Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How to stop using trash bags

I told you in a previous post that I would talk more about how 6 months ago we
stopped using trash bags. Well, here we are.
I am guessing the first question everyone will ask is...
Just like the TP question. Everyone wants to know what is so
wrong with what many consider a must have, can not live without,
your nuts for not using it, household item.

Here's why....
It's made of plastic. Duh, I know. Many are not biodegradable or
can be recycled. That means it fills a landfill never to break down or
never to be recycled into anything else.The EPA estimates that nearly
100 billion to 1 trillion bags are used each year with less than 6% of
them being recycled. That is a lot of plastic. We won't even address
the process of making plastic and the air pollution. The fact is, we are
running out of room to bury this stuff. Consuming less or even better
stop consuming at all is the answer.
The next question we always get when we challenge the status quo on
things is always this :
"Well, what do you use instead?"
Our answer always causes that rapid blinking look that I find so entertaining.
We don't use anything.
That's right. Our trash cans are naked. Naked naked naked.
Now, some of you probably just threw up a little bit in your mouth on that
thought but I assure you, I am a germaphobe so it isn't all that gross.
I am going to show you how to get unhooked off those bags. But before
we go any further I wanted to say, if your using recycled or biodegradable
bags, kudos for you. I know that biodegradable ones exist, I just can
not justify the price on our income. And our thought is, it is best just to learn to do without. 
Want a naked trash can? Here is how.
Compost. Easy enough. Nearly all of our food that is not edible goes into our compost.
We also add in grass clippings sometimes. Shredded paper as well.
We must have a wicked garden, right? No. We don't garden! However, that soil gets
used in potted plants, flower beds and the like. Even if you do not do those things here
is a great idea to get rid of your compost....give it away on Craiglist/Freecycle. You
will be overwhelmed at the people who will want your crap...I mean compost!
Recycle. We had up to that point recycled in a lazy way. We knew the basics. But
I went to our county recycling website and got a break down of the recycling. Now nearly
75% of our trash is recycled. Paper, glass, cardboard, plastics all go into our curbside
recycling program. Any plastic bags we get go back to store recycling. We try to avoid them
at all possible by using cloth shopping bags and mesh produce bags. Sometimes it is
unavoidable. Our county does not recycle Styrofoam but our local grocer, Publix does
recycle the egg trays. We have drop off points for magazines & newspapers. Office
supply stores recycle our ink cartridges, old cell phones and so on. The point is if you
take 15 minutes to research you can recycle nearly all of what you toss. With very little
effort on your part.
Donate. Anything that is useable, we donate, sell or give away. There was a time
that we would just put the old beat up table down by the curb, *gasp*, I know.
Even things you think are not worth it can be used by someone else. Like I mentioned
above, old cell phones are recycled by organizations. Shoes , even beat up ones, are.
Our area has a diaper bank for any unused diapers. Whenever I see something in our
home that we no longer have a use for and I am not sure its worth anything to anyone,
I put it on Craigslist for free. I have never had an item not taken & used. There is always
someone who can use what you can not, I assure you.
What does that leave? Not a lot. We went from being a 4 curbside trash can family
a week to a half filled one can a week. We realized the #1 reason we lined our can was
for messy messes, like food. Once we eliminated that, we saw clearly that there
was no need to line our trash can. The poor thing is naked all the time now.

Is it easy to stop using trash bags? No, not at first. Because let's be honest,
do you really want to have to focus that much time on how to dispose of your
trash? Not what I enjoy doing either. But when I realized the key to conserving, less
consuming was all just a matter of a lot of brain work and little physical work then it
was just a no brainer for me to give it a try. Our transition from 4 curbside cans a week
to naked trash can took us 6 months. It was a constant process of, "where does this go?"
Looking for recycle symbols, referring to our local recycling center and digging yogurt
cups out of the trash while yelling at the kids & hubby. Fun times. But soon it became
second nature to question it. Soon it became the norm for the recycling can to be taken
out more than our trash needing to be taken out. It became our norm.

If you think this all too much for you. Then please, switched to biodegradable bags. If you
can't justify the cost (and they are a bit more than those hefty ones) then go to a landfill
just one time. I dare you. It's gross. I don't want my children's children to live on top of one
nor do I want that stuff to keep piling up. It was enough for me to know I had to do something.
Is it extreme? Maybe. But that is how I roll. I don't do things half way or to the norm extent.
But when I see how this earth is being taken care of, I question our stewardship to God. Or
rather, our lack there of. I am as far from a PETA tree hugging vegan as your ever going to meet.
I am a God fearing, raised in the South conservative folk who likes a good ol' juicy hamburger.
But I can't help but think, is this how God intended us to use what He blessed us with? When
it takes so little for us to do better? It is like the old saying...
When we know better, we do better. 

~This post is being linked up over at Frugally Sustainable Link party "Frugal Days, Sustainable Way's #20" this week, go take a's awesome sauce!~


Mrs. Z said...

Hm...interesting! I might have to try this!

Chele said...

I figure your out nothing to try, right? Thanks for stopping by! :)

Justine said...

Stopping by from the Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways Wednesday Blog Hop!

Chele said...

Thanks for stopping by Justine! :)

Martina said...

i was thinking of switching to the paper lawn bags instead of plastic, our trash pick up prisoners always leave half the stuff in the can if we don't use bags, and we cant compost living in the city in a rental

Chele said...

We also live in a rental in the burb's though, not in the city per say. They have all kinds of composters, but we have empty wooded lots around us. So we just "borrow" the lot for our compost. The lawn bag is an excellent idea! :)

Jenni said...

Great Post, I've often contemplated how one would do this. My biggest problem is living in NE Minnesota and not being able to get to the compost pile in the winter and not knowing whether or not that would work. I'm definitely inspired by your post so I'm gonna put it to the test. Menards a home improvement store often sells or gives away free biodegradable bags which I plan on using for biodegradable diaper inserts. Not sure if you can buy them online from them or not.

Chris K. said...

Our trash company requires trash bags. We use biodegradable or recycled ones (I'm not really's been so long since we bought some!). It always amazes me how few we need though! Our family of six (which doesn't "recycle" except for cans with a deposit on them, but reuses a lot of recyclables in other ways) only produces a bag or two of trash a week and everyone else in the trailer park seems to have mountains of trash every week! We are only "allowed" to have up to six bags of trash a week, but it seems most people here exceed it. Our next door neighbors, a family of 3, currently has about 10 bags of trash down by the curb. I don't understand where it all comes from!

Good Girl Gone Green said...

Love this!!!

Chele said...

I think you could compost in the winter but it would not break down as quickly. You could cover the pile to trap in more heat maybe? Hmmm, I see a research project in my future!

Chele said...

Chris K.,
Well phooey on the trash Nazi's! ;) But I think you made a key point, the real thing is to consume less. I won't even tell you how many cans of trash we put out years ago when I had 5 kids at home. I am embarrassed by it. We bought, consumed and threw away without regard. Ekkkk!

Chele said...

Thank you for stopping by Good Girl Gone Green! :)

Amy said...

This would actually be a simple switch for us. We "compost" but it is a bucket of scraps that goes to the chickens across the street. Our curbside recycling takes every plastic except bags, and like you, I take them to the grocery store and place in their recycling bin. I do hate the smell of a nasty trash can, which despite nazi-recycling (laughed at the line about fishing out yogurt cups, I do that too!), sometimes happens. Do you have any tips for cleaning out the can, other than using bleach, which is harsh? Great post. Thank you!

Erin said...

We started doing this 2 years ago for the same reasons. For us, using TP and trash bags is equivalent to throwing out and flushing away money and resources. We don't do naked can. We use a reusable duffle diaper bag that I had from cloth diapering. I got them from cotton babies and they are the size of a standard trash bag. Then we just wash them. Works great!

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

I need to get back to this. We currently have trash service every other week, but I admit I am not recycling right now, gasp. There is no curbside recycling out in the country so I have to handle that myself and drive to a depot.

Amy - Vinegar and Hydrogen Peroxide make great cleaners and deodorizers for trash cans.

Amy said...

Thanks, Lisa! How quickly we forget some of the simplest solutions... :)

Lynda said...

We also do what you do and have stopped our curbside service. We compost all year around. I take our bags of trash that are left - which are few - to our recycling center which also takes trash for 50 cents a bag or can. My problem is the trash we have left is mostly cat litter which can't be composted. Any ideas? Lynda @

Chele said...

I detest that smell too! A few things helps : we take the can out daily and dump in the curbside can - everyday after it is dumped we spray it out, if needed swish wipe with some soapy water - once a week it soaks in the sun with some of my homemade disinfectant cleaner. Ours sits in a cabinet to be away from pets, so we have to clean the cabinet too so there is none of that smell. :)

Chele said...

That is a WONDERFUL idea! I might have to look into that. Thanks for leaving that comment. It never occurred to me to do washable bags. :)

Chele said...

Great tip on the cleaner! Thanks for stopping by! :)

Chele said...

For our cats we currently use a biodegradable litter but instead of putting it in a can, we bury it. Like I mentioned, we are in the 'Burbs but very rural in nature. We are surrounded with wooded empty lots, so we just dug a hole and in it goes. We read that burying litter is environmentally acceptable somewhere but it was years ago so I don't have a link. I have heard there is flush-able litter, but I am too skeeeeeered (lol) to try that!

Farmer Bert said...

Luckily for us we live in Portland where recycling is the norm. We are provided with a small compost bin that fits under our sink, and we buy compostable bags to line it with, so when it's compost day we can throw the whole thing into the outdoor compost bin. We keep a paper bag under our sink that is for paper, plastic, and aluminum and we also recycle glass. It is amazing how little our garbage can is and they only pick it up once every other week! I had been putting regular garbage bags in to line it but after reading this I am definitely going to go with a "naked" can as well :) Our Sanitation comes every Friday in 3 separate trucks to collect Compost, Glass, and Paper/Aluminum and then every two weeks to collect our small garbage which is half the size!

Chele said...

Farmer Bert,
If all cities would do that! How amazing would that be?!? My inlaws live in Mississippi, albeit rural, but in their county there is no curbside recycling or many stations to drop it off to either. That blows my mind!

Unknown said...

We live in a semi-rural subdivision in South Central Alaska and at this time we do not have curbside pick-up for anything but trash. There is a recycling center for drop-offs but I got SO frustrated with them for being closed one too many times when, according to their sign, they were supposed to be open. I drove around with my Suburban full of recycling for two months and after the last attempt to actually recycle I drove to the landfill and threw it all in! I haven't recycled since.
That said, we do only fill one can per week for our family of seven (Grandma has to wear Depends because during a recuperation in a nursing home after a fall they left a catheter in too long and it permanently damaged her continence!). We also compost and feed scraps to our chickens. During the summer everything goes on the compost pile and the chickens scratch and pick what they like. During the coldest part of winter I do not let them out because they will end of with frostbit combs and toes, so I take the pot of edible kitchen scraps inside their coop. I still throw the rest of the compost on a pile outside, sometimes digging back the snow, sometimes not. ;) This winter a yearling moose dug out a big chunk of the pile and spread it out, then laid down and ate whatever seemed good to her moose palate. We had record snow this year and the moose were so hungry they went on people's decks looking for food!
I am going to figure out a way to stop using plastic garbage bags... what do you think of something like oil cloth to make a washable bag out of?
Oh, and about kitty litter: I found some made of wood, really nothing more than coarse saw dust, and I've been thinking I should just keep a bucket (outside the back door) to dump it in then go throw it out into the woods to fertilize the wild flora.

Chele said...

Unknown in Alaska,
How frustrating about the recycling! I would have gave up too.
I like your idea of washable bags. Oil cloth would be perfect as it is water proof! Excellent excellent idea.
And go for it with the kitty litter. Everything I have read is that is perfectly acceptable to dispose of it this way when you use natural litter. :)

knightmother said...

I am happy to read this because my family thinks I am crazy. My trash cans went naked about 2 years ago and I love it. I don't compost but I do save anything that would be thrown away anyway - bread bags and the bags cereal comes in for instance. If I have something ishy, I use one, no fuss, no muss. When I need to it wash out, I put it in the shower and let it catch the water while it heats up for my shower, scrub and then use the water to flush the toilet. Baking soda on the bottom, after it dries, for any order that could be there. Thanks for letting me know I am not "crazy".

Chele said...

My extended family either don't know or think I am nuts as well. But that's okay, I am okay with them thinking I am crazy. lol

Raven said...

I might have missed this bit, what what would be recommended for meat and bone scraps? All of the rest of our compost we can actually compost or give to our chickens, but I know you can't do either of those things with meat and bones {at least, if you want to keep wild animals out}. What would you recommend?

Chele said...

Great question! I save them in a biodegradable container in the freezer. On trash day we put them in the can. We do the same with leftover oils that we don't use as well. :)

Unknown said...

@Raven: you can give meat scraps to your chickens. They are protein devourers. When I give my chickens their pan of kitchen scraps they will eat their favorites in a certain order and meat always gets grabbed first! If you cook your bones in a pot, covered with water and a little apple cider vinegar added, you will have yourself a nice broth loaded with nutrients like minerals and gelatin. Then you can turn the bones into bone meal which can be given to chickens, dogs or your garden. I have been able to crumble beef bones by hand after a long, slow broth batch!(The vinegar really helps soften the bones and allows minerals to be leached out into your broth. Here is a how-to link if you'd like to try it:

Crizzle said...

Chele, we are moving toward using the cardboard boxes and twine. I will let you know how it works out and how easy/difficult it is to keep stock of them. We plan to get them from my mother's office and maybe some local stores. They throw out a lot every day. We'll see :)

Chele said...

I can't wait to hear how this turns out Crizzle!

BennBooCreations said...

Hi Chele!
I'm a late-commer to this blog post, but just came about your blog and I LOVE IT! Thank you for all your helpful information.
I, too, live in "the Great White North" on the shores of Lake Superior, and altho we have not eliminated garbage bags completely, we have gone down to about 4 (recycled) per year.
I want to give a link to those northern dwellers about winter composting:
He is the one that started my winter composting and of course, has many other links with a ton of information.
We have since went to a very small greenhouse made of old roadside windows, used for the sole purpose of our compost bin.
Some money may have to be invested initially (nails, hinges) if you don't have those materials lying around (put a request out on Freecycle), but once you're set up, you're ready to go and the savings from not using bags and in our case, costly "garbage stickers at $2.75 @" will pay for itself in no time at all.
The link also have great info on insulating and temp-controlled bins as well.
I'm a new follower and hope to see you post often!!