Thursday, March 8, 2012

How We Ditched Our Garbage Service

We finally took the plunge and canceled our garbage service several months ago, and haven't looked back. I was thinking that at best, ditching this service would be a minor inconvenience, but in reality it's had a very positive effect on our lives that I didn't expect.

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.

backyard chickens
Loki feeding our hens
We compost most of our kitchen waste, either directly in the worm bins or by feeding edible waste to the chickens or rabbits. We've got our own little composting factory set up. We often bury yard waste in a form of composting called hugelkultur, sometimes in holes and sometimes under new raised beds. Check out hugelkultur to explore the benefits of composting your prunings and woody yard waste in your own garden.

keeping rabbits american chinchilla
Azula & Katara in a hole dug for hugelkultur
Zero Waste Home has a useful list of more detailed tips for reducing your garbage. They're an amazing family that created only a mason jar of trash in a whole year. We've got a long way to go because we're making about that much every week still! What I often do is think about how people lived before there were high-tech options for things, and try to do things the old fashioned way, which ends up being pretty natural and waste free. For example, we never accept bags from the grocery store; we bring our own. It's simple and it works.

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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46 comments

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March 10, 2012 at 2:44 AM

I really benefited a lot from your informative blog post. Thanks so much and more power!

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Rebecca Dare
March 13, 2012 at 2:20 PM

Mellow -- I love your posts! Do you have kitty litter for your cat? If so, how do you dispose of that?

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March 13, 2012 at 3:55 PM

Thanks Rebecca!
We make our own kitty litter from whole wheat berries: http://alifeunprocessed.blogspot.com/2012/01/homemade-kitty-litter.html
The clumps that are only cat pee go to the chickens, the poop clumps can be buried. I used to flush them but read about marine mammals getting toxoplasmosis from flushed cat poo, so I stopped doing that.

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March 13, 2012 at 6:30 PM

I was all excited about this idea (combining garbage), then Carlos told me in Seattle city limits it's mandatory to take the service, you cannot opt out of your bill. You can, however, still share garbage bins with others to reduce the number of times the truck stops. It's a shame Seattle doesn't provide better incentive to reduce waste.

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March 13, 2012 at 7:35 PM

That sucks. I can see why they would think mandating garbage service would help keep a clean city, etc, but they should really encourage reduced waste and allow more choice.

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Anonymous
March 14, 2012 at 1:40 PM

I also gave up garbage service. If I were living just 2 miles east of my current location I would have no choice due to the city garbage system. However, I'm not in the city. Four years ago I moved to my current home and was researching how to save money on EVERYTHING. I wasn't enthusiastic about starting fires, but did find out that the local landfill has a once a month free day. I told myself I'd try it for a while and haven't paid for garbage service since. Yes, I compost, recycle and cook from scratch (less packaging). Check with your local landfill for some kind of similar program.

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March 14, 2012 at 3:49 PM

Here is a link to our SUPER easy recipe for homemade yogurt in the crockpot:
http://rojerthat.com/2011/12/16/homemade-yogurt-its-easy/

Also, we solved our kitty litter problem by toilet training our cats! We used a Litter Kwitter for all three of our cats, see link below:
http://www.litterkwitter.com/en/index.php

Great ideas in your post - thanks!

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Anonymous
April 22, 2012 at 4:12 PM

Did you know you can get reusable produce bags instead of using all those little plastic ones? I got a pack of three for $2. They're mesh and have a drawstring at the top in case you want to cinch it. the checker can still see the product number through the bag and it doesn't weigh anything. So handy! I'm sure you could find them pretty easy, I don't remember the brand of mine, but I got it at a health food kind of store.

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April 24, 2012 at 7:28 AM

We do have those mesh produce bags, but we never use them because our produce is delivered in boxes from our CSA. I should probably give them away. They are a great solution to plastic produce bags.

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May 25, 2012 at 9:48 AM

We don't have the option of cancelling garbage service, but 16 years ago we quit taking out the trash to an outside can; we keep it all inside our living space until the weekly collection day. That has had a big impact on how much trash we produce and what we're willing to throw away rather than wash and reuse.

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June 15, 2012 at 9:44 AM

This is great! An informative, yet unconventional post. You always hear about how people are reducing their trash, but never what it's like to completely cancel your trash pick up! Thanks for sharing your experience, and for linking up at Tiny Tip Tuesday :)

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July 7, 2012 at 4:16 AM

You can put your junk mail in a shredder (if you have one) or just rip it up and compost it as your brown matter (if it doesn't have a lot of dye) or you can mulch your plants with it.

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July 7, 2012 at 6:56 AM

That's true! I should have mentioned that. We compost our junk mail as long as it's not shiny. Those envelope windows don't seem to break down though- I'm still picking strips of them out of my garden from a bunch of shredded paper I stuck in the worm bin 3 years ago ;) I've heard that they're made of cellulose, so can be recycled with paper. They might break down in a hotter compost...

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August 16, 2012 at 5:49 AM

Thanks for sharing! I hate paying for our service. I'm going to call to see if they can drop us down to a once a month pick up as we try some of the tips!

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August 16, 2012 at 7:14 AM

We almost went with monthly when we first signed up, but it was, incredibly, only a savings of $3. So, we stuck with weekly just because we were worried about missing that once a month pickup. I really think the monthly pickup should be more of a savings! Hopefully it is in your area.

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Anonymous
October 30, 2012 at 11:03 PM

we haven't had garbage service for over 25 years. A family of 4, we take our one 50 gallon garbage can to the dump every other month for a cost of $9.00, plus the recycling drop-off is free. We have eight - 50 gallon recycling bins in the garage for glass, cans, etc., plus a 15x15 compost bin. Very little food goes into our garbage, so there really isn't any odor between dump runs. We grow most of our own food and buy what we need to purchase in bulk using our own containers if we possible, which reduces packaging. Even when the children were babies, we used cloth diapers. This has always been our lifestyle, however, so I realize this might not be an easy switch for some people late in the game. But its a good one. It is amazing how much garbage humans can produce.

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October 31, 2012 at 8:01 AM

It's never too late to change! But yes, some people need to take baby steps toward sustainability. We also produce very little garbage, but unfortunately a dump run around here costs a minimum of $19, so it's better to wait until you have a truck load. The only time we do that is when we have major house projects, which we are pretty done with at this point. It's easier (and cheaper!) just to take a bag of trash and our recycling to my mom's every couple of weeks ;)
I really think everyone should think twice, or more, about the amount of garbage they produce. Ideally, it should be zero, right?

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November 11, 2012 at 7:01 AM

We just recently bought a home on 9 acres, and the first thing I decided to do was reduce our trash service. So, while we still pay for pickup, we are exploring other methods for waste. I keep a paper shredder under my desk and we shred every single piece of paper that's going to the trash. With 5 kids, there are lots of scribbles, and then there's junk mail, etc. This shredded paper goes to the compost bin. We keep two burn barrels going for bigger burnables, like cardboard, etc. Obviously, food scraps are composted. We have a recycle bin for all metals. With a remodeling project underway, there is a lot of waste metal! I'm very pleased to see the amount of trash we throw away becoming less and less. I hate paying for trash bags or trash pickup!

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November 11, 2012 at 7:18 AM

9 acres sounds PERFECT! And shredding the paper for composting is a great idea. We hand-rip ours into smallish pieces for the worm bin, something my 5 year old generally enjoys doing with me. We call it "feeding the worms". Enjoy your new place!

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November 14, 2012 at 7:50 PM

Hi Emily,
This is great information. I will have to look into doing this. Thanks so much for sharing at last Wednesday's Adorned From Above Link Party. This weeks party is live. The link to the party is
http://www.adornedfromabove.com/2012/11/wednesdays-adorned-from-above-link_14.html
Can't wait to see you there.
Have a great week.
Debi @ Adorned From Above

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November 21, 2012 at 6:33 AM

Your posts are so inspiring. :) We don't have trash service either (no trash truck could make it up our driveway, anyhow!). Where we are in Oregon, EVERYBODY burns their trash, so the local landfills offer free service to everyone, all the time, to try to get people to stop burning! It's shocking how much trash packaged goods at the grocery store produce, even mostly unprocessed items. It's great to hear how your family is working to reduce, and your tips are so universally applicable. Thanks!

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February 6, 2013 at 7:35 AM

Just an FYI for those interested in re-usable produce bags. I bought a laudry bag for $1.00, cut it up into squares and made 9 produce bags out of it with my serger. I use them at the farmer's market because some of the vendors INSIST on putting everything in plastic bags. I just stand there in front of them, transfer the produce into my home made bags and hand them back the plastic bag to re-use.

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February 6, 2013 at 12:32 PM

That sounds annoying that they won't just use your bags in the first place. Good for you for perservering!

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February 11, 2013 at 9:33 AM

I love this! It can be so hard to get rid of all the packaged stuff! I'd love it if you would share this post this week at Small Footprint Fridays! http://www.smallfootprintfamily.com

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February 18, 2013 at 12:45 PM

Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop this week; I hope you’ll join us again!


Cheers,
Kathy Shea Mormino

The Chicken Chick

http://www.The-Chicken-Chick.com



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March 4, 2013 at 6:13 PM

Thanks for sharing such great information! I am trying to convince my hubby to let me compost. I found your great blog on Mix it up Monday's!

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March 4, 2013 at 10:36 PM

Good luck, Chandra! Composting really doesn't have to be gross or unsightly, and it won't attract rats if no animal products are added to it. Those are usually people's worries about composting. It's so good for the garden, and keeps all that great stuff out of the landfill.

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April 2, 2013 at 1:20 PM

Ha, ha, thanks Diana! You can do it too :)

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April 6, 2013 at 6:14 PM

Great post. Thanks for sharing at Wildcrafting Wednesday.

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April 23, 2013 at 8:00 PM

I LOVE this post! Like you we ditched our trash pickup service when we moved to the country. I love your statement that eliminating your trash pickup produced "a greater consciousness about the waste we're creating." - so true! Luckily like you we have a family member that is available for what we do get that's recyclable (milk jugs primarily) We also reject purchasing overly-packaged items and we are using our garden and my hunter husband for much of our food. Our tumbling composter is fed better these days and rewards us with rich compost several times each year to grow us more food. I love it! Thanks for sharing. (visiting from Small Footprint Friday)

~Taylor-Made Ranch~
Wolfe City, Teas

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April 25, 2013 at 10:41 PM

I LOVE this post and I love your blog! Just spent and hour reading when I should have been writing :) Thanks for all that you do, and Namaste.
Hugs,
Jerica

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May 7, 2013 at 7:43 PM

This is something my husband and I have discussed doing - I don't know if I'm ready to go all in! Thanks for sharing at Fluster's Creative Muster Party!

Robin
Fluster Buster

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May 21, 2013 at 11:42 AM

We burn paper, feed food scraps to the chickens or compost them, and then share the service with my parents who live next to us!

Thanks for sharing with us at Eco-Kids Tuesday! Hope you stop by again! http://likemamalikedaughter.blogspot.com/2013/05/eco-kids-tuesday_21.html

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June 13, 2013 at 7:38 AM

Wow, You are my hero. I wish I could reduce my waste that much. I didn't know people had to pay for garbage service. I guess that is because I have always lived in places where they just pick it up once a week. I complain because they don't pick up recycling and we have to go to the local recycling place to drop it off. They are only open on Saturdays from 9-1 and many times we end up throwing away our recycling because we can't get there during those hours. we live in a small apartment so we can't store things for more than a week. We don't have the room and no matter how much I wash things out the bugs start to come. I am heading over to read your article about how you stopped shopping now. Thanks for this.
Here from Mostly Homemade Mondays.

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July 22, 2013 at 5:55 AM

Sounds like a great green and frugal move! Thanks for sharing your plan on Tuesday Greens!

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Anonymous
September 21, 2013 at 8:49 AM

I thought I was going to find some useful advice, but it seems you've dumped your garbage problem on someone else...dropping it at your mother's apt. building or public dumpsters. Imagine if we all did that?

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September 21, 2013 at 3:04 PM

Wow, I'm really sorry you got that impression from my article! My whole point was drastic reduction of the amount of garbage produced, which we have accomplished by not going to stores, and by composting everything possible.
The reality is that we do still produce a tiny bit of non-compostable, non-recyclable waste, which is why I discussed the idea of sharing garbage service with neighbors (or, in our case, with my mother).
Most people produce loads of garbage that just gets swept away every week; they never have to look at it again. Not having garbage service makes us much more conscious about producing less waste.

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November 14, 2013 at 2:54 PM

This was immensely helpful for me! Very valuable ideas for garbage pick up and how we can clean up our environment.

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Anonymous
February 12, 2014 at 1:07 PM

As we have been considering getting rid of our trash man we have thought about the many ways to eliminate waste, use composting, we burn papers and cardboard in our woodstove, etc. The one thing I am concerned about and am not sure about (burning just seems kind of yucky to me) is waste in the bathroom from feminine products or diapers. I know it is an awkward question but I believe a valid inquiry. What about these items?

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March 8, 2014 at 2:17 PM

That's a great question. You can use natural femenine products and diapers that are reusable or at least compostable. I use a Keeper, a washable menstrual cup that has lasted me for well over a decade, and doesn't create any garbage. We diapered our kids in good quality cloth diapers, which we bought second hand and gave away to another family when we were done. Our bathroom garbage consists of hair from hairbrushes & the shower drain, and compostable q-tips and tissues. We compost it along with our yard & kitchen waste, and it disappears into soil!

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December 11, 2015 at 4:03 AM

You have declared everything perfectly in this blog, nice working guys! trash haulers

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January 11, 2016 at 7:24 AM

You are my legend. I wish I could diminish my waste that much. I didn't know individuals needed to pay for waste administration. I figure that is on account of I have dependably lived in spots where they simply lift it up once every week. I gripe in light of the fact that they don't get reusing and we need to go to the neighborhood reusing spot to drop it off. They are just open on Saturdays from 9-1 and commonly we wind up discarding our reusing in light of the fact that we can't arrive amid those hours. we live in a little flat so we can't store things for over a week. We don't have the room and regardless of the amount I wash things out the bugs begin to come.
junk removal kirkland

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February 6, 2016 at 7:18 AM

Great website, continue the good work. My family just moved to the country and we ditched our commercial garbage services. Thanks for introducing this great services.


https://maximumcleaning.com/trash-removal-nj/

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