Monday, March 17, 2014

One man's trash, another man's treasure?

I never really gave trash much thought. When you're done with something you throw it in a big plastic container that's placed at the end of the curb, right? Seems simple enough until you are confronted with heaps of trash in the woods!

My husband, Andrew, and I moved into our home in early fall of last year. When we viewed the home for buying in late summer, the woods were thick with greenery and vegetation. After moving in, we couldn't wait to go exploring in the woods and begin cleaning things up around the yard. Unfortunately the woods were outlined with poison ivy so we had to wait until winter when all the vegetation died. In late January, we put on our cold weather gear and trucked into the woods for the first time! As we walked in we noticed bits and pieces of trash. The further we walked the more trash we found until we came across a hug heap that sprawled through the center of the wooded area. We found everything from paint cans, mattress springs, motor oil cans, and milk jugs. There was even a grill and a filing cabinet. As the digging began we found parts to an entire car! We began pulling the trash out of the woods and making a pile in our yard. 

Andrew and I began formulating a plan for how to dispose of all this junk. You can't just throw a grill into your trash bin at the end of the curb! Many questions began floating through our minds. How do we dispose of toxic waste such as paint, motor oil, and antifreeze? What about car parts and tires? Mattress springs anyone? Through our research we found some interesting information. 

The first plan of attack is to order a dumpster from our trash service. Most trash services offer dumpster rentals. The dumpster size is based on yards and as the size goes up so does the price. I contacted our trash service and the secretary suggested a 12 or 15 yard dumpster for our clean up. The only items that absolutely cannot be thrown in the dumpster are car tires and hazardous waste products such as paint, motor oil, asbestos, batteries, propane tanks, household cleaners, etc. So now that we have a plan for the majority of the trash, what do we do with all that hazardous waste?

Thankfully the county we live in is part of a solid waste district that handles hazardous waste. Four times a year (twice in the spring and twice in the fall), this district holds an event at the local fairgrounds where people can bring such items as household cleaners, batteries, electronics, appliances, and any other forms of toxic waste. The only items they charge for is automobile tires and televisions, otherwise, the only money asked for is a donation. To find out if there is a district like this in your area go to and at the top right hand corner of the page click the green button that states, "recycling guides." Once you click that a new page will emerge and as you scroll down there is a list of items. I clicked on household cleaners and it navigated me to a search engine where I enter my zip code and the site located the nearest recycling center. The one item my district will not take is paint cans. Instead they include a set of instructions on how to dispose of paint cans properly. I was thankful for that because we found many, many paint cans!

If there is still paint in the paint can then there are a few things you have to do before disposing of them. In a well ventilated area, take the lid off the can and allow the paint to completely dry out. A paint hardener can be purchased from your local hardware store and added to the paint to speed up the drying process. Once all the paint is dry, replace the lid back on the can, and throw them in your regular trash. 

Who knew that trash would be so complicated! As technology advances and new innovations and products come forth, we then have to learn what to do with the waste. Andrew and I are coming to the conclusion that using simpler products when the opportunity allows, is a better option. The simpler the product, the simpler the waste!