned idea of abandoning perfection, I want to be as transparent as possible to maximize my trash jars as educational tools, and I do my best not to lose any trash in the process. However, I'm sure I've made some mistakes here and there, and thrown some things into the recycling by accident that might not be recyclable for example. I'm pretty hard on myself, so I'm fairly confident that this trash summary is requisitely accurate.

Additionally, I traveled to Chicago near the end of the month and ended up creating some trash when a take-out restaurant refused to fill the container I brought. The take-out container and contents were technically recyclable and compostable in the City of Toronto, but due to my unfamiliarity with the waste situation in Chicago the take-out containers ended up in the trash. Aiming for progress over perfection.

Apart from that, this is the truest rendition of my waste creation over 30 days.

Biggest win? Actually fitting everything in one jar
Biggest lessons? Lint rollers are really wasteful and chip bags are not recyclable (and that sucks...)
Moving forward? Reusable lint rollers and bulk plaintain chips

(1) Lint Roller Paper

My S.O. and I have two (adorable) cats - Bob and Tiger. And while we love them to the ends of the Earth, they shed all the time and everywhere. White cat hair on black work clothes ≠ professional. So, a couple months ago, I bought this reusable wood lint remover from the awesome folks over at Life Without Plastic, hoping it would be an easy fix. However, as beautiful and zero-waste as it is, it takes a lot longer to remove the cat hair and sometimes ends up moving the hair around on your clothes if you don't use it effectively. Given that I'm usually scrambling out the door at 6:15 am trying to make sure that I don't look like a giant cat scratcher, I ended up using the convenient sticky (and disposable) lint roller papers. My aim for next month is to try and move away from that habit - I'm making it happen!

(2) Floss

This is one of the top things on my priority list. My dentist (shout-out to Dr. Law!) scolded me for my lack of flossing and given I tend to have issues with gum health, I obliged with his request to make it a habit. However, floss is not recyclable in the City of Toronto, nor is standard floss compostable. To top all that, floss can have devastating effects on ocean wildlife (warning - very sad picture) if it is disposed of like garbage. I'll be looking for a more zero-waste, yet convenient, alternative for December.

(3) Champagne Cork Foil Wrapper

I'm working on finding a local zero-waste solution for alcohol, as bulk alcohol isn't really legal in Canada. Unfortunately, this type of foil is not recyclable in the city of Toronto. Check out my How To (Not) Waste Guide for more information.

(4) Inside Bag of Cereal Box

While we bought the cereal in October, we finished it in November and thus the inner bag ended up in the trash jar.

(5) Birth Control Pill Case, and Stickers

Birth control methods are always a personal choice, and I make no recommendations one way or another (talk to your doctor). My pill works for me, but unfortunately doesn't really work all that well for zero-waste, as the container is not recyclable. However, it took me a long time to find a regimen that worked for me so producing this trash once a month is a sunk cost I'm willing to take at the moment. Always remember: "You do you!".

(6) Label String from Curry Paste

This came on a jar of curry paste that a) made some of the best curry ever (recipe coming soon!) and b) meant that I now have a small jar I can reuse. I'll likely find a future use for the string, perhaps as part of reusable gift labels.

(7) Transit Trip Passes

A lack of planning led to some printed transit passes, despite the roll-out of Presto cards here. I've since picked up a Presto card and will be avoiding printing these single-use, non-recyclable passes.

(8) Chip Bag

When working late into the night, the cravings for Lay's got real. While it was trash this month, the solution for December is plantain chips from the huge bulk selection at Bulk Barn!

(9) Band-Aid Wrapper

I cut myself pretty badly at work and in the interest of not getting an infection, used a band-aid. There are more zero-waste options, but health comes first!

(10) Jar labels (Nona cheese sauce, peanut butter, etc.)

Instead of buying all new mason jars, I decided to utilize many of the jars that I had already bought. However, it drives me a bit mad when these re-purposed jars are filled with something that doesn't match the label. So I tend to remove the labels - a little waste now, but less waste later with the reused jars.

(11) Dry Pasta Bag

Up until we discovered that we could buy our pasta in bulk at Bulk Barn mid-month, the bulk options for pasta I had found were cost prohibitive, especially since it's quite the staple in our household for both lunches and dinner. Thanks to Bulk Barn, we now get all our pasta package-free! Check out their selection here.

(12) Safety Razor Wax Paper Wrapping

Unfortunately wax paper is not recyclable in the City of Toronto. However, I am keeping so many disposable plastic razors out of the trash and thus microplastics out of our water ecosystems that I think this is an appropriate compromise.

(13) Produce Stickers

Probably my biggest pet peeve. I do my best to find sticker free produce, but for things like fair-trade organic bananas, it is nearly impossible. I do my best and the stickers that I can't avoid end up in the trash.

(14) Plastic Hair Clip

While I love this hair clip, its life was unfortunately not very long. Currently on the hunt for some more sustainable options, although bobby pins have been working great thus far...

(15) Plastic Bottle Cap Ring

This ring came from a bottle of maple syrup that I am now reusing. Since it's black plastic, it is not recyclable in City of Toronto facilities.

(16) Receipts (on thermal paper)

Receipts are a bit tricky. Generally, when you pay in cash a receipt is not automatically printed. However, some machines print them automatically, regardless of if you use cash or card, and some give you the option to decline. The two receipts in my November trash jar were unavoidably printed, on thermal, shiny paper no less and are thus not recyclable.

(17) Scotch Tape Labels

These were used to label some soup that I froze in mason jars, however, I've switched to writing directly on jars with non-permanent marker which comes off easily with soap and water.

(18) Bulk Jar Bar-Code stickers

When we buy our groceries in bulk, sometimes a barcode sticker is printed out indicating the price of the item (depending on the store and the item). For some stores this isn't necessary and you can often just let the cashier ring up the item as long as you have the tare of your container, the PLU of the item, and the checkout counter has a scale. We have been working to buy our food in bulk where stickers are not a necessity.

And that's it!

Now I will transfer the contents to a 2L mason jar that will live in the back of the closet for the next year and start refilling (hopefully not too much!) the monthly jar with my trash during the month of December! Keep an eye out for December's trash jar post, as I'm sure it will be interesting given the typical consumption that occurs during the holiday season!

This November Trash Jar post is the first in an ongoing series highlighting how much garbage I produce on a monthly basis. Stay-tuned for December!