Life Beyond Trash and How to Do It

In our seemingly endless efforts to reduce our impact, as well as monthly bills and dependance on outside services, a few months ago we made the scary step and cancelled our trash service.

What would replace it, we hoped, would not be a trash filled garage, but an efficient system of composting, burning, recycling and other seamless elimination of what is commonly known as “trash”.

I am glad to announce that three months later, we have in fact not been buried under trash, but have been successful in maximizing its use and here are some tips on how you too can take the plunge and explore Life Beyond Trash!


 

To manage your “trash” efficiently it must be categorized and re-invisioned as:

1. Compostibles:

Usually the most abundant trash category in the household. Anything of natural origin that can biodegrade in the composter. (If you don’t have one, you should start one!) This will include: kitchen scraps, grass and yard clippings, natural fabric, non-protein left-overs, rotten fruits and vegetables, chicken and other farm animal used bedding, straw etc.

This category will stay and be processed on the property, adding to the value and nutrients of the garden and lifestock.

2. Feedables:

This is especially helpful if you have animals. (If you don’t, you should get some 🙂 ) A lot of items can be both:  fed to animals AND composted, so it would be up to you to decide which item would serve the best purpose – what your animals like to eat and what is better for the composter balance. This category would include: vegetable kitchen scraps and left-overs for the chickens/pigs/goats/worms etc. Protein left-overs for your dogs/cats etc.

This category will stay and be processed on the property, adding to the value and nutrients of the garden and lifestock.

3. Burnables:

This is anything that would burn well, but slow to break down in the composter, like wood, paper, natural fabrics, hard/dry yard waste that does not decompose easily. Paper and cardboard can be either burned, recycled or turned into vermi-compost, so its up to you. One thing to consider: ashes can be used for the garden, so if you burn the paper you get ashes, if you recycle, you don’t get anything back!

TIP 1: I find that tea bags, even though are biodegradable, do not compost fast enough, but are perfect for burning (just make sure to only get the paper ones!).
TIP 2: We find trash burning a great family bonding time, plus with a few wood logs tossed in – a great opportunity to have a small cook-out dinner: generating energy for cooking while disposing of waste is stacking functions at its best. 🙂
TIP 3: Cardboard shipping boxes make a great weed block around plants or walkway cover. We lay flattened boxes around large plants, such as broccoli, cabbage, squash and it keeps down weeds, while slowly biodegrading and keeping in moisture! Its FREE, breathable and safe, as opposed to plastic. (Just take care to moisten the cardboard and put some dirt down to prevent it from flying away if you have strong winds, like we do.)

(Please use all precautions and burn safely!)

This category will stay and be processed on the property, adding to the value and nutrients of the garden and lifestock. 

burning trash

4. Recyclables:

This may be the most familiar trash category, no matter your location or lifestyle: plastic, glass, paper, metal – if it cannot be repurposed or reused in any other way before disposing.

TIP 1: I find large juice jars (cut in half and put in drainage holes) make great seedling planters, for example, and beer bottles great for rooting cuttings – so be creative and give your recyclables a second life while saving money!
TIP 2: Our recycling drop-off is located next to the Organic Feed Mill we get our chicken food at, so every time its refill time (about monthly) we also remember to grab our recycling, so we stay on schedule!
TIP 3: Plastic grocery bags need to be recycled separately from other plastics. Most major stores have bag recycling drop of boxes at the entrance. Fill up a bag with used bags and drop them off next time you go to any department or grocery store!

This category will leave the property for processing and will have to be dropped off at a recycling center near you. Check out earth911 to find out what can be recycled and where!

5. Toxic waste and electronics:

Non-food oils and oils-based paints, electronics, batteries, toxic household cleaners (not good to use in the first place) etc. need to be dropped off in the specially designated disposal centers.

This category will leave the property for processing and will have to be dropped off at a recycling center near you. Check out earth911 to find out what can be recycled and where!

6. Landfill:

Unfortunate, sad things that CANNOT fit into any of the above categories: (the evil) styrofoam and certain other packaging, if not stated as recyclable (like cereal bar wrappers, etc.), synthetic fabrics (nylon can be recycled, if you find someone who does it), rubber (in some cases, small quantities can be burned or composted, if the rubber is natural), silicone, etc. have to go to the landfill. You will need to find a public dumpster (check local major store chains) or use a neighbor’s trash can, with permission, of course. We find the best solution to this trash category is to eliminate purchasing the items that produce this trash in the first place: take note of them and see if you can exchange them for items that have less packaging or if you can do without them in the first place. For example, if you process your own meat, you avoid buying and having to dispose of styrofoam packages it usually comes is; making your own cereal bars eliminated the cereal bar wrappers etc. Making your own or being aware of packaging quality makes us more responsible consumers and inhabitants of this earth, as well as sends a message to the manufacturer that maybe they should consider it too.

This category will leave the property or ideally, be eliminated all together!

SPEAKING OF REDUCING:

It is amazing that in this day and age we still have companies send out catalogues: sometimes as big as phonebooks full of glossy pictures, sometimes without our request or consent and sometimes even multiples! We might be a little emotional on the subject, but a little bit dies on the inside when we receive these in the mail. And the fact that companies are not fined or discouraged in any way NOT to produce them, but on the contrary, they are almost free to produce and mail – is a subject for a whole other outraged conersation. Here, we just wanted to let you know that there are companies out there dedicated to make the process of getting rid of mailers and catalgues easier. We tried it and it works!

Go to https://www.catalogchoice.org, create an account and enter all the mailers you receive, they will email or call the companies for you and get rid of this nuasance once and for all! 🙂 Cancel your catalogue, save a tree.

A FEW TIPS ON ORGANIZATION:

It takes a little bit of set up to organize your trash. When we started, we simply used a few large plastic totes for different categories (of course perishables leave the house and got to the compost or animals within hours) the rest – waits for a good burn trash day or recycling drop off trip. You can reuse old totes or other containers without problem. Eventually we found and fell in love with stackable recycling containers. They can be bought online for about $10, but with shipping it will double. So when we found them at IKEA for $10 and $12, 10 gal and 16 gal respectfully,  we were thrilled. Two-three of these babies, depending on your needs, and your “trash pile” looks neat, clean and is perfectly organized!

16 gallon recycling bin


Throwing away trash does not have to be a mindless routine. Like everything that we do mindfully and with awareness, it gets better, more efficient, opening doors to new opportunities. By categorizing every piece of disposable material,  you become sharply aware of how much gets wasted in the world. And you can do your bit to reduce it!

Switching from using a trash service has provided us with a few surprises: trash burning nights are great for family bonding, our compost pile has grown and the money we saved has allowed us to upgrade our chicken feed to fully organic! 🙂 Every bit counts, and even if you dont have the means to fully implement these tips, if you live in the city, for example, and are not able to burn your trash, try to implement what you can, raising your own awardness of what “trash” is, and sharing it with others!

 

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