I did not have garbage service the first three years I lived in my home. Some municipalities will not allow you to not have garbage service, but we have dumps in our area that you can take your trash to should you choose to do that. I did not.
I simply didn’t sign up for garbage service. As one person, who generally is a frugal shopper who produces little trash I deemed it unnecessary and costly. I composted my food scraps, I recycled my recyclables and any small amount of garbage I created I was able to toss in my parent’s, friend’s, or occasionally the gas station garbage. And by small, I mean small. It was about one plastic grocery sack a week. No larger than the garbage created when one eats a meal at McDonald’s.
When I discussed this on One Hundred Dollars A Month with Mavis Butterfield and she mentioned me in a post – whew boy! Did that start a discussion on ethics and morality! The comments are very interesting and thought provoking. The main issue seemed to be intent. People did not take issue with tossing your Starbucks or McDonald’s bags, or cleaning your car at a gas station, but they took issue with taking garbage from a household (no matter how small) and intentionally using a trash can that someone else was paying for.
This is a really interesting discussion that I was at first defensive about, but no longer am. Ultimately, I looked at it like this: Living in poverty means you have to make choices you wouldn’t otherwise make. With more income I did eventually get garbage service. But I still have zero qualms about tossing out that amount of trash at a store I am spending money at when I was living on $1,400 a month with a mortgage. It saved me a vital $25 a month. I don’t think people really consider costs of things like utilities in terms of trash.
There is a lot of discussion around saving power, on heating, cable, and what not, but trash is rarely discussed and often assumed as a default.
I currently have trash and recycling service. I do six months of biweekly service during the spring and summer when I tend to have projects going on, and six months of monthly service the rest of the year. Honestly, the reason I had to get a garbage can is simply dog poop. Now that I pet sit from home, there was too much dog poop and a doggie septic system like a Doggie Dooley is banned in our area because of our low water tables.
Could you go without garbage service to save hundreds of dollars a year? Over 20 years that could be anywhere from $5,000-$10,000 just on the rate, not to mention lost opportunity cost of 20 years of compound interest. Isn’t it amazing how such a small thing can have a significant impact? I think the most tremendous impacts can come when we questions things we just assume as a default.
Not everyone can make these changes to their garbage service – many people have health issues that generate a lot of garbage. Plastic packaging for medical equipment is often voluminous – things like incontinence diapers or pads are going to generate a lot of trash and often require weekly pick up to avoid smells. This is an issue not often discussed where a disability can increase your cost of living. I have found disabilities can increase your cost of living in ways people cannot imagine. Not just in medical – although that is certainly enough!
Thoughts? How expensive is your garbage/recycling system and could you make changes? Have you an issue I didn’t consider? Can’t wait to hear!