How to Lose Weight Each Week ... From Your Trash Bin

©. April Streeter

Is it true Americans create 4.4 pounds of trash each and every day? According to the EPA, the answer is yes.

So without thinking about it too much, I decided to accept the Earth Day month's "Less Waste Challenge" given by Tom's of Maine personal care products company. The goal is to reduce trash by one pound per week for a month.

As a Portland person, I felt I had pretty good access to curbside recycling. And with twice-a-month trash pickup and the smallest available bin, I figured I was doing pretty well.

But then I got a pair of new roommates and decided to take the challenge, and started by taking a closer look at what was going into the trash and out of the house.

It was enlightening, though not in a necessarily good way. First, by taking a good look at the recycling bin and the what recyclables are actually allowed, I realized we were putting things into the bin that had no business there. (Mainly lids, paper cups that people think are recyclable, and soft plastic.)

Second, I realized that because different people have different clean-up chores, and we never talked about it, lots of potentially recyclable items were being whisked to the trash.

Lastly, and regrettably, I realized how completely inadequate our recycling systems are and how incredibly stupid our levels of packaging are. Especially in food, but also, and horrifically, in personal care products. Many of the cosmetics and care products we use are packaged in plastic that is destined for the landfill.

Because I had a clear goal – reduce waste by a pound a week over the course of the month – I have some tips to share over the next few posts.

Here's the first: put small recycling bins in the bathroom. While soiled tissues and swabs and cotton pads aren't recyclable, toilet rolls, paper labels, and some packaging and plastics that deodorants and soaps come in are recyclable.

So, Tip #1: Establish mini recycling bins in the bathrooms. Part of this tip is to start figuring out which of your regular care products are in recyclable plastic. If you really are serious about recycling these and don't have curbside – both Colgate and Tom's of Maine have free shipping of containers from 'oral care' products through a partnership with TerraCycle. While it does take some time to save four pounds of this waste, it can quickly add up to the one pound of weight loss per week that is the #LessWasteChallenge.

Happy weight loss!