Who would’ve thought that a simple trash can, a tiny one at that, could create such a fuss?! But here I am, facing my feelings and embracing another opportunity for personal growth made possible by this fierce force I steward, Fillaree.
Since we moved into the Fillaree Storefront and Factory back in 2018, we’ve never had a trash can. We’ve had collection bins that fuel our reuse/recycling/repurposing missions and until this year, have gotten by without needing to place a landfill-bound trash can in our facility.
At first, I was pretty rigid and adamant about being a trashcan-free zone. But, the pandemic and many of the things I’ve learned by being involved in social justice movements in our community have forced me outside of my trashcan-free bubble and deeply changed my perspective. I found myself less inspired by tips and tricks on how to be "zero waste" as I gained a deeper understanding of accessibility issues that are rooted white supremacy, classism and ablism that make being “zero waste” unattainable to so many. Bragging about collecting our trash in a tiny container for a year started seeming pretty mundane and unimportant in the scheme of things; and above all it seemed exclusive and unattainable to many – including members of our incredible team here at Fillaree.
2021 brought a lot of change to Fillaree. Our team grew with amazing new faces from all walks of life. And with them came new needs and requests, one of which was the need for a trashcan in our bathroom for disposal of menstruation supplies. Of course, there are zero-waste ways of dealing with being a menstruating person. But, ya know what, it’s not my place to tell any person how they should respond to their body’s needs –zero-waste menstrual products simply aren’t for everyone. So, guess what? My team wants a trashcan, so a trashcan they got!
In the grand scheme of things, a tiny trash an in our bathroom will have a miniscule effect on our overall zero-waste goals, and my relationship with the team at Fillaree and hearing their needs is more important to me than a fraction of a percentage point on our waste audit report. Speaking of, we’ve got those 2021 numbers!
The end of January always means it’s time to review and analyze the waste that Fillaree produced the previous year. As a company striving to divert as much away from the landfill as possible, this is always an important task for us, and thanks to Gather Green, it’s also an easy one! We’re proud to say that we diverted 99.96% of the waste created at Fillaree in 2021!
According to Gather Green’s annual waste audit report, we diverted 5,497 lbs of waste that would have otherwise been headed for the landfill and funneled it into creative reuse, single material recycling, compost, and secondhand donations. This brings our total diversion to date, since we started recording our diversion efforts with Gather Green’s help in 2019, to over 10,000 lbs!
So, what was left that couldn’t be diverted? Well, that number naturally rose (along with diversion rates) as we grew as a company. In the past few years, we’ve celebrated landfill-bound trash weighing in under 10lbs, and this year that number increased to about 20 lbs (self-reported, not collected by Gather Green). That’s just 0.4% of the total waste produced by our company in an entire year that had to be disposed of at a landfill.
Diversion, the process of changing the path that any item will take away from the landfill into a new purpose (be it creative reuse, recycling, composting, etc), is only part of our overall waste reduction strategy. Prevention is our number one goal in any scenario, which is why we work so hard to form relationships with our raw material suppliers in which we can reuse their containers by returning them to be refilled, rather than having to divert them from the landfill in other ways. Our relationship with Carolina Gold Sunflower Oil is one such example. We prevented over 400 lbs of plastic bottle waste that would have been part of our diversion totals by switching to sunflower oil in returnable barrels from Carolina Gold.
So, all in all, I think we’re doing just fine and I couldn’t be more proud of our team and this small business that continues to make a BIG impact on the community around us – trashcan and all! We grateful for our Refillers who make this possible – thanks for caring as much as we do about building a brighter, greener, more equitable world around us.