How I Audited My Home's Waste

Three years later, I still have plenty to learn and to work on when it comes to my waste habits. No matter how long you’ve been attempting to reduce your waste or change your habits, I don’t think there’s a need to feel discouraged or bad that you don’t have it perfect.

Since our big move across the country, I wanted to reassess where my family is with our waste situation. Now that we’re mostly settled and have a better routine down, it’s a great time to do a waste audit and share the results here with you.

It’s important to note that my waste is going to look different from your waste and your waste will look different from the next person’s waste. Comparison is just another way to get discouraged. If anything, get inspired and motivated by others!

So, here’s what I found in my trash destined for the landfill as well in my recycling bin and how I plan to tackle some items.


I went through about a week’s worth of waste from my kitchen trash for two adults and two cats. 

Note: I chose not to audit my bathroom trash at this time because it takes a month or two to fill up and is not really used that often (it’s mainly there for guests).

The breakdown

1. Food packaging:
  • Plastic condiment seals (3)
  • Tortilla chip wax paper bags (2)
  • Sushi food packaging (2)
  • Mystery piece of wax paper (1)
  • Ice cream tub (1)
  • Butter wrapper (1)
  • Cheese wrapper (1)
  • Mac n’ cheese packet (1)
  • Candy wrapper (1)
2. Cat stuff:
  • Cat food bag (1)
  • Cat treat bag (1)
3. Paper:
  • Receipts (9)
  • Luggage tags/ stickers (2)
  • Roll o’ quarters wrapper (2)
  • Tag from a pillow (1)
4. Other:
  • Piece of duct tape (1)
  • Dishwasher detergent bag (1)
  • Empty sunblock tube (1)
* Not pictured: the brown paper bag I use as a trash bag, a clump of vacuum dust, and various produce stickers stuck to said ball of dust.

The plan

1. Food packaging:
This is a category I’ve been struggling with for a while. I mainly shop for fresh, unprocessed foods without packaging. However, there are certain items that creep in or items I crave and just buy on a whim, because, hey, I’m only human.

I do plan to find a deli near my new home that will wrap my cheese in paper or in my own container. Avoiding processed food, take out, and grocery store sushi (kind of really disgusting now that I think about it) more often is the goal and keeping homemade recipes on hand will be very helpful when I just have to have something.
2. Cat stuff:
I don’t ever plan on making my own cat food (because it’s best to leave that to professionals). So until they make recyclable bags for the food recommended for my kitties, this waste will have to stay. I can use it when I clean out the litter box though!

3. Paper:

Receipts are very annoying and tricky things. These are all made of thermal paper, laced with chemicals and BPA, and can’t be recycled in most municipalities. I do opt for no receipt or email receipts when I can, but something that is unavoidable in most cases. While the luggage and pillow tags are one-offs, I can put small pieces of paper like the roll o’ quarter wrappers in with my shredded paper bag to be recycled.

*Be careful not to recycle small paper pieces on their own because they will clog up recycling machinery.

4. Other:

Duct tape is definitely a one-off, but I could use some paper tape in the future once I run out of plastic tapes. I normally buy boxes of powdered dishwasher detergent and recycle the box, but this bag was left under our sink when we moved in. My next sunblock purchase will be in more sustainable packaging, but I’m happy to use up my non-zero waste products first!

You can compost vacuum dust, but I choose not to since it normally contains cat litter scattered about our house. Although I buy cat litter that is made of compostable material, it’s safest to send soiled cat litter to the landfill...always.

Recycling Bin

This is also about a week’s worth of recycling but does not include our glass recycling. I intend to hand carry those to a recycling facility after a few months (prevents breakage in recycling trucks). We typically go through a few glass beer/beverage bottles a week and there’s a couple of glass jars in there I don’t have room to keep.

The breakdown

1. Plastic:
  • To-go sauce containers (3)
  • Plastic packaging (3)
  • Egg carton (1)
  • Sushi container (1)
  • To-go container (1)
2. Aluminum:
  • Cat food cans (14)
  • Foil food wrapper (2)
  • Powder cleanser can (1)
3. Paper:
  • Junk mail pieces (8)
  • Notebook paper (5)
  • Expired parking permits (2)
  • Bamboo toothbrush package (2)
  • Mac n’ cheese box (1)
  • Soap packaging (1)
  • Root beer 6-pack box (1)
  • Box for berries (1)
  • Egg carton (1)
  • Cat food box (1)
  • Clothing tag (1)
The plan

I plan to tackle the materials that cannot be recycled over and over again first. So that would be plastic and paper. Aluminum and glass can actually be recycled repeatedly back to their original form.

1. Plastic:

The major issue here is definitely to-go food and processed food containers. To-go containers are avoidable in so many ways such as dining in; bringing your own containers for leftovers; avoiding fast food. This all takes careful planning ahead, something I need to work on for sure.

I normally buy eggs in paper containers, but we got some fresh eggs from our family and used what they had on hand. They were super yummy and fresh!

The plastic wrap came from toilet paper, canned cat food packaging, and some other mystery source. I normally buy toilet paper in individual paper packaging and I can also avoid buying bulk crates of cat food (which also comes with cardboard).

2. Paper:

Some of these paper items are compostable, but the service I use to pick up my food scraps asks to limit the paper in the bin to food-soiled paper. I plan to avoid food packaging as much as possible, but my major concern is junk mail at the moment. This doesn’t even include the junk mail I saved to clean mirrors/windows with.

I’ve already stopped unsolicited credit card offers (you can too, at, but other items seem never-ending. I found a website called that can opt you out of catalog, magazine, and other mail offers. Fingers crossed it works!
So that's it! I definitely encourage you to follow these steps in your own home. I plan to do another audit in a couple of months just to see what progress I've made and where I can improve.


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