We've always produced a small amount of garbage that hardly warranted the 20 gallon can in our yard and a weekly pickup, but I kind of thought not having garbage service would be a nuisance, or that it would be gross. Burning garbage is nasty, and I certainly didn't want to save up enough garbage until we had a dump-run-worthy load. What would we do with our garbage if we didn't have a green can to toss it into? And seriously, what about the recycling? We always produce way more recycling bulk than trash, but if we canceled garbage service our free recycling service would be gone...
I always thought there were really only a few, undesirable options for people without garbage service: Pile up a bunch of garbage until you have a truck load to take to the dump; burn it; or illegally dump your junk in one of our beautiful ravines. I was not fond of any of these ideas, but we had been discussing the idea of ditching garbage service since buying our house a few years ago. While we don't make much actual garbage except during house projects, we've always created a lot of recyclable waste. If we canceled garbage service, no one would come to pick up our recycling either.
I will say right away that we haven't eliminated the garbage and recycling we produce, though we have drastically reduced it. As long as we are buying produce there will be those twist-ties and plastic mesh bags, and as long as our kids are young there will be the kind of junk that kids collect, which is ultimately destined for the garbage (glue and glitter art projects, cracked and leaking rubber froggy boots, tiny socks worn through, stickers, and of course all the random broken plastic things.)
It has really helped that we pretty much eliminated trips to the grocery store, instead ordering all our produce from a CSA, and the rest of our bulk foods monthly from a natural foods distributor. Neither of these are a big source of packaging waste, unlike all those boxes and packets from the store. Click here to read about how we stopped grocery shopping. We also buy anything we need used, from thrift stores, which come free of any packaging waste besides their price tags. Even better, local giveaway groups can be a place to look for anything you need before going to a thrift store. Check out here how to start or join a Buy Nothing group. Occasional electronics upgrades are the only thing we nearly always buy new.
It took us a while of thinking about it, paying our garbage bill all the while, before we thought of a way of getting "off the grid" of garbage service; it had to be convenient and mess-free. My mom, who lives nearby, produces very little waste herself, and doesn't mind disposing of ours along with hers. So now when we see her, we occasionally have an extra little present to send her home with ;)
Now, not everyone has my mom for a mother, or would want to ask a family member to take their trash and recycling for them. I can completely understand this! But what about this idea: Share your garbage service with your next door neighbor. You will both save money by going in on the service together, you will have less unsightly collection cans on your street, and the garbage trucks will be done on your road all the more quickly if you've consolidated your trash with your neighbor's.
What if we only had community bins, or collection bins on every corner instead of every driveway? I know a lot of people really fill their bins right now and that would be a lot of work to haul to a group bin, but I just think it would be good for people to have to deal with their garbage a bit more than we are used to. It's too easy to ignore the problems of over-consumption, the garbage islands, and poisoned landfills, when someone so conveniently slips it away each week.
Eliminating the garbage pickup service saves us $300/year. Sometimes that doesn't seem like much, but it makes a difference to us. I also like that now those trucks don't have to stop quite as often. But the other real benefit of eliminating garbage service has been a greater consciousness about the waste we're creating. Not being able to toss all your junk in a curbside can and kiss it goodbye makes us much more conscious of the waste we produce. This applies to recycling just as much as it does for garbage. Recycling isn't going to save us; it's better not to produce that waste at all. Not having cans to hide our own waste from ourselves has helped me reduce through awareness.
Fortunately we quit garbage service at the same time that we quit shopping at the grocery store. They definitely went hand in hand, because quite a bit of our produce from the store came packaged in these huge plastic clamshells, and everything else comes in some kind of bag or box. Not yet producing much food on our small urban farm, we rely on our CSA for the majority of our food. We purchase grains, nuts, and seeds from a wholesale natural foods distributor. And, really, we hop in to a grocery store once every 2 or 3 months to stock up on things we still like to buy off the shelf: specifically cheese, yogurt, and peanut butter for the kids; and chicken for our homemade cat food.
Most of our utility services and accounts are set up to be paper-free, though we can't seem to stop getting the junkmail circulars, what my son calls "broken magazines", that fill our mailbox every week. Not having garbage or recycling service has us looking at the sources for all our waste. We not only want to stop this garbage from getting to our house, we'd prefer to eliminate it's creation at all.
|Loki feeding our hens|
|Azula & Katara in a hole dug for hugelkultur|
Garbage and recycling trucks have got to use a huge amount of fuel. Let's create less work for them, and work toward a more sustainable future, by sharing the service with a friend or neighbor!
Update: While we lived without garbage service for three years, we do have it now- and we share the service with my kids' grandma and her daughter. They bring their recycling and garbage to our house every couple of weeks. I am sure everyone has a family member or neighbor that they could share service with, both to save money and to reduce our impact on the waste stream and raise consciousness about trash production.
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How We Ditched Our Garbage Service
4/ 5Oleh Mellow