Challenges faced by our Zero Waste Challenge participants

Check out REEP Green Solutions Zero Waste 101 for blog posts and videos on how you can reduce your waste and live a more sustainable lifestyle!

More than 80% succeeded

We asked our 123 participants in the Zero Waste Challenge Waterloo Region from 69 households to let us know how they did and 27 households responded.

  • 11 fit their garbage destined for the landfill into a one litre mason jar with room to spare
  • 11 filled their mason jar

So 81% of survey respondents successfully met the 5 day challenge. And it’s safe to say that everyone who attempted the challenge found that they thought about their habits and choices related to waste.

Congratulations everyone!

What was most difficult about the challenge?

We asked our participants to reflect on what they found most challenging.

Here’s some of their responses:

  • Packaging on fresh fruit and veggies, and cold meds (the family was sick during this). Also, packaging on frozen items. I would love to be able to go get fresh fish and food from the market every time, but that doesn’t always work with the budget or the schedule. It is certainly easier in the summer, especially with a veggie/herb patch. We don’t do much in the way of ready-made food at all but still had a lot of packaging.
  • I live in an apartment that doesn’t have green bins or compost pickup.
  • There were some snack habits that I had that resulted in waste that were hard to refuse because of convenience.
  • I don’t throw many items in the garbage but I felt frustrated that I could not eliminate more.
  • Not allowing the waste to come into my home in the first place (reduce & refuse) requires much more thought and planning, making it more difficult.
  • I guess I found the recycle part of the challenge the most difficult, mainly because it involved the most research to find out what was and wasn’t recyclable in the challenge. I also discovered that recyclable goods made up the bulk of our waste and have set myself the challenge to reduce this by using the other 4 Rs.
  • Items that are common purchases in stores come packed in non-recyclable material, including such things as certain plastics, and food packaging. eg. styrofoam, bubble wrap, absorbent pad in meat packages, certain plastic wraps.
  • Limited opportunities to reuse certain products.
  • Refusing often means not buying a product due to its packaging and sometimes one needs the product and doesn’t have time to find alternatives.
  • When purchasing items they often give you unnecessary things like brown paper bags for your muffins or receipts that just get recycled.
  • I found that the things I was throwing out, weren’t able to be reused at all.
  • Consumerism is alive an well! For decades I’ve been taught to want all the nice new things and all the neat toys. I’ve been taught that you are a bad person, and people will get upset with you if you don’t buy them gifts, even if the gifts are unneeded and wasteful. Even if you try to get “green” gifts, like reusable bags or something that’s handmade, it’s still wasteful if they don’t want it or won’t use or reuse it.
  • Buying food is really really hard. Everything is packaged in plastic. You can bring your own produce bags and shopping bags, but want a cucumber? It’s in plastic wrap. Organic peppers? Also in plastic. Crackers, cereal, granola bars – also come with wrappings. This was easier when the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program was in season, but is really overwhelming to try at the grocery store.
  • It is hard to find certain certain products that you need in a litter-less form. Most of my jar contents were plastic food wrappers.
  • Sometimes there are no other options (out for lunch, etc.). Also, the majority of meat comes packaged in styrofoam dishes.
  • It’s often very difficult to turn down free stuff, or to spend more on quality items, than to buy cheap junk that I’ll end up throwing out, even though I want too.
  • I found that I use disposable one-use plastics for foods more often and with less thought than I should!
  • I don’t buy a lot in general, so refuse/reduce have started to come naturally. But I think I’m not very careful about sorting my waste. I think there’s a lot that I throw away that could be recycled. Still find myself confused and second guessing about what belongs in the blue bin.
  • In public spaces, it’s not always easy to find recycling. I think I could be a lot better about reusable solutions to disposable items.
  • Composting is easy, but I think I have some work to do when it comes to buying the right amount of produce and making sure nothing ever gets wasted.
  • Refuse and reduce were equally difficult due to the packaging of some regularly-used consumer products. It can be difficult to stop using a product you’ve used for years because of the packaging it comes in. The biggest challenge for me was sourcing relative products with less post-consumer packaging.
  • I live in an apartment with no composting capabilities. My business office also has no composting capabilities. With no family in the area, and friends that live either out of town or in their own apartment complexes with no composting capabilities, it was quite difficult to find a place to compost, which was the vast majority of my waste. Living in uptown Waterloo, I would have to travel out to the Waterloo landfill to dispose of my compost, which defeats the purpose by introducing excess carbon through travel. The community gardens in the area had no green bins available. I eventually found a housing complex and threw my compost in an unsuspecting family’s green bin.
  • I really couldn’t think what I could reuse. It didn’t seem to apply
  • Refuse proved to be the most challenging especially when it came to buying organic groceries. Most of the organic produce, meats and other products are heavily wrapped in plastic or other non-recyclable wrapping. In some cases, we sacrificed buying organic foods (which is very important to us) in order to limit the amount of garbage.
  • The biggest problem for me was meat trays which aren’t recyclable and can’t be reused. I also had a crazy busy work week so I ended up purchasing food that came wrapped in plastic.
  • I took free things without thinking. Then regretted it.

What is your experience?

Have you tried to reduce your life generates? What was your most difficult challenge? Let us know in the comments below.

Advice to reduce your waste

If you’re looking to reduce your waste, check out the ideas found on our zero waste 101 page.

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