How much does my trash weigh?

I saw an article recently about one woman’s experiment to learn about how much trash she personally generates in one day. Starting way back in 2007, I have seen several of these kinds of experiments periodically on the internet.

Having this blog finally gave me the impetus to try doing this myself 🙂

On December 9, 2009, I saved every piece of trash I generated throughout the day–anything I would have thrown in the trash, I saved in a plastic grocery bag to be later weighed. I kept recycling separate from trash but saved them both. The only thing I did not count was human waste, i.e., anything you throw away or flush in the bathroom, because I’m not ready to go there yet.

Here is my tally:


  • plastic wrapper from the icing for a Toaster Strudel
  • wrapper from a stick of string cheese
  • granola bar wrapper
  • plastic baggie from some cut up pineapple
  • hard-boiled egg shell
  • 2-3 napkins I used to eat my egg and pineapple (messy!)
  • used coffee packet from using my office’s Flavia machine
  • an old napkin and granola bar wrapper from my car
  • plastic film from my Amy’s frozen dinner
  • coated cardboard tray from frozen dinner
  • the plastic bag I carried my trash around in (since it got kind of food-ified)


  • plastic container for tomatoes
  • used Post-It Note
  • piece of notebook paper
  • plastic fork I ate my pineapple with
  • envelope from a Christmas card
  • piece of direct mail from my credit card company
  • three expired coupons
  • cardboard box from frozen dinner

By the end of the day, I had generated 2.7 oz of recycling, and 3.2 oz of trash. Accumulated over a year, I will generate approximately 62 lbs of recycling and 73 lbs of trash! Most of my waste was food-related, so I’d like to try to reduce packing in the foods I eat and buy. Since I bring my own lunch, I’m sure this is already helping cut down my waste, but I do still use plastic baggies and buy some pre-packaged and individually wrapped items.

As the NRDC article mentions, the average American, according to the EPA in 2007, generates 4.6 lbs of trash per day (1679 lbs per year), so I guess I am way under. Although I’m sure this was a light day in terms of not having had to throw away any longer-term-use items like laundry detergent bottles, I think it’s actually fairly typical of my day-to-day waste generation. To get a better average over time, I’d like to try this as an experiment for a week or even two as some of the other brave souls out there have done. I’ll let you know the results if / when I do!

How much trash do you generate per day?


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