I have very little, if any, in the way of "trash" or waste.
I burn anything made of paper or cardboard either to heat the house or to heat Mr. Thermo. I'll explain him later.
Glass, aluminum and steel are all recycled at the local "Recycle Bin" provided by my county in hopes to keep reusable stuff out of the landfill.
Mr. Thermo -- I use thermogenesis to degrade plastic into its chemical building blocks, which are petroleum-based products on the whole and some gasses. Plastic is heated in a sealed steel container (15 gallon steel drum with lid squeezed on SUPER tight) to form an "anaerobic" condition that "reduces" the plastic instead of "oxidizing" it. The effluent gasses, some of which are hydrogen and some carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide all pass through a cold-water bath and are made to 'bubble up' through the cold water, which condenses them and the individual constituents "crack" off much the same as in a petroleum "cracking tower". It's called "fractional distillation" when used in an industrial setting. I just call it "Mr. Thermo" but then again, I'm nearly 70 and live way out in the sticks in north Texas on my ranch.
What's left is basically "oil" and some naptha and some alcohols, esters and so on. At any rate, it's all FLAMMABLE and if you filter it, it will run a lawn mower or an emergency generator and it makes a dandy weed killer (but don't tell anyone I told you that). I also have used it in my rocket stove by letting it "drip" into the burn chamber once a fire is ignited and it creates a MAMMOTH amount of heat.
Wondering about the "wet nastys"? They all go to the compost pile along with the poop and pee from my composting toilet, which undergo "thermophyllic" degradation (130 to 160 degrees F) to remove all the pathogens and ultimately wind up feeding the grasses in my pastures (i.e. no reason to buy fertilizers).
I am far from zero waste but feeling much better at how I'm doing of late. I have a small trash basket in the kitchen (used to have one of those 30 gallon plastic things with a flip-up lid at our old house) and I typically don't have to take out the small bag (Oh, God, I use those plastic grocery bags for trash... ) until a couple weeks have passed.
As I drove south this past week, I stared in wonder at the big trash bins on the curb overflowing with trash bags. I know I have so much to learn still about re-use and reduction, but the fact that so many people live in apparent thoughtlessness about the trash being generated is amazing to me. Now that I'm rural, I have to cart my trash to the local dump site. Maybe we should all have to take our trash to the dump ourselves - it brings enlightenment to the amount of garbage that exists. And to how much you are personally contributing.
Here's some of what I do with waste:
~ recycle my cardboard (much of it going into the yard as lasagna garden)
~ burn the paper trash (great Rocket Stove starter material - burned an old 1040 tax booklet the other day and that made me feel good - hope I appreciate it as much when my income is so small as to hopefully not require paying taxes)
~ compost the wastes from my body back into the earth (no wasted potable water on flushing crap - except when I'm in concrete world and have to use the facilities that use this crazy technique)
~ cart out the packaging I'm still reliant upon for food stuffs.
I kick myself for the trash I do make but I have to hug myself right after in realizing how much better I'm doing than I used to do. I'm challenging myself to keep trying to do less (packaging, shopping, consuming) so I can do more for our natural systems. As life moves for me from suburban living to rural homesteading, I'm finding much for which to be grateful and a part of it is being more cognizant of my waste footprint.
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I'm not waste free yet either, but I track my waste by stockpiling it in the shed, until I make my annual trip to the transfer station with my one sack of actual garbage, and various sorted recyclables. This gives me a year to find a use for things--corrugated cardboard for pathway mulch; thin cardboard for cutting out templates, patterns, tag labels and tent cards; office paper can be used to make handmade "art" papers, which I've sold; and feed sacks (I still buy livestock feed) are a wonderful source of kraft paper, and also serve as bags to hold said recyclables.
Veggie waste is composted; meat bones get brothed, then burned, then (formerly) composted, until I read that ash is problematic in the compost and/or in the garden; and I've been composting humanure for a couple of years, now.
In the community, one lady I know recycles old jeans for various sewing projects; another takes old woollen garments to pull apart for felting projects, so that's where those items go, when even I admit that they're thrashed. There's a group in the next town that makes rag rugs. The parent advisory committee has a refundable bottle drop-off, and takes donated bottles to the bottle depot and collects the funds for optional extras for the schoolkids. The community garden accepts veggie scraps for its compost; the local café is happy to donate their kitchen trimmings. The local newsletter and noticeboards often have "free to a good home" notices for various things. There is almost an underground economy in pallets and clean planks. We have one lady who'll take and tan unwanted hides, and another who will maintain your fruittrees for a share of the fruit, some of which she puts up for sale. And I will scrounge burn piles for building materials.
What goes in my garbage? Broken glass, uncoded plastics, plastic-lined paper bags and paint rags which are neither recyclable, compostable, or burnable; worn out Styrofoam egg crates that people include with the cardboard ones they give me; and unidentifiable objects.
One thing I didn't mention in my reply post above, but since reading some more of the posts following mine is, CARDBOARD, CHIPBOARD and PAPER can all be eaten by earthworms, specifically 'nematoda fetada' (sp?) -- at any rate, red wrigglers and night crawlers. Just put cardboard and chipboard on the ground, weight it with something like a 2 x 4 or a rock at each corner and hose it down. Mr. Worm will eat it at an alarming rate from below. Oh, and don't mention this within earshot of Mr. Worm, but Mr. Catfish loves to feed on Mr. Earthworm. Yes, I eat worms: I just "process" them through Mr. Catfish first. Ha ha
THIS, by the way, is also a good method of harvesting earthworms too. If you are quick enough to snag a few before they head back into the ground after you lift up the moist cardboard (they HATE light), you can transfer them to your other worm bins. Worms also eat wet nastys, but I don't feed them pee or poo, that's Mr. Composter's job.
At any rate, you don't have to burn ALL he paper combustibles. Use some to help out your local earthworm.
A quick word on ASH -- I like to barbecue a lot and I live on the plains of North Texas. If you've ever visited North Texas, you'll likely have noticed WIND is in no short supply; it's always blowing. So, I take the ash from the barby and cast it into the air, such that the prevailing winds broadcast it all over my front, side or rear yards. I have St. Augustine grass, by the way. The grass LOVES it and grows thick and lush. One other thing of noteworthiness here, if you've got the balls, in the winter, you can actually "light" or ignite the lawn and burn it off. No worries, it'll return IN SPADES. Like I said, lawn grass LOVES ash.
Well, that's about all I know about that.
Nothing difficult is ever easy!
Look! I laid an egg! Why does it smell like that? Tiny ad, does this smell weird to you?