This might fit better on another SX site, but thought I'd ask the science majors first.

My community has single-bin recycling. Most consumer-level metal, plastic, and paper can go in there to be sorted at a recycling center. They don't take plastic grocery bags, cellophane, paper towels, and pizza boxes. Most of these I can recycle at a more specialized location if I'm feeling like a good citizen.

So most of garbage is food, paper towels, and cellophane.

I'm researching composting, and it seems like the only "organic" things I can't compost are cooked meat and dairy products. A site I'm reading mentions "some paper". Maybe that means paper towels.

But what I'm wondering is, what would be left after disposing of everything I can using the above methods? I get that this is a question with technically an unbounded answer. The sites I've read so far say something like "everything else!" I get that. But what do most people regularly consume and dispose of that wouldn't go in the "trash" bin if they had bins for trash, recycling, compost?

The first thing that jumps to mind is batteries, but those shouldn't be thrown in the trash if we followed their instructions. Big items like old computers or broken chairs (or whatever) don't normally go in the bin, and generally have better options for getting rid of them (donations, etc.).

So if I'm doing the mostly bare minimum but still following the basic rules on all of the above, what would be left? Dirty diapers and greasy pizza boxes and blocks of cheese that went bad?

I feel like I must be forgetting something obvious.


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    $\begingroup$ Light bulbs should go with your battery comment. In terms of overall landfill waste though, one of the largest sources is construction materials, though that's not residential. $\endgroup$ – farrenthorpe May 16 '18 at 1:07
  • $\begingroup$ In terms of "minimum effort" I was thinking about damaged clothes. Obviously there could be a second-hand use for them, but it is not as likely something you could drop off at a Goodwill or Salvation Army. A friend also reminded me that unused medicine (even vitamins) are dangerous for the water table but not easily disposed of. Same with unused cleaning chemicals. But like old cheese, these are things that hypothetically could have been used but weren't. $\endgroup$ – Anthony May 16 '18 at 1:12
  • $\begingroup$ Coated paper (slick magazines & ads) doesn't compost very well, nor does the tape used on cardboard boxes. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf May 16 '18 at 4:15
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    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it belongs in sustainability.stackexchange.com $\endgroup$ – arkaia May 16 '18 at 16:19
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    $\begingroup$ Garden hoses, because of multiple layers of different materials. $\endgroup$ – Keith McClary May 17 '18 at 0:45