Challenge: Show Us Your (Plastic) Trash!

As you know, I’ve been collecting and tallying my own plastic trash since 2007. The experience has been educational for me, and I hope, for readers of My Plastic-free Life. I’ll keep doing it. But now it’s your turn.


1.) Collect all of your own plastic waste, both recyclable and non, for a minimum of one week. If you want to go for more than one week, great! Just keep each week’s collection separate.

2.) What qualifies as yours? Anything that benefits you. So, if your housemate or significant other brings home a tub of yogurt that you both share, the tub goes in your tally. But if you hate yogurt, never touch the stuff, and wouldn’t have bought it for yourself in a million years, it’s not your responsibility. What about stuff for your kids? I’ll leave that up to you. Whatever you decide, just be consistent about collecting it. Personally, I’d be very interested to see how much plastic waste is generated by babies, since I don’t have children myself.

3.) Live normally in the first week. It doesn’t help to artificially reduce your plastic consumption for the sake of a one-week tally if you will go back to living with more plastic afterward. Think of this exercise as a scientific experiment. Nothing more.

4.) Take a photo of your stash and list out the items at the end of each week that you participate. You might also want to include details about what things are recyclable in your community or not. If you have a sensitive food scale, you might consider weighing your plastic as well. A bathroom scale won’t really be accurate because plastic is so light weight.

5.) Guilt is not encouraged. Nor are comparisons with other people whom you perceive to be doing “worse” or “better” than you in terms of plastic waste. This exercise is for purely educational purposes. Guilt doesn’t help.

6.) Answer the questions listed on the form below.

7.) Guilt is unnecessary.

8.) There is no time limit for doing this exercise. This is an ongoing challenge.

9.) Guilt will only get in the way of understanding. It’s not needed for this challenge.

10.) Seriously.


After you have completed the exercise, please complete the following form.  Add as much information as you care to share.  More is better, but don’t feel you have to complete every section.  You make the rules here.

Your tally should appear on the site within 3 days of sending your form since I post them manually. Contact me if you don’t see your challenge post on the site after 3 days.

Show Your Plastic Challenge Input Form

NOTE: You will not be able to save your work. In case of computer glitches (which we know happen from time to time) you might consider writing your answers in a word processing program and copying them into the form. Just a suggestion to avoid losing your work, but not mandatory. You will receive a confirmation email with your answers after successfully sending the form.
  • Please enter your location. At a minimum, please include your country and state or province. You may also include your city if you wish. It's helpful to others who may live in your area and want to share local plastic-free resources.
  • (As much of the following information as you feel comfortable sharing — gender, housemate/relationship status, work status (at home or away from home), children living with you, etc. These factors might influence the amount of plastic waste you generate and would be interesting to know, but are completely up to you of course.)
  • We each face different challenges and obstacles in reducing our plastic waste. Ask your question. Maybe someone from the group has a solution.
  • Which week of your challenge are you reporting?
  • Optional - if you are able to measure. Please indicate unit of weight (e.g. lbs, ounces, grams, etc.)
  • (Write out in list form and include the recycling # (found at the bottom of the item) and how you believe it gets recycled in your community. If none of your items are recyclable or if you're not sure, write that in the box and then add all your items to the next box.)
  • (If none, write none.)
    Choose 3-4 tags that best describe your plastic collection.
  • Please upload a photo of your plastic waste. Horizontal (landscape) photos work better than vertical (portrait.) (The maximum file size is 1MB. If your file is bigger, please reduce it using a program like Photoshop or contact me for other options.)

Questions? Please contact me and I will do my best to clarify these rules. But remember, this exercise is for you.