reducing the waste stream

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Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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Posts: 1988
reducing the waste stream

No, I am not talking about composting toilets and such; those are covered in other threads. But if there were no trash pickup, or no dump to take you garbage to, how would you cope? Part of living sustainably is having less trash to dispose of.

There are ways to cut down on what we cart off to land fills, and in a post-peak-oil world there may not be a way TO cart it off. So this thread is will hopefully compile a list of things we can do to make less garbage. The article I linked to talks about composting, using less paper, and reusing things like plastic bags - and buying stuff with less packaging.

How can we to avoid plastic packaging? If glass bottles are resusable will they make a resurgence? Although paper biodegrades, will it be readily available? Should you get a burn barrel to incinerate things? Do you have an experience with composting to share?

Please share your ideas, how-tos and suggestions.


Full Moon's picture
Full Moon
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Safewrite ,   While we

Safewrite ,   While we lived in Germany  it was very clear as to where Americans lived...  we had 7 times the amount of trash .    The people there walked to the market once or twice a day to buy their food .  Took their own basket .. went to the meat market , the bread store  etc.  That was 30 years ago I wonder if things have changed so very much .   It was a fine to throw a cigarette butt on the ground and in our village we had to sweep the street on Saturday .    Now I do not suppose you are talking about Govt. regulations here  but personal accountablity  

    The Pictures my daughter brings home from her mission trip shows how trashy  Haiti is and one would think that they would have less because they have very little money to buy things . Shame , shame on C***  for taking their soft drinks into every corner of the world with their plastic bottles to boot .

  If we are going to continue to buy things that are shipped from afar  we will have trash  and lots of it .  If we have a local bakery  we save on plastic bread bags and better yet if we bake our own .  Just look how much packaging you save by making your own laundry soap .     Look how many cans and bags you save by preserving your own garden produce ..  even better yet if you use Tattler reuseable lids .

  I know for a fact that people who can  not afford trash pick up  allow it to build up until it is a hazzardous waste and they are forced to do something about it  OR they load it in a truck and dump it in a ditch along a country road .   Some just carry it to someone elses dumpster .

  Anyway I  see one more area that if people are not smart enough to figure it out ourselves it will be another thing the GOvt. will put their hand in our pocket for .



JAG's picture
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Joined: Oct 26 2008
Posts: 2492
Great Subject


First, I wanted to thank you for your contributions to this forum. I always enjoy reading your pieces because they are interesting and presented well. You really should get your own blog...I'd be your first subscriber.

Second, this particular subject has haunted me for years. I think the only answer is for us to redefine suburban waste streams as the resource of the future. Though I have never been one to "dumpster dive" or hoard, I think it's absolutely critical for us to find ways to harvest the hidden resources in the waste stream. Here are a few ideas that I've come across:

  • In Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter, she talks about feeding her pig off the wastes from local resturants and bakeries. Needless to say, it was a very time consuming and unpleasant process for her.
  • The use of Black Soldier Fly Larvae to capture and process any nutrients in the local waste stream seems promising. Unlike worm composting, the BSF larvae will digest just about anything, and they do it in a fraction of the time that it takes vermicomposting units. And if you design their habitat correctly, the even self-harvest. Their high fat and protien content make them a great "living" food supplement for chickens or some types of fish. 
  • Of course, you might find fuel for some type of energy production in the waste stream as well. Perhaps some type of biodigester unit coupled with a genset would allow you to create electricity from combustable trash. I haven't found much information on this possibility, yet. You would want to do it in a way to minimize air pollution, too.

I guess one's capacity for utilizing waste streams is a function of their creativity. I've seen a couple of business models based on this approach. I hope they succeed. 

Thanks again....Jeff


Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1988
Thanks JAG

Jeff, I do have a blog, but it is not all prep-related. It has a prep thread, whcih you have to ask to be included in, but I am primarily a science ficiton editor and a safety engineer, plus I blog about gardening and being a transplanted northerner in the south. Those who want to subscribe can go to  and put me on your RSS feed.

As to the waste tream being "monitized," in my opinion it would work very well if the #$%@*! politicians would let the market work. Back in NY trash pickup was included in your taxes and therefore the cost was "invisible" although surely a factor in homeowner taxes being roughly TWELVE TIMES what they are in SC. Plus in NY we had mandatory recycling of things there was no market for, which raised taxes. When wood, and therefore paper, got expensive, cardboard recycling made more sense. Ditto for the metal in cans and for certain plastics. The only thing that did make sense was that they refused to take construction debris.

Sometimes the politicians get it right, eventually.  One thing a local municipality did very well (sadly, not where I lived) was they put up a European-style 5,000 degree F incinerator with a bag house for the (non-toxic) ash and an electromagnetic crane sorting out the ferrous metals (which they sold for scrap). The "tipping fees" lowered taxes. And it's a co-gen plant, so they sold electricity back to the local utility, too, and I happen to know that they got paid by law enforcement to get rid of things like siezed drugs and illegal guns. But this was only after an incredibly costly boodogle plant that was NOT of that design and needed to be torn down. Oh well, at least the new plant helped them pay off the bonds used to construct the old one.

Where I live now you have two choices. The first choice is trash pickup at the curb by Southern Container Sevice for $150 a month:  the amount of waste they will take is limited and they only recycle newpapers. Or you can go to the dump and recycle for free.

Our recycling center is awesome. Residents sort out their ferrous metal, glass (by color - clear, green or brown), aluminum, cardboard, and certain types of plastics. There is a place for newspapers and magazines and office paper; there is a place for waste oil and filters, carpet pads and fabric scraps.  ALL OF THESE ARE SOLD FOR A PROFIT, or at least to break even. Oh, and they take household garbage, too, but that's a very small item. They do not take tires, batteries, or computers/printers and will tell you where to take those. There are also huge compactor bins for yard trash that gets turned into compost - that's where I got my starter compost for my garden, at $30 a pickup truck full. (to be fair, my town in NY had compost for residents, too, but damn, Skippy, that place always stank 'cause they were doin' it wrong. )

One of my safety engineer friends here in SC just quit a fantastic job with BOSE as their plant head of safety because he was so damned successful monitzing ther waste stream and MADE them so much money that he formed a company that can do that for others. Truly, one man's trash is another man's treasure!

maceves's picture
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Joined: Aug 23 2010
Posts: 281
black soldier flies

 Black soldier flies got into my compost bin and really gave me a shock. They are disgusting but harmless, and if there are enough of them they make a disturbing rustling noise as they eat.  I read  up about them and decided to leave them alone and let them do their thing.  They work through kitchen scraps really fast, but their residue (castings) is a mucky muddy stuff .  They sleep through times that are too cold or when there is nothing to eat and come back to life when the eating is good.  The adults don't even have a mouth to eat with.

If they are in the same bin with your earthworms they won't hurt each other.  The flies will be in the top bin where you feed and the worms will stay down below.  They clean up after the flies and make a very nice fertlizer/compost.  When I harvest and clean the bins I  get those fly cocoons out of there.

Of course if I had chickens, they would get them all if given half a chance.

SPAM_sherisistable's picture
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