The big news for this post is that it has officially been six months since I started my trash-free lifestyle experiment.  I was hoping to come up with something meaningful and deep to say about what I have learned, but nothing ever came to me.  Instead I will share the coolest part, a frustrating part, and something that inspires me to continue to believe in a world without trash.

First, however, a six-month trash update:

My trash after six months

Six-month trash break down

My trash has increased since the last time I sorted through its contents at Week 15, mainly in the medical and dental category.  My miscellaneous plastic also increased because I ordered a new piece of clothing online which came in plastic packaging, and bought glass food containers which were wrapped in thin plastic.

How much does six-months of trash weigh?

Six months of trash weighs....

...a little under a half a pound

This is the trash I originally labeled in one of my first posts as”Trash I Need To Figure Out What To Do With.”  The long term plan has always been to upcycle the contents of this bag into some kind of art piece or pieces.   I am still brainstorming this idea and process in my head.  I would love to make a mosaic, however, if anyone has any other ideas (now that you have seen all my trash!) I would love to hear about them.

I have also been separating my trash into another category I named, “Definitely Biodegradable.”  I ripped and tore-up some of that trash over the last six months, adding it to my trash can compost bin. Most of it, however, ended up in this 56 Qt container and has been sitting there for, well, about six months.

Definitely Biodegradable Trash Bin

I discovered that ripping up each box, egg carton, and food wrapper doesn’t take too much time, however it takes enough time that it is easy to put off.  Enter the hand-me-down shredder.

Shredded and ready for the compost bin

I am not sure how much the shredder I used, the Fellowes Powershred PS 60CC, cost when it was purchased years ago, but it did a fabulous job and tore apart everything in the bin, including a thick cardboard laundry detergent box, toilet paper rolls, and egg cartons (after I broke them apart a bit), and took me less than 30 minutes to complete.  A shredder is a great tool to have when using compost as a way to deal with some of your trash.

Speaking of compost, the coolest part about my trash-free experiment so far has actually been the opportunity to see a lot of my waste “magically” turn into soil.  A couple weeks back I started a new trash can compost bin, because my original bin was pretty full and nicely turning into soil.

Original trash can compost bin after six months

I mentioned in a recent post that I had found worms in my compost bin – worms that I never put there to begin with.  Digging through my compost bin recently, I discovered that these worms had multiplied.  I took a video to show how worms have turned my compost bin into their new home (note: the pieces of shiny, bluish material in the bin are pieces of the two “Compostable” Sun Chip bags that I cut up and put in the bin months ago but never decomposed).

After researching a bit on on the internet I learned that my worms are not technically “composting worms” or “Red wigglers” since I am also finding them deeper in the compost. Red wigglers like to live only at the surface, right underneath decomposing matter and manure.  However, I also discovered that other worms that often find their way to compost piles – and my bin – do provide a similar benefit to a compost pile as the red wigglers, eating the decomposing matter and creating worm poop, or vermicastings.  They just don’t do it as fast and, like the various decomposers that help break down material in a compost bin or pile, they will visit a pile or bin when it is the right time.  I did not see the worms when my compost bin was new, because it was probably too hot. Working with my new bin, I am reminded that in the beginning, the compost mix can be slimy, smelly, and filled with lots of insects and bugs.

New trash can compost bin

But with a little time and patience, compost magic will happen and even the worms will stop by to help.

Compost magic

A frustrating part about my trash-free experiment has been the inability to find bulk toilet paper not wrapped in plastic.  I have gotten around this by purchasing individually wrapped rolls at Longs, but they cost close to $2.00 each.  If I wanted to buy this same brand, which claims itself to be eco-friendly, in bulk, the rolls would be wrapped together in plastic.  I still need to do more research to find out where large companies and office buildings purchase their TP, because I have a feeling their rolls probably come in large cardboard boxes, with no extra plastic wrapping the rolls.  Why we, the individual consumer, don’t have that choice, is quite frustrating to me.

It seems that a lot of my frustration with trying to be trash-free actually always involves plastic.  Plastic is so infiltrated into our western, consumer world, that it seems like it will never go away, and never allowing us the chance to live trash-free and more sustainable with the earth.  That is why when I see companies like Preserve, I am inspired to continue to believe in a world without trash. My first introduction to this company was when I purchased one of their toothbrushes.  A couple weeks ago I purchased one of their razors.

Preserve razor is made out of recycled plastic yogurt containers

Like the toothbrush, the razor body is also made out of recycled yogurt cups (the blades are replaceable).  The packaging it comes in is actually a carrying case made with post-consumer recycled PET #1.  And inside, directions (printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper), explain how you can put the razor back into the recycling stream yet again by sending it back to the company or by dropping it off at a “Preserve Gimme 5” station at various Whole Foods stores.  Currently Hawaii is not on the list of participating states in this program, but perhaps with a little pressure, the Whole Foods here will also get on board.  I just became a friend of Whole Foods Kahala on Facebook and sent them a request to add this recycling program to their stores.  Crossing my fingers…