Friday, 30 March 2012

Waste Management

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
I received an interesting piece of junk mail the other day. It was a mass mailing postcard from the local trash and recycling pick-up company, obviously sent out to addresses not currently using their services. It quoted about $20 a month for weekly garbage and bi-weekly recycling service. What I found interesting was that they then compared their rate to, by their accounting, the much more expensive option of hauling your own garbage and recycling to the landfill.

Now I live in a semi-rural part of a mid-sized town in the western United States. It's the part of the country where many people drive, or at least own, a pick-up truck. So hauling our own trash to the dump is a viable option for us. The local landfill recently doubled their rates, going from $5 to $10 for an average truck load. The dump is clear over on the other side of town from us, maybe 7 - 8 miles away. The truck gets an average of 20 miles to the gallon of gas. So, with gas going up all the time, add in maybe $2.50 - $3 for the gas to get there and back. So, a full-load trip to the dump costs us less than $15.

They came up with $15 per trip as their "haul your own" figure - that's reasonably accurate, I'd say. But what I found interesting was that they then used twice-a-month trips (therefore $30 per month, at least) as their comparison to show that using their service would cost less. Do most folks really generate that much trash?

We make dump (and recycling) runs about once every three months. We take a daily newspaper, but some of that gets used as wood stove fire-starter (our only heat source) half the year, at least. Instead of a garbage disposal we have a chicken bucket and a big set of compost bins built from salvaged pallets. I buy my milk in cardboard cartons instead of plastic. Whenever I have space in my freezer, I refill the cartons with water and freeze them - a handy ice source for camping or cooling a batch of homemade beer. When I buy juice, it's usually frozen concentrate instead of plastic jugs. We reuse bail-closure bottles for beer, hard cider, and kombucha; reuse glass canning jars and freezer bags for garden produce. I cook from scratch and do a lot of my own baking. I buy pantry items in bulk (those I don't grow and dehydrate myself) and then use 5-gallon tins and gallon glass jars for storage. For other shopping, I'm mindful of excess packaging as well.

I have a recycling area set up under the back side of my kitchen counter (that also holds light bulbs and other electrical items, empty bottles awaiting reuse or a trip out to the crates in the shed, and paper grocery bags I'll reuse until they are falling apart - and then I use them to hold newspaper recycling). I also reuse paper grocery bags to separate plastics, glass, and metals, folding down the top edges so they'll last longer. Those are emptied into plastic tubs on a shelf out by the garage maybe once a month. We have a local business that pays for metals for recycling, so we have a 55-gallon drum for aluminum and another smaller can for copper or steel - maybe a once-a-year trip, if even that, to empty those.

Out by the garage, we have three 44-gallon rubber trash barrels, and then a few 2- and a couple of 5-gallon metal cans for stove ashes (we have an old non-catalytic wood stove, enabling us to burn pallets and scrap wood, so our ashes have quite a few nails in them). To be honest, we'll fill up those cans before we do the trash barrels. We've never (knock on wood) had any problems with our garbage barrels and bears or raccoons. I do try to keep smelly trash to a minimum - rinsing, bagging, or wrapping everything - and there are good lock-down lids on the barrels (a necessity because of our infamous Washoe Zephyr). And, to be honest once again, I live in a desert climate - stuff is more likely to dry out than rot.

My husband has a couple of buddies he'll call, too, before making a dump run, and they return the favor. So a truck load is most often a combination from three homes, each taking a turn paying the landfill entrance fee. So for our trash, garbage, and recycling, we'd pay $5 a month without his buddies; averaging more like $2 per month on the dump-buddy three-month system. I think we'll stick with the "haul your own" option.


Sandy said...

Love that recycling area in your kitchen, I'm going to set one up at my house. I'm also going to switch to cartons for our milk. Why didn't I think of that sooner?

Lauren S said...

You have some great advantages regarding this issue...actually having a garage and space to store trash and recycling. Wonderful!

Barbara said...

All of these ideas are great.
What I find is hardest to get rid of is chicken bones/and other smelly stuff. I could never leave it in the trash for 3 months.

Mary Hysong said...

I'm like you, food waste goes to the chickens, junk mail either to the wood stove or the worm box. Food packaging gets less and less in my house as the garden and other projects come into being. I still have a garbage service, but probably only for a few more months, simply because I don't have a truck for hauling at the moment and because there is a large junk pile out back that I am slowly sorting through. Most of it is being recycled but some of it, like rotten plastic is having to go in the trash can....

Anonymous said...

We have no choice. We pay $15 a month to Waste management if you use them or not and it is collected on your city water bill.

Government controls lives because we let them.


owlfan said...

I'd guess it is because many people would fill up a load in a lot less time. Or, like Barbara, what to do with the smelly stuff for that long. My mom shares trash pickup with us - and even with that we rarely even half fill our can weekly. Our new trash service offers biweekly recycling, which I LOVE! It took us 2+ months to work through our backlog of recycling, so that it can all go out. But now we still have more in the recycling can than the trash.

My mom wraps her smelly bones and meat bits and puts them in the freezer to wait until trash day later in the week. But that would be a lot of freezer space for 3 months worth of yucky stuff. And here in the SE US, the trash will stink very quickly! Luckily our current service is $11/mo, and then split so I think we are getting a good deal.

Jen said...

We have worked on cutting down on buying packaging, and at this point we generally have one bag of garbage, one can full of glass, metal, and plastic recycling, and a pile of paper every three months. It seems like most of our packaging is from dairy products; maybe we need a cow. We have space for recycling in the kitchen, as well as a basket that stores canning jars, cider bottles, etc. until we get around to carrying it to the basement. That needs to happen a lot more than the trips to the dump.