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Trash disposal - bury or incinerate?

 
Tom Rampart
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We recycle or compost. Of necessity (lack of resources) we waste nothing. Example, even metal caps from soda/beer bottles are hoarded, reamed for use as washers or reinforcement when driving nails. Plastic bottles are heated and melted to the below-ground portion of posts or stored in ingot form to be later cut as shims or spacers. But still there is some waste generated, such as cellophane and pasticized paper that will not compost. The options seem to be burn or bury. We incinerate, a burn barrel (bottom air feed, stovepipe chimney) with the chimney feeding into a secondary air intake on a wood-fed rocket stove in an attempt to burn (harvest) the smoke and minimize release of toxics into the atmosphere. The heat is not wasted and applied to various functions. Question: Can you suggest alternatives?
 
Rose Pinder
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Location: Otago, New Zealand
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Cellophane should compost ok. Have you tried worming farming the other things? Hmm, some ethical issues there (maybe we should store excess plastic in our own living rooms)

I always think the bury vs burn dilemma depends on one's land and location. A small number of people burning plastic is different than a whole town doing it. However it sounds like you are being very efficient. I'm curious, what can you smell coming out of the flue at the end point of the process? What does it look like?
 
Tom Rampart
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The smoke coming from the refuse burn barrel into the rocket is gray to black with a noxious chemical odor similar to the smell of road construction crews applying hot asphalt. The exhaust on the flue end of the rocket is clear, an intense heat shimmer with no visible smoke - which is not to say there are no gases, but no discernable exhaust. The 10-gallon barrel rocket uses an inverted T-burn tube. Small wood burns cleanly in the main fuel/air intake of the T. When the rocket is hot, the burn barrel is ignited and the exhaust chimneyed into the 2nd air/fuel port of the rocket. There is usually 3 to 5 seconds of gray smoke turning to white smoke and then clear exhaust. As the smoke from the burn barrel flows into the hot rocket burn tube, the wood fueling the rocket can be reduced but a minimal wood fire must be maintained to combust the exhaust from the burn barrel.

After incineration, there is a crust of almost weightless charcoalish residue in the burn barrel. (Similar to the charcoal produced when burning dried manure.) That is crushed and mixed with gravel on lesser used walkways. There is no concern about impacting local air quality - we are a few thousand people in many thousands of remote acres in East Africa where most people still believe in burning crop residue instead of composting. Our concern is for doing the right/best thing by the earth and minimizing our own carbon footprint. We do not burn food grade plastics; they have their uses. Most of the burnables are plasticized paper on the outside with a thin foil interior, such as juice carton and long-life milk cartons, and other commercial packaging combining paper and clear plastic. Even the juice/milk cartons have their uses, such as quilted into a thermal blanket barrier between ceiling and roof and as solar reflectors, but eventually we run out of places to use them.

I am wondering if would be better to bale and bury them? Biodegrading is very very slow and baling would make it even slower but keep them in one small area.
 
Judith Browning
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Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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We too try to recycle what we can and reduce real waste. I have always understood that burning plastic produced really toxic gases even if you can't smell them. Here in Arkansas it is actually illegal to burn trash including paper because of dioxins mainly. We have an excellent recycling center in our county but there are still things they cannot take. In spite of trying to bring home less plastics, etc. we still end up with a bag of "trash" eventually that goes to the town compactor and then of course a landfill.
I think if you were trying to deal with all of your waste on your homestead "baling" and burying would be better than burning, even though most plastics never really biodegrade, just become smaller and smaller particles.
I am sure you have looked into other packaging options to just avoid those cartons to begin with....it is hard to do.

If you can't avoid buying something in a plastic jug or bottle, I think it is better to take it to a recycling center and send it back into the cycle. This is a topic we discuss a lot hoping to find the right answer. Five gallon plastic buckets are a huge part of our food storage, water hauling, humanure, pee buckets and feed storage but when they give out they are just trash. We have never found a reasonable substitute (and my husband is a bucket cooper).
 
Kari Gunnlaugsson
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IMHO i'd bury. Burning releases a lot of persistent organic pollutants (dioxins and many others) and heavy metals. In north america a lot of it ends up transported by a variety of mechanisms to the arctic where it accumulates in animal tissues and bio-magnifies up the food chain. We're ending up with some pretty toxic sea birds, whales, polar bears, and human breast milk in northern communities, etc. I don't know where it accumulates in your part of the world, but you can be sure it isn't just going away. When you can't breast feed your kid cause your milk is too toxic just from living in the north..well, it's a screwed up world.

I would also worry about heavy metals and who knows what in the ash residue that you are left with on your place.

It's really frustrating that materials like that are so hard to avoid in daily life, and yet so useless and wasteful. I have ended up doing a once a year trip to the landfill, it seems like the best place for it..


 
Kari Gunnlaugsson
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IMHO i'd bury. Burning releases a lot of persistent organic pollutants (dioxins and many others) and heavy metals. In north america a lot of it ends up transported by a variety of mechanisms to the arctic where it accumulates in animal tissues and bio-magnifies up the food chain. We're ending up with some pretty toxic sea birds, whales, polar bears, and human breast milk. I don't know where it accumulates in your part of the world, but you can be sure it isn't just going away. When you can't breast feed your kid cause your milk is too toxic just from living in the north..well, it's a screwed up world.

I would also worry about heavy metals and who knows what in the ash residue that you are left with on your place.

It's really frustrating that materials like that are so hard to avoid in daily life, and yet so useless and wasteful. I have ended up doing a once a year trip to the landfill, it seems like the best place for it..


 
Brenda Groth
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if you cannot avoid purchasing it, and can't recycle it, I would landfill it..

in digging on our property (although we have never buried plastic garbage here and have been here nearly 42 years) I dug up some plastic that had tangled into roots of plants I was digging up to move and holes I've dug to plant trees...it HAD TO HAVE BEEN tHERE more than 42 years..and it was still solid plastic..I don't want that stuff down there for that many generations not even starting to rot !!

I was actually emotionally ILL when I dug that crap up in the middle of my back yard..and had no idea how it got there and how much stuff might be down there from before we bought the proprety.
 
Patrick Winters
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Great topic! What recommendations do people have for glossy paper? Will a specialized worm bin handle it, or should it be buried?
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5619
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Patrick Winters wrote:Great topic! What recommendations do people have for glossy paper? Will a specialized worm bin handle it, or should it be buried?


I would take it to your local recycling center. Ours takes all paper...glossy, newsprint, magazines....just check and see what yours will accept. I don't use any colored papers for mulch, etc. because even if it is soy ink some of the pigments and paper treatments are toxic.
I have always felt like using a recycling center was more effective in dealing with waste rather than repurposing a recyclable object and ultimately having it end up in a landfill....But maybe it's just a matter of time for all plastics anyway. I am pretty sure that it was the manufacture of kitty litter that allowed recycling centers to take more kinds of paper and I guess people who use it throw it in the trash?
Our land has a "dump" from the thirties and forties...glass, rusty metal...barbed wire ...old iron stove parts...thats it.
 
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