Dealing With Discards: Exactly Where is ‘AWAY’?

by Tammy Taylor~

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Recently RancherMan & I were talking about things that have impacted us strongly over the years.  I recounted how an article I’d read decades ago kick-started my fledgling environmental bend into high gear.  Oh yes decades ago, way before worrying about the environment was the fashionable thing to do!

I’d read a story about how people throw things ‘away‘ never thinking about where AWAY actually was.  Yep, that broken whatzit is chunked into the trash as you tidily dust off your hands & walk off.  Then the trash bag is bundled up and placed on the curb.  A large garbage truck comes & takes it away.  Yep, it’s gone.  Taken care of.  Cleaned up.  It’s taken away.  But where is this mythical place of AWAY?

As I explained the premise of that article to RancherMan he shook his head enthusiastically and said that’s a viewpoint not often thought about. Everybody thinks they’ve taken care of a problem by throwing things away without really thinking about who really deals with the problem you’ve just passed on.  He begged me to write this post, so this is for him…

A garbage truck comes & hauls your discards away. Yep, it's gone. Taken care of. Cleaned up. But where is this mythical place of AWAY? #TaylorMadeHomestead

First Problem of Away: The Landfill

By now you know that ‘away’ isn’t a mythical place where beautiful rivers run and butterflies float lazily in blue skies & flower-scented air.  It often means the landfill.  Now I’ve not visited a landfill in years, and I only use my own photography on this blog.  So I have no image of a landfill to show you, to bring home the emotion I’d like to impart.  But I really don’t think it’s needed – you’ve all seen it.  It’s the landfill.  A multi-million-dollar problem to any city.  Mountains of stinking, rotting trash that become a bigger & more expensive problem every year.

Oh sure we can feel better knowing we’ve cleaned up our own living space by neatly tossing that discarded item in the trash.  But by sending it ‘away‘ we’ve certainly not made the problem disappear.  We’ve just moved responsibility of dealing with it to someone else.  Make no mistake, it remains a part of a growing problem.  It never disappears, it just stacks upon yesterday’s trash and the day before, and the day before, and…

What About The Garbage Disposal?

But it’s not always about the trash can & household goods.  What about your garbage disposal?  Yep, you shove those potato peels down the sink drain and flip on the garbage disposal switch.  The motor roars into action and a stream of water flushes the undesirable material ‘away‘.  Done & done!  But… where does it go?

Whelp, any plumber will cringe over the massive amounts of food waste many people attempt to flush through their plumbing pipes.  If you’re lucky enough that it doesn’t clog your drains over the years, those ground-up solids are flushed to the municipal water district who has to deal with it, filtering out the solids and disposing of them as they work to purify the water.

So manpower (and our tax dollars) are being wasted because of the way we chose to make it go ‘away’.  We tell ourselves there’s no need to deal with it ourselves by composting, the garbage disposal helps make it all disappear magically.  Out of sight, out of mind, right?  I’m not casting stones here now.  I spent years cramming things down the garbage disposal until I read the aforementioned article a long time ago.

A garbage truck comes & hauls your discards away. Yep, it's gone. Taken care of. Cleaned up. But where is this mythical place of AWAY? It's easy to use a composter or just compost on the ground. #TaylorMadeHomestead

Balloons Floating ‘AWAY’

And what about those balloon releases that seem to be popular these days?  Oh how I wish people who participate in balloon releases would stop & think about the final destination of all those balloons. Sure the crowd can enjoy those few fleeting seconds of feel-good warm fuzzies as they watch all those balloons float ‘awayinto the blue sky.  But do they stay in the sky forever?  Of course not!  They all come down eventually, either hanging up in the trees or twisting & snagging on fences.  Or sometimes just discarded beside our roadways or clogging our creeks and streams.

Balloon releases - we watch them float up & away. Do they stay in the sky forever? Of course not! They come back down as trash. #TaylorMadeHomestead

Oftentimes these balloons will float down into our pastures where they’re potentially deadly for our cows when they pick up a balloon’s string along with their next bite of grass.  But no matter where these balloons land make no mistake, they’re trash for someone else to deal with!

There Are Better (And Often EASIER) Options

The point of this article isn’t to shame anyone nor make someone feel bad about their actions.  It’s simply to get the ole gears a-movin’ to get us all thinking of better ways to do things.  Perhaps ‘away‘ is something that you’ve never even considered before.  Now’s a good time to consider it though.

Think about where ‘AWAY‘ is in your own household. 

Thank about it – when we send something away are we really taking care of a problem, or just pushing the problem to someone else to take care of?  Oftentimes the result of making something go away is really not much different than someone who rolls down their car window & tosses out that empty bag of fast food.  Sure their car is nice & clean now, but the trash problem hasn’t been solved at all.  And the responsibility of dealing with it has just been forced upon someone else.

Is there an easier and hopefully more environmentally-friendly way to deal with the problem?  Of course there is!

Some Suggestions

Instead of throwing away your unused items, donate them for yet another life in another home.  If you donate to your favorite charitable thrift store they’ll sell your unused items and raise money for the causes you believe in. Now those dishes you’re tired of will be a delightful change for someone else’s table!  You’ve removed unused items from your home, your charity gets a little financial boost and someone else gets to enjoy affordable & new-to-them items for their own home.  Plus  those items you no longer needed weren’t discarded & sent to the landfill.  How awesome is all of that??

And Instead of shoving those potato peels through your garbage disposal, put them into a compost pile where they can decompose and become that coveted natural black-gold compost fertilizer for your flowers.  We have a convenient *Tumbling Composter for our compost bin here on the Homestead, but really all you need is a pile on the ground to make compost!  Then no water was needed to flush potato peels down, (and no plumber’s bill to be paid when he unclogs those pipes).  No solid waste from those ground-up potato peels had to be filtered out & removed by the city, and you get free natural compost for healthier plants that require less watering.  All.  Good.  Stuff.

What about this?  Instead of watching a balloon float away to honor a loved one, plant a small tree in his or her honor.  We’ve done this many times here at the Homestead.  A Magnolia tree was planted for a fine southern gentleman friend of mine, a cedar tree for my grandmother who loved them so, an evergreen shrub for another loved one and a rose bush in yet another family member’s memory.

If you plant something in memory of someone you love, then it will remain as an ever-visible living monument to honor them for years to come. If you have the space you can even plant a memorial garden right in your own yard.  How much more meaningful is that beautiful daily reminder of someone special than a few fleeting seconds of watching a balloon float out of sight?

So there are just a few examples to thing about. The good news is that it only takes thinking a bit to solve a trash problem.  But more importantly there are solutions that also create opportunities or extra value elsewhere!  I know we can all do better if we just take a moment to think outside the box.

~TMH~

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4 thoughts on “Dealing With Discards: Exactly Where is ‘AWAY’?

  1. Lori Martin

    I love this post! What I find really frustrating is planned obsolescence in consumer goods, particularly appliances. I have been able to drastically reduce our household waste and it no longer seems like a chore. We maintain and service our appliances but even if we get more years than expected- such waste when they need to be replaced. However, I just spent a week trying to unsuccessfully repair a vacuum cleaner. The waste from the packaging on the new one was greater than a month of our normal garbage. I wish there was a good way to put pressure on manufacturers for higher quality. It seems like washers and dryers now have about 40 functions ‘you can’t live without’ but the machine has a 3-5 year lifespan. No thanks.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Homestead Post author

      You’re so right Lori and the disposable-appliance conversation is one that RancherMan & I talk about often. Heck, our parents had a refrigerator, dishwasher, washing machine, etc for decades, often only replacing because the trendy avocado green was no longer trendy! RancherMan & I bought all of our appliances brand new in 2008 and we’ve already had to replace our expensive counter-depth refrigerator. And we’ve had to order parts to repair our microwave numerous times already. And as we speak, the oven is on the fritz. It’s almost like consumers now accept that manufacturers will build non-lasting products with a short usable life. Like you, I wish we could put the pressure on manufacturers to build products meant to last like they used to! ~TMH~

      Reply
  2. Mrs Shoes

    We’ve never had a garbage disposal – no need. Instead we have pigs & chickens & rabbits, & horses, & dogs, & cats &, betwixt us & all of them, not much of anything food related goes to waste. When I make a meal, it is almost always with leftovers on purpose. Many years ago now Mr Shoes hit a ‘sandwich wall’ and has since demanded a full meal (2 on double shifts) that he can heat & eat at his off the farm job. He uses reusable containers for his food and a special hot mug for his coffee. We separate our garbage into recyclables (there is a section for everything at our local dump), burn barrel stuff, and real trash. We only have to burn &/or haul away once every 4 to 6 weeks with just the 2 of us, and most of what goes to the dump is our recyclables (which they collect & sell). When Mr Shoes DOES go to the dump, he always has his eye open for something reusable; he salvaged all the tin we needed to side our cattle & pig shelters FROM the dump. I reuse feed bags to cover my gardens in winter, and also as ‘catch alls’ under the bunny cages – the haul from the catch alls goes right into the gardens, the rest of the bunny waste (mostly soiled hay) goes into the compost where it’s hot enough to kill seeds. Chicken waste goes to fertilize my fruit trees. Pig waste seems to disintegrate into the ground, but a few times a year we replace the straw in their shelter, even though they do not eliminate where they nap. We drag the pastures so that horse & cattle dung breaks up quickly and goes back as fertilizer. I reuse the plastic that toilet paper comes wrapped in as garbage bags (I refuse to use cloth wipes & launder them, thank you). I reuse as many boxes as come into the house to package Christmas gifts, or to pack meat for gifting (we support some family members, whether they appreciate that….?), etc. If I get too big a collection of boxes, then I fill them with stuff I don’t need & send them to the thrift store. We have also found & cleaned up a number of what we call “farmer dumps” from the old days when folks just piled stuff up and buried it in rocks and let Mother Nature reclaim it (most of Los Angeles was built in the same manner, I think). I’m glad those days are done and that we do have a dump to haul AWAY to for the little bit of actual garbage that we send there. It’s good to be mindful of our imprint on the planet – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Homestead Post author

      It sounds like you’ve also considered where ‘away’ is, Mrs. Shoes. Great job lowering your footprint! We’ve located the ‘farmer dump’ on our own property as well. We gathered up all the metal & hauled it to the metal recycling company. We also gathered up the massive quantities of glass and hauled it to the recycling company. But I’ve kept some of the old discards that I use in my home such as intact canning jars (Properly labeled so they won’t accidentally be used for canning or food storage), a lovely old porcelain pitcher, etc. I feel a quiet connection with the generations that lived here before us when I see & use those things from so long ago. ~TMH~

      Reply

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