Help me cancel my trash pick up!
October 21, 2010 1:04 PM   Subscribe

How can I get rid of my trash? My garbage pick up service has raised their prices and I cannot afford it. I am sure that there is a solution that I am not thinking of.

I live in the country (US) on an acre of land. A compost pile seems ideal but I already have enough skunks/raccoons/coyote/fox hanging around. A compost pile just seems like a huge invitation even if it is secured. I have 2 dogs that have been skunked a dozen or more times. They kill any creature that comes into their area so I really don't want to attract more critters. I can recycle everything but the stuff that would normally go down a sink disposal. I do not have a sink disposal because I have a septic tank. Any ideas?
posted by futz to Home & Garden (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I live in a rural area. Most people buy a 55-gallon drum and burn their trash. I don't completely agree with that since things like plastics and color ink release a ton of toxins when burned, and those things are really common in household trash, so we use trash pickup unless it's things like untreated scrap wood or oversized plain cardboard boxes.

Other than that, you can probably invest in a small chain link dog pen and maintain a compost pile in that. Or get a hand-me-down storage shed and haul the trash periodically to the nearest dump. Posting a "wanted" on Craigslist for those things might net you one cheap.
posted by crapmatic at 1:11 PM on October 21, 2010

Response by poster: I can burn but I never do. Would burning foodstuff be an option? It is often quite soggy. Also, it is getting to be winter here and I can't see myself tending to the burn barrel in the cold and snow.
posted by futz at 1:11 PM on October 21, 2010

Response by poster: Hrm. I wonder how much the city dump costs. That is an option. Thanks, I'll look into it.
posted by futz at 1:12 PM on October 21, 2010

Composting vegetable scraps shouldn't be a problem; it's the meat and dairy stuff that will be. Compost the former, and bury the latter?
posted by jon1270 at 1:13 PM on October 21, 2010

You need a secure composter that animals cannot get into. See if your local cooperative extension office sells them cheap, or check out your local farm and garden retailer.
posted by mareli at 1:17 PM on October 21, 2010

Would burning foodstuff be an option? It is often quite soggy.

Yes, it would burn just fine if there was enough combustible material in the fire; a good trash fire can get hot enough to vaporize most of the water content. However again that gets into a problematic area because a lot of the thermal energy from most common rural trash fires comes from plastics and packaging, and as mentioned those things are not really the best things to be burning, ecologically or long-term-healthwise. If it were me and I was in a pinch, I would probably sort the trash into (A) an inaccessible compost pile and (B) plastics and packaging which get taken to the dump. I haven't really thought it through, though, so others might have some better ideas.
posted by crapmatic at 1:18 PM on October 21, 2010

Response by poster: probably going to involve you futzing around

Hence the user name! I can recycle most items except the wet gloopy stuff.

mareli, wouldn't the critters still be able to smell it and hang around rubbing their little paws together in anticipation?
posted by futz at 1:19 PM on October 21, 2010

Best answer: My father-in-law lives in a very rural area of Georgia (population less than 300) and he has to cart his trash to the county dump. They charge 50 cents per bag (Hefty trash bag or whatever). Might be worth looking into for your area.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:26 PM on October 21, 2010

Chickens will eat all your food scraps and provide you with eggs, though if you are in the right climate I highly recommend raising Muscovy ducks - they don't require a full pond, they produce rich eggs and yummy meat, they eat bugs and aren't predated by larger birds as often as chickens. Basically add some animal to deal with your food waste. A goat would work but is primarily a grass/hay eating animal, and also they're pack animals so to have a happy goat you should buy more than one. For the effort to value ratio of disposing scraps, in my observations this year nothing beats a chicken or duck.

If you don't want to go the animal route, go with the indirect animal route, compost. With raccoons, I love the idea of a chain link dog pen for compost protection - that will keep those sneaky b's out, bury some finer mesh below ground level to discourage the smaller digging animals and you'll avoid most problems. Depending on your style of composter (simple pile method, fully enclosed composter) the smells will range, but in general the food doesn't hang around for a long time before the worms and bacteria break it down. And if you add wisely (add the food to the middle of the pile versus throwing it all on top, add leaves on top afterwards) you further minimize the smells. A true good compost pile doesn't reek or smell hardly enough to encourage animals to hang around.

Look at your local dump rules and regulations. My local dump allows free dropoff on the last Saturday of each month, as well as during two set 'clean up' periods during the year.
posted by Meagan at 1:27 PM on October 21, 2010

We have this sealed composting tumbler and have not had problems with animals.

We still end up using our garbage disposal (on septic, bad, I know) once or twice a week and have 1 bag of garbage after separating recyclables, but maybe that will help you scale down safely.
posted by rabidsegue at 1:31 PM on October 21, 2010

I live in the country too and pay for my trash pickup.

I called the company one day and told them they were too expensive and wanted to pay less. They lowered my bill by having me pay for a year in advance (saved 20%).

I also compost, a lot. Like almost a gallon a day of peels, grounds, shells...

We also recycle, a lot.
posted by bricksNmortar at 1:39 PM on October 21, 2010

Response by poster: I do have a disposal that my cousin sent me that I could install. He said no problem to use with a septic but that goes against everything that I have read.

You guys are inspiring me. Goats and duck and chickens, Oh vey! And the initial cost of setting up an enclosure and housing is cost prohibitive at this point.

So far I am thinking:
1) I need to call the city dump and see what they charge.
2) Recycle more.
3) Look into a compost solution.
4) Perhaps shop around for a cheaper garbage disposal company.

I was stymied and (very) worried about money (unemployed) so thanks for freeing up my brain.
More ideas welcome!
posted by futz at 1:47 PM on October 21, 2010

+1 to composting in conjunction with recycling.

The only thing that gets into our Gedye compost bin is bugs (and I'm ok with that since it's a slow compost heap anyway). If things are getting into your heap and you're getting offensive odors simply add more materials in between additions, improve your turning strategy, and/or go with a closed system or a sturdy bin instead of a pile/cage/stack.

One trick I've learned is to, every so often, buy/obtain gardensoil/manure and turn it into the pile to aid the end product, cut down on what little odor there is, and speed things up a bit. I've seen how-tos on constructing your own with a cheap plastic garbage can with the bottom cut out. We got our bin from the local utilities company for wholesale price in their once yearly "buy a semi tractor full of them and sell to customers" deal.

With that and recycling we've cut our waste steam by 2/3 at least. The leftover 1/3 is mostly non recyclable plastics.

Disclaimer: I'm composting very little meats and dairy simply because if you're composting those things then you're wasting food anyway and doing something wrong in the kitchen. Bones don't seem to provide any problem if boiled/very clean/in reasonable amounts.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:54 PM on October 21, 2010

This may squick you out but in the summer, I avoid attracting raccoons by keeping wet compostibles in the freezer until garbage day. I put the stuff in as I create it, so it's not like there's anything rotten and stinky frozen in there. Maybe you could use a chest freezer to hold them between garbage dump runs?
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:55 PM on October 21, 2010

Do you have a neighbor that you can split the cost of trash service with? One of you can just drop off at the end of the other's driveway on the right day.

Definitely look into the dump. I did it this way once, and paid about 1/10 the cost of what trash service would have been because I paid by the bag and I was only a one-person household.
posted by zizania at 1:57 PM on October 21, 2010

Please don't burn your trash. It is gross, polluting and illegal in most places. In Florida, for example, it is legal to burn yard waste (grass clippings, downed branches, etc), provided you:

1- Call Forestry and get permission (comes with an ID number)
2- State that you have a plan to deal with control problems - lots of water under high pressure, or a Bobcat and plenty of dirt
3- A barrel or pit to keep your fire contained

It is illegal in many states to burn anything *other* than yard waste, including (and they usually say so in large letters on the state website) household garbage and paper. I live on five acres in rural North Florida and all my neighbors burn their household trash, all the time. It is so awful to have your windows open on a lovely summer/fall/spring/mild winter night and have the fumes of someone's trash fire fill the house because they burn - no lie - all day and all night. I don't mean the same person all the time - they burn in shifts.

I don't know why, because the landfill is CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP. It's like $.50/bag for household and like $25/ton (same). When I carry my pickup like sagging full after 3-4 months, it costs like 8 bucks.

(Interesting side note: My landfill is now a transfer station to the Union County landfill operated in cooperation with the University of Florida. The UCo dump percolates water and leacheate through the pile to facilitate decomposition and also pulls off methane - I have heard they use some of it to heat water for the laundry at Raiford Prison.)

So please, please, please, take your trash to the landfill. You will probably only need your driver license or utility bill, or maybe no ID, just about $5/month.
posted by toodleydoodley at 1:57 PM on October 21, 2010

Yeah, burning plastics is bad for your health and the environment, but if you end up with some woody/paper type things every month or so, I'd still go for it.

My folks have a compost bin and the only thing that has successfully gotten "in" besides bugs is the bear that was picking the whole thing up so it could get to pile underneath. Though they were throwing corn cobs way off in the back forty, as those seemed too attractive to raccoons. They bungee the lid on the compost. I keep my compost in the fridge to cut down on fruit flies and the number of trips I have to make out with it.

If you compost, recycle, and burn, the amount of trash that you'll have for a dump run will be minuscule. I have a coworker who goes every two months.
posted by ldthomps at 2:19 PM on October 21, 2010

Response by poster: bonobothegreat, GREAT idea. Yes, I have a chest freezer.

toodleydoodley, I have only used my burn barrel 3 times in 8 years and only for downed branches. I even felt guilty for that. So burning would really not be an option for me unless I was totally desperate and even then it would be for cardboard items. Rest easy!
posted by futz at 2:22 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

A compost heap composed of raw vegetable food waste should not attract vermin. Teabags are also fine. Eggshells are also ok. Coffee grounds start getting into the Great Compost Debate, but that's mostly the gardening side rather than the vermin issue so, coffee grounds are ok. Depending on available resources (random bits of wood vs some money) the easiest way to get this kind of compost heap is to either make one out of old pallets and some planks (and some posts for the corners if you're doing it properly and not involving cable ties in any way), or to buy one of those plastic bins with a lid but no bottom.

For cooked food ... well, there are actually chickens involved for a lot of it. But for other cooked food, and for places that are chickenless, my family has a thing called a green cone, which is terribly popular with UK councils so we got ours free because yay, reducing landfill etc. They're basically like one of the bottomless bin things*, with the addition of a plastic mesh basket that's dug into the ground. The idea is that this keeps the vermin out. Hmm. Ours has chicken wire wrapped round the basket to give it a little bit more help. It's been running for multiple years now and doesn't smell bad, but on the other hand we don't have the same kind of predators here so I don't know how it would stand up to them.

*On reading my own link, apparently it's supposed to work by some solar heating thing and is more complicated than that. whatever.
posted by Lebannen at 2:24 PM on October 21, 2010

If money is an issue then spending gas money to haul stuff to the dump every week isn't going to be too helpful. Not to mention that vehicle emissions aren't much better than the smoke from fire. Recycle what you can, compost what you can, and burn/bury the rest.
posted by JJ86 at 2:25 PM on October 21, 2010

You can also compost kitchen scraps indoors. As someone else mentioned, if you are doing it right (no meat etc) it doesn't smell so this is actually a pretty common thing. Search "indoor composting" on google and you should find alot.
posted by Busmick at 2:38 PM on October 21, 2010

Best answer: I have friends with a green cone. It does attract curious animals but you can keep it away from the house. It really does seem to work well. See if there's a local place that does any sort of composting of yard/food wastes, there might be one. Check into local burning regulations. Get a PO Box and get rid of all your junk mail by recycling it right at the PO. Bring home as little stuff that you will need to toss out as possible. Work hard to buy stuff with little packaging, re-use or recycle boxes and paper and other things with multiple uses. You can give jars and other stuff that isn't just trash to the local thrift stores.

I'm one person living alone and I pretty much go to the dump once a month and have a bag so small they charge me half price. I recycle and reuse a lot and do the freezer/compost trick to avoid fruit flies. We have a tumbling container for compost so no animal problems.
posted by jessamyn at 2:39 PM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: wkearney99, Did you read any of my posts?

I only put out one 13 gallon bag of trash a week plus maybe some cardboard and a plastic gallon of milk that won't fit into the bag. I know some of the other neighbors consolidate so that may be a work around. As to vehicle emissions, I am not really worried about that b/c I can go to the dump (5 miles) and incorporate any other errand at the same time.

Thanks everyone.
posted by futz at 3:17 PM on October 21, 2010

If you already have raccoons and skunks that are aggressive, they might hurt chickens. Chickens can also be really, really messy, so if you try that route just be prepared for it.

Check out for DIY composters. There are a lot of ways you can make your own, both sealed and open at the top.

Our county dump doesn't charge anything if you're a county resident, which is nice.
posted by galadriel at 4:52 PM on October 21, 2010

you're probably decided by now, but what about using composting worms? I have red wigglers that eat everything but citrus, alliums (onions/garlic) and meat-product wastes. Worms require cardboard and clean paper scraps, too, so that's also useful.

if it were my plastic milk jugs, I'd be recycling them for "cloche" applications in the garden.

if you already have problems with varmints/critters you don't want to get chickens!
posted by ChefJoAnna at 7:42 PM on October 21, 2010

Seconding the idea of reducing the amount of non-compostable stuff you allow into your home - recycling is great, but it's still something that has to be managed. Get some reuseable bags for shopping, maybe a few smaller ones for delicate or small fruit and veg; buy in bulk; and make a point of choosing products that have the fewest layers of wrapping. It really reduces the amount of stuff you have to get rid of later on. Get your name off the junk mail lists, too, if possible.
posted by harriet vane at 3:11 AM on October 22, 2010

I've also started composting indoors. Totally do-able.
posted by kryptonik at 6:13 AM on October 22, 2010

Do you mow any part of your land? In all the above discussions of composting, I'm only seeing kitchen scraps mentioned. I compost, and the bulk of my pile is yard waste (grass, leaves, old garden plants). When I put my kitchen scraps in the pile, I bury it under a layer of composting grass and it's gone in a day or 2. No critters.
posted by CathyG at 7:11 AM on October 22, 2010

You might be able to take your garbage to a neighbor and pay a small portion of their garbage bill. Generally with garbage collection you get a massive bin and the cost is the same for a full bin or a mostly empty bin. If you have a neighbor who doesn't fill their bin, you could add your garbage to their pile.
posted by countrymod at 7:26 AM on October 22, 2010

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