I don’t remember what year it was, but while in college during one Christmas break, I had a 10-hour layover in Paris, France in the middle of a sanitation worker strike. The airport was no exception to the strike. Needless to say, the situation was messy and awkward. Where was I supposed to put my water bottles and leftovers from lunch? I didn’t feel comfortable throwing it on the floor, but what other choice did I have?
In 2007, American’s largest trash removal provider, Waste Management, Inc. locked out 480 workers. Garbage piled up for three weeks in Northern California. So much so that parents felt it was unsafe for their children to go outside.
After assessing the damage of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality figured the devastating hurricane resulted in 22 million tons of garbage—20.5 million more tons than the World Trade Center Twin Towers collapse. And this was just in the Southeastern part of Louisiana.
Fortunately, for those three stories, we knew clean up would be eventually handled appropriately.
Trash causes health and environmental problems. Trash that isn’t disposed of properly can cause the spread of disease and release toxins into the air and our water systems. In fact, The Plague was caused by garbage pile-up. Unsanitary conditions in the streets due to trash attracted flea-invested rats. The fleas then bit humans, resulting in the deaths of 25 million people.
The average person in the United States produces nearly five pounds of trash a day. Certainly, we take our weekly pick up service for granted. We bag our trash, throw it in a city-provided bin, take the bin to the curb, and no longer think about it. In the case of a total collapse, what would happen if we weren’t confident city services would ever be restored?
What is one to do with all that trash?
- Burn it.
Country folks know all about burning trash. After all, it is the old way of dealing with garbage. However, these days, we throw away a lot of plastics that release toxic chemicals when burned. Not to mention, a lot of smoke and smell will draw attention to your location. Only burn paper products and organic material. Stay away from burning plastics. Keep your burn pile in a burn barrel—my cousin uses an old washing machine tub—and burn only a little at a time to keep smoke and smell to a minimum.
- Bury it.
About half of our country’s trash is buried in landfills. Buried properly, it can be a safe and sanitary way to dispose of garbage. Choosing to bury your trash means you need to be aware if animals can dig it up and if it will contaminate your water supply
- Compost it.
Any organic material will work as fertilizer for your garden, including coffee grounds, grass and leaves. Even paper products will compost. However, avoid glossy papers covered in colored ink. Oils, fats, meat, fish and bones should not be composted. Any leftover meat or fish can be fed to your pigs and chickens.
- Reuse it.
Paper products can be used to start fires for warmth and cooking. Plastics—after properly washing them out—make perfect storage for water and other liquids. Tin cans become candleholders, grease containers and even siding for shelters. If it can be repurposed, then use it again.
- Don’t Make As Much of it.
Keep this in mind while planning and purchasing your preps. Sure, paper plates and paper towels are quick, convenient, and easier to clean up, but also cause unnecessary rubbish. Buy containers that can be reused and repurposed. Instead of cases of tin cans, can food yourself in glass mason jars. Avoid buying items for your long-term food storage that would create more garbage.
Quite frankly, though, after a few weeks, there just wouldn’t be as much trash. Grocery bags, receipts, junk mail, wrappers, paper towels, newspapers, napkins and other disposable paper products will just run out.
Do you have a plan for your trash when SHTF? Tell us what it is in the comment section.
Suzanne joined the content team with over eight years experience at Cheaperthandirt.com. Starting out as a product description writer, Suzanne has extensive knowledge of the Cheaper Than Dirt! product base and is a good resource for suggestions on which products you need. Suzanne specializes in writing for the female shooter, beginner shooter, and the modern-day prepper. Though she prefers plinking with her S&W M&P 15-22, Suzanne also loves revolvers, the 1911, short-barreled AR-15s, and shooting full auto when she gets the chance. Suzanne is a staff writer for Cheaper Than Dirt!
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