Trash

The average American throws away over 4 pounds of trash per day. And over half of the hundreds of millions of tons of trash we send to landfills every year is compostable or recyclable.

When we lived in the city, twice a week we’d take our trash out to the curb in the morning for pick up. I’d roll a large trash can or two down the driveway in the morning before leaving for work, along with the containers filled with our recyclables (mainly newspapers and bottles).

It doesn’t work that way out here in the country. Instead we have to haul our trash to the nearest dumpster, which is about four miles away. But I suppose that’s an improvement on the way it was done when I was boy. Then we’d dump our trash into a pit in the woods.

But in those days we didn’t have much trash. We probably generated more trash in a week during our city life than we generated in several months back when I was growing up.

And now, I’m pleased to say, we again generate very little trash. Maybe once a month we’ll have a full trash can for me to haul off. That’s less than half of what we accumulated in a single week back in our city dwelling days, and I’m sure our trash production back then was well below the average.

Cherie is particularly adamant about recycling. We keep a container in the kitchen for any trash that can be recycled.

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When the container is full, we sort it into bins in the garage, separating paper, plastic, glass and metal.

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When the bins are full Cherie takes them to the recycling center in town.

No food waste goes into our trash. We keep containers by the sink, one for things the chickens will eat and another for anything they won’t eat.

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When the pigs are here we keep a container for them as well. Every morning I feed the chickens the food scraps set aside for them and empty the other compost material into a bucket in the garage. When the bucket is full it goes to our compost pile, where it is turned into rich black soil to nourish our gardens.

Recycling and composting leaves very little trash behind. And before resorting to recycling, where ever possible we first reduce and reuse.

We’re not doing it perfectly, of course, but the end result is that with just a little extra effort (which quickly becomes a routine), we have significantly reduced the amount of trash we generate.  That’s something our entire society ought to do.

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21 comments on “Trash

  1. Sue says:

    That’s really the whole key to it all—making it “routine”. I remember my mother having a fit when recycling came to our town–as if putting stuff in separate bins was the hardest thing ever. We were spoiled back then. After a week or two, she calmed down , and later even became sort of a recycling guru.
    We put out one tall kitchen bag of trash a month. I’m appalled by folks around me that put out a 75 gallon OVERFLOWING trash can every week. And you also have to figure—all that stuff you throw out?—you PAID for that stuff. Shows where the spending is going on………..

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    • Bill says:

      I agree. I recently read a blog post saying that if recycling requires sorting the trash into appropriate containers (there were many of them) then people won’t bother doing it. While I agree there will be resistance, especially given our cultural addiction to “convenience,” something like sorting the recycling should become routine fairly quickly and the few minutes it takes to do it every now and then won’t diminish anyone’s quality of life.

      You’re right too that our prodigious trash production directly relates to our overconsumptive lifestyles.

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  2. avwalters says:

    In Two Rock, we hauled our trash to the dump, which was only a couple of miles away. Recycling was free–trash to be dumped was weighed, and there was a charge. Since most of “food waste” went to the compost, after recycling there wasn’t much trash. We did it quarterly. The charge for the trash part was usually under ten dollars (the minimum charge.) I was always trying to convert my landlord, who was a good friend, to recycling. He spent a fortune hauling trash. I used to write him notes on the backs of my Transfer Station receipts–to demonstrate how going green was frugal, too.

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    • Bill says:

      Here the cost of trash collection is included in our taxes. I’d prefer a system like that, where the more trash you generate (and the less you recycle), the more you pay.

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  3. This is a very empowering post!

    If only more of us were to start following the simple ‘Rules of the Game’ that you have laid out to reduce the quantum of trash and then recycle and reuse, we would be leaving a much better planet behind for our children. So what might need to be dome to create such a shift in perspective?

    Shakti

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    • Bill says:

      The most important thing we can do is reduce consumption. I’m encouraged that the younger generation seems less intent on accumulating stuff than my generation was. Hopefully we’ve turned a corner. With respect to recycling and composting it’s mostly a matter of it becoming routine. I can still recall when people thought it was an inconvenience to fasten their seat belts. Now most people just do it without even thinking about it.

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  4. Wonderful share Bill.. we too are well into recycling and the more of us who can get into the habits the better..

    Sending you greetings for a lovely Christmas to you and your family Bill

    Blessings Sue

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  5. I remember growing up when almost everything was recycled. We had two compost pits. And then came the era of the throwaway, when planned obsolescence became the rule of the day. I oversaw the creation of a community wide recycling project in Sacramento in 1970. 10,000 families saved their cans, bottles, and newspapers dropped them off at our six city wide sites once a month. It took 300 volunteers and 30 trucks to handle it all. It was crazy, Bill. But it did prove to the city and the county that people were interested in recycling, given a chance. –Curt

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    • Bill says:

      When I was growing up there was a 5 cent deposit on every soft drink bottle. You had to return the bottles to get your money back. California may still have that, but here (and I suspect in most of the country) there is no financial incentive like that any more.

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  6. Joanna says:

    I was amazed at how much rubbish people got rid of in the US. The bins were huge. We couldn’t fill them in a month, never mind a week and like Sue says, so many had bins to overflowing. Quite shocking really and such a waste of resources. How long before they end up mining the landfills for all those precious materials that have been dumped?

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    • Bill says:

      Yes I imagine we are the world’s most prodigious producers of trash. Not a distinction any country should want to have.

      I’m reading a book now written by an Englishman. He discusses how when he came to the U.S. to study he was surprised to see how the American students heaped food onto their plates in the cafeteria, then scraped a lot of it off into trash cans, whereas he and his fellow Brits took smaller portion sizes and if they didn’t finish something they’d wrap it and take it with them. Different attitudes about waste.

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      • Joanna says:

        The only time I have seen behaviour like that elsewhere is in Latvia where one young man either from an orphanage or the streets took more than he could eat. He also put a protective arm around it as if he expected people to take it away – now that I can understand

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  7. Dani says:

    What scraps do you feed your chickens? Vegetable peelings,…?

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    • Bill says:

      All manner of things. I just took a peek at what they’re getting in the morning. Cherie has been processing broccoli and cauliflower today so they get the leftovers from that. They also get the stems if we stem greens, pork fat and gristle, etc. Last night we had stuffed winter squash, so they got the seeds and the skins. I also give them anything that’s going bad in the garden and an occasional treat like the Brussels sprouts greens they got this morning.

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  8. Dearest Bill,
    Well, in over 32 years that we’re living here in the USA, the hardest part to ‘accept’ was the lousy way of recycling and sorting out trash. It makes my heart bleed each and every time when I have to trash the batteries from my Magic Mouse (Apple) or any other device that needs changing. In Germany and in The Netherlands, I know from experience that they keep separate little containers for just that! It’s not allowed to go in the main trash.
    Here in central Georgia we did recycle for quite some time the white/green/brown glass and carton and paper. BUT somebody figured out that it was too costly so they went back to the Flintstone concept! A shame really because even if it costs money, we do it for the next generations!
    So I’m proud that my birth country is ranking # 4 as being best and some other countries where our friends do live.
    We have a long way to go!
    Both of us are rather keen on avoiding to trash but often you are forced as no longer you will find spare parts as we live in a consumer society, rather than following the frugal concept of our parents and grandparents that would mend and fix till eternity.
    Also we have to haul off all our garbage but we separate as much as we can and we also use all organic material from veggies and fruits to let it decompose in a big bin in the garden. It mainly consists of 90% water so there is not that much dry matter left but its great and dark for making some plants very happy!
    Another thing I never understood is why the majority of people (non-country folks), hate the fall leaves and they rake them like hell, trashing them once gathered in a pile.
    Oh my, that’s natures BEST, it is meant to be recycled at the end of the season and it provides useful nutrients and humus for new plants/trees to grow in.
    I often ask them who do you think is raking in the woods?! That creates that rich layer of fertile soil over years of adding on to it.
    Pieter does mulch the leaves on the lawn but none of it leaves our property!
    Great subject and food for thought; wish more people would read this.
    Hugs and Merry Christmas to you and yours.

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    • Bill says:

      I’m in full agreement Mariette. Our cultural obsession with raking leaves is just maddening. Shed leaves are and important way that nature refreshes and nourishes the soil. Yet we pile them up, stuff them into plastic (!) bags and haul them off. Or burn them. Shaking my head.

      I think attitudes are changing, even if slowly. Glad to know your home country understands the importance of not wasting things. I see that very clearly among Americans who lived through the Great Depression, but in later generations we seem to have forgotten the virtues of thrift and prudence. I do think those values are stronger in the young people today, so I have hope for the future.

      Merry Christmas!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Sounds like you are really handling it all well. We recycle everything possible. The compost hole gets our food scraps too. We have rather large bin for trash. It is one the city’s truck can pick up and dump. We typically put one kitchen sized bag in it and it is rarely stuffed. When ever friends are doing a clean out because they’re moving or whatever, we always have extra space to provide. I grew up where we burned our trash. Metal was salvaged and food scrapes went to animals mostly. Not good to be burning many of the things in the trash today. My parents are in their 80s. They still salvage metal and burn some trash, but in the last 5 years or so even they started to recycle paper and containers. They have to drop it off when they go to town. It’s a habit anyone can start.

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    • Bill says:

      I agree. It doesn’t take long to make it a routine and once it becomes one it doesn’t feel like an inconvenience.

      We burned our trash back in the old days too. Had an incinerator out back. But you’re right that we have so much plastic, styrofoam, etc. in our trash these days we shouldn’t burn it even if we can.

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