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Minimal waste society

In nature everything is recycled. From fallen leaves, uneaten food, half eaten food, dead bodies, animal waste, etc. everything in nature has a role in the cycle of live on this planet. As the dominant species on this planet we have forced changes and created items that do not fit very well into this life cycle. Unnatural items such as metal and plastics made synthetically don’t always degrade in a decent time frame. We handle this issue but putting those items in massive landfills and simply bury them and then rather than create a multi tier system, which is wasteful, we also put all our biodegradable stuff in with that waste to make waste handling and collection easier. This is wasting some of the planets resources needlessly and our society is far from efficient with our resources.

Lately though there is a massive push towards sustainability and recycling where our waste collection system has been revamped, made much more expensive and yet still does not encompass our needs. Things are changing and suppliers reducing their packaging, and our waste, is one of them while we change our lifestyle to adapt, not to nature, but to our governments will. Our society still produces too much waste and although improving is far from a minimal waste society.

Now, even without an event we can improve our waste disposal habits significantly and make our waste requirements less of an impact on others by looking at what we did in the past. We didn’t have that any waste we couldn’t handle ourselves. We can’t return to those days but we can look and learn what they did and reduce our waste to the bare minimum. After an event we will have to handle all our waste. The leap from now to then is big from where we can be though would make handling the waste much easier. We can be a minimal waste producer as individuals. It’ll also save on taxes. Whoo Hoo. Well at least until they catch on anyway.

So where do we start?

In general our waste falls into the following categories and as you will see most of our waste is recyclable. For my house the waste is (in quantity order);

  • Packaging waste (Mixed)
  • Water waste (Recyclable)
  • Food waste (All recyclable)
  • Garden waste (Recyclable)
  • Paper waste (Recyclable)
  • Toilet waste (Recyclable)
  • Cooking waste (Recyclable)
  • Toiletries waste (Mixed)
  • Cleaning waste (Mixed)
  • Animal waste (Recyclable)
  • Car waste (Mixed)
  • Clothing waste (Recyclable)
  • Equipment waste (Mixed)

Packaging waste
Cardboard and paper packaging can be reused where possible and when finished with recycled in the composter.
Plastics and Tins can be recycled via a third party or even the local council.
Polystyrene packaging should be utilised in projects or as a last resort binned.

Water waste
Water waste is more complicated. It can be reused until it has chemicals in it where it is best used on the garden. This deserves an article on its own which will come later.

Food waste
All food waste is recyclable via your composter.

Garden waste
All garden waste can be composted as well. Shred the large items before you put in the composter. You must ensure though that weed seeds are destroyed. This is usually done by putting weeds into a black bin bag for a year or two until they turn into a paste. This can then be put on the composter.

Paper waste
Ordinary paper waste like local papers, letters, bills, etc. can be shredded and used as animal bedding. Alternatively it can be composted. Shiny flyers and plastic sheets can be recycled via a third party or even the local council.

Toilet waste
The controversial one. Solid toilet waste can be recycled via a composting toilet while liquid toilet waste can be applied directly on the garden. Try not to wet the berries. This also deserves an article on its own which can be found here.

Cooking waste
This is oil, fat and grease. Oils can be reused for candles and light. Fats and grease can be reused as bait for animals or to grease hinges etc. At the worst it can be put in the composter.

Toiletries waste
Some packaging can be reused to hold your home made versions of products such as soap etc.
The packaging that cannot can usually be recycled via a third party or even the local council.
Most of the chemicals in toiletries are not reusable or garden friendly and should be binned.

Cleaning waste
Some packaging can be reused to hold your home made versions of products such as soap etc.
The packaging that cannot can usually be recycled via a third party or even the local council.
Some cleaning items such as clothes, scourers, etc. can be reused in the garden as rags or other tools.
Most of the chemicals in cleaning chemicals are not reusable or garden friendly and should be binned.

Animal waste
Animal waste, like human waste is recyclable in the human composter. Beware of items like cat litter which have chemicals in to remove the smell. Cat litter can not be composted and must be binned. Avoid using it.

Car waste
Oils, fuel and other fluids from cars can be reused. Even heavily used oil can be reused and should be retained. Also some are hydroscopic and care should be taken to ensure that if reused it is safe. At the worst it should be binned.
Car components can be put on other cars and broken parts should be scrapped via a scrap metal dealer.

Clothing waste
Clothing can be passed down and patches applied until it is of no more use. It can then be used as rags until it is of no more use when it can be composted or binned bepending on what the rags were used for.

Equipment waste
Most equipment can be reused by cannibalising parts and fixing things up. Working parts can be reused until they are no more, casings and components can be reused for other projects. Any items of no further use should be scrapped via a scrap metal dealer.

As you can see most things we throw away are of further use. At the moment we are in a throw away society. We need to change that and reduce our costs by reuse. If you don’t have a composter make one now and if you don’t have a toilet composter look at getting one and using it if it is practical for your needs.

8 comments to Minimal waste society

  • fred

    What do you think of these electric mulchers, which chop up garden refuse? Should they be solar powered, if used at all?

  • Skean Dhude

    I think the mulchers are handy to have. Certainly useful for tree branches and the like. Heavy duty ones will also be useful for burglars and the like.

    I would envisage that you could get one solar powered for low power use but it may have a problem with the heavy stuff and bones. That could create a problem until solar power efficiency improves.

  • zenboy

    hi guys …..i am new here…..just wanted to share some experience i had with worms……….i did some work for a guy with an organic cafe and he was trying to grow his own food in pots in his garden…….over a period of months we changed the pots to raised beds and inserted a healthy handful of worms ……i put into the beds some old 4 inch pipe with a cap on it for easy access and put the organic veggy waste into it once a week……..the worms stole it and left all their worm casts in the soil and fed the plants…….they even ate the roots of the plants after they were cut for food………i also put some pipes around the beds at the bottom with an access point at the top …….i just poured rain water in once a week and i ” felt ” that the soil liked the extra air that came down the pipe…….found a lot of worm casts in the pipe later as well…….i had a mental image of the worms waiting in the pipe and being washed around the pipes just for fun…….but maybe it just scared the crap out of them ? maybe someone more knowledgeable could help me out here .thanks t

  • Skean Dhude

    Zenboy,

    Welcome.

    If I remember correctly worms create tunnels in the soil that provide air and water to the plant roots. So I suspect that what you are doing is good for the plants. Putting kitchen waste in tubes is like a mini composter so that would be good too. I’ve not hear of it before but it actually makes sense.

    Anyone else tried this?

  • zenboy

    Hi skean…..just to clarify…… the tube for the waste was really just a way of getting it into the ground and sealing it so the flies didnt mess with it first…..then the worms find it and eat it…….i used to put it through a blender so that the particles were as small as possible to make it easy for the worms…..it used to disappear over night…….actually the worms prefer it if the food is rotting or rotten……. because at this point they are feeding on the bacteria and sludge…….if you think about it anything that dies and falls to the ground will be food for the worms….unless something else has it first…….

  • Skean Dhude

    Zenboy,

    I guessed as much but didn’t think you would blend it. It would make it quicker to compost when in the raised bed which would benefit the plant. Although I wonder if there would be a benefit of shredding if it was going in a compost bin due to the energy required to do so. Personally, I would look at putting most waste in the composter unshredded and putting softer and rotten waste in the raised bed tubes.

    Still sounds like a good tip.

  • im using your information for a class project

  • Skean Dhude

    Maria,

    Welcome. let us know how it goes. Good luck.

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