Trash Talking: Two Weeks (And Counting…) Without Trash Service

Today marks the end of the second week that I’m living without trash service.

If you followed my weekly decluttering and simplify updated through 2010, you know I talked a lot about ending my expensive and underutilized weekly trash service. But when my updates ended in December, I hadn’t yet canceled my trash service.

Because I live in a rural area, trash service here costs and unbelievable $37 per month. It was around $19 a month when we signed up nine years ago, and I’m told that if I signed up for new service with the same company or one of its competitors today, the price would be about $60.

Let me say that again: I was paying $37 a month — and my new neighbors are paying much more than that — to have someone carry away the things I don’t want anymore. How can that possibly be part of a simple, deliberate life?

When I was creating bags of trash each week because of my weekly decluttering, it almost made sense. There’s still a lot of junk here that needs to be eliminated, but I’ve slowed down on decluttering in the last couple of months because I’m ready to get on with living a simpler life instead of preparing for it.

But Why Get Rid Of Trash Service Now?

I stopped my weekly trash service two weeks ago for two big reasons.

First, the idea of paying someone to eliminate the evidence of my irresponsibility has been bothering me for a while. It simply doesn’t make sense to pay for trash service. There are other ways of dealing with the byproducts of my life.

If I lived in an apartment where a dumpster or pickup service was included, I’d use it. But for better or worse, I left that life behind nine years ago.

Second, as I told you my post Taking The Good With The Other Good, my income is down. It’s an inevitable event in the life of a freelance writer, especially in light of my choice to be an Internet content writer and the recent changes in that industry.

I’m certain that my income will soon improve, but I won’t be restarting my trash service. I made the decision and won’t be turning back. And as I mentioned, the rate would be much higher if I sign up again, assuring that my choice is a permanent one.

And What Will You Do With Your Trash Now?

Dealing with the trash generated by the two humans and four cats in my household requires creativity now, but I’m working to make the situation easier to manage each day.

Here are a few quick tips on dealing with trash if you don’t have trash service.

  • Don’t bring trash into your home. Clean the car at the gas station, eliminate unwanted packaging before leaving the store (or don’t accept it in the first place) and take full advantage of public trash cans.
  • Don’t let your letter carrier derail you. Cancel all paper bills and catalogs, and work diligently to contact everyone who sends you paper, imploring them to stop wasting your time and the planet’s resources. See The Startling Silliness of Paper Statements for more on this topic.
  • Eliminate food waste the old-fashioned way. Throw it in the yard, if your location allows. Check out my three posts from last year, mentioned below, for more on that.
  • Use available trash cans, but don’t abuse them. Plenty of public parks, gas stations, stores and city governments offer public trash cans where you can dispose of small bags of trash. Some prohibit dumping household trash, but most don’t. Follow the rules, but use what’s available to you.

I wrote three posts about the silliness of home trash pickup — and the things you can do about it — in April and May 2010.

In the first, called Two Good Reasons I Don’t Feel Guilty About Throwing Away Instead of Recycling, I state my long-term goal: a life that generates so little waste I don’t need trash or recycling service.

The second is called Generate A Handful of Trash A Week and gives this aim a name: The Grocery Bag Garbage Goal.

The third is called Composting Simplified, and it tells you about my mother’s way of getting rid of food waste by throwing it over the back fence.

Have a look at them — comments are still open on these and all posts, by the way.

Yes, I Know

Cancelling my trash service eliminates a piece of silliness from my life and save me money, but it doesn’t really do the world any good if I continue to generate the same amount of trash. And it doesn’t do me any good if I go from paying my own way to relying on other people, businesses and governments to dispose of my trash.

The real good comes from reducing the amount of waste my household generates by reducing the amount of stuff I bring into my house. That’s the real goal.

How do you handle your trashy situation?

I hope you know that I’m a nice guy at heart, but I also hope we all benefit from a few minutes of trash talking.


  1. i definitely like the idea of less trash and we are starting to explore more ways to reduce our trash thanks to reading about the Zero Waste family ( We are going to buy a composting container here in the next few weeks so that should eliminate a lot. Plus it’s monitoring what comes in. choose products with less packaging. that does double duty: it tells manufacturers that you won’t choose their products with that wasteful packaging.

    Good for you Gip! It’s a great idea to try to reduce the amount of trash and not rely on any old trash cans πŸ™‚

    1. That’s right. It doesn’t do any good to cancel trash service but produce the same amount of trash.

      You don’t need a fancy container to compost. A stainless steel or plastic bucket for the kitchen is all you need there, then a simple pile outside. If you want to hide it, a plastic storage container with holes drilled is all you need.


      1. thanks gip. i’ve heard it quite easy to make your own container. will just do that.

  2. That’s quite a bit of money you’ll be saving and I have to admit you are quite creative in finding ways to rid yourself of your trash or basically nipping it in the bud. Thanks for the tips!

  3. Good for you Gip! We’ve been pretty diligent about reducing our waste for the past several years. It’s frustrating during the decluttering process because I feel guilty about contributing more trash to the landfills. I even feel guilty about recycling because of the energy and byproducts of doing that. Soooo…I try to create as little waste (including recyclables) as possible, and donate or sell any items I don’t want or need anymore. Even so, there is still too some trash in my life.

    You’re getting radical. I like it! πŸ˜‰

    1. Just a bit radical!

      Yes, there’s plenty of reason to feel guilty about recycling. It’s like changing from a gasoline car to one that uses natural gas. It’s slightly better, but not much.


  4. Aloha Gip! We love that you have kicked the trash habit to the curb so to speak! We’re lovingly working on our housemates to help us reduce as well, it is easier when we are not living ohana style. I may have pointed out this blog to you before but in case I haven’t you’ll enjoy the site and the video they’ve taken zero waste to an art form, I’ve learned alot from her blog and from your tips too! πŸ™‚

  5. Gip, does your area still take recyclables even if you don’t have trash service?

    I’ve never specifically put this to the test, but I’ve heard up here that the contracts the garbage companies have with the city require them to pick up recyclables that are out on the curb even if the owner doesn’t have trash service through their company.

    Just curious.

    I was just thinking that if I didn’t live in an apartment building and I happened to have a neighbor that was like-minded only a short walk away, it would be possible to combine trash services for a substantial discount.

    Around here the garbage company distributes plastic cans with their logos on them. Small-can service is a certain price, and the price for medium- and large-can service isn’t really much more than small-can – so conceivably, an entire low-waste neighborhood could share one large-can trash service.

    Just a couple thoughts. πŸ˜€ Great post Gip!

    1. We don’t have curbside recycling at all here. It’s 6 miles to the nearest recycling center, and it isn’t open at the times I pass that direction.

      We have 96 gallon polycarts or nothing at all. To make things more interesting, three different trash services pass our home, and we could have chosen to contract with any of them. So three of those huge trucks drive this whole side of the county, each with only a few customers in each neighborhood. That’s just silly. There are also one or two small, independent trash services nearby that would come here if they had a client.

      Our neighbor is silly, too. They moved the mother-in-law into the house behind them, and each house has their own polycarts. Both are often overflowing. And since he only moved in about two years ago, he’s paying something close to $60 a month at each house!


  6. Hey there

    You know what is really freaking me out? And if anyone has a quick way of dealing with it I would love to here it. I subscribe to the comments thread so I will get your message. Free freaking magazines and newspapers! Someone delivers great stacks of them to our apartment block a few times a week and no one seems to want them or read them. I used to just throw them in the recycling bin when they got wet or started blowing around but then I thought that I’m not solving the problem. So now I’m leaving them and if they start blowing around the streets and creating copious amounts of rubbish someone might take notice.

    It’s not just the wasted paper that bothers me but all the work taken to put the things together. Someone has sold advertising, written artciles etc etc. For what? No one seems to want the damn things.

    I know there are a lot of things I could do that will take up a lot of my precious time and that’s what is probably also annoying me. It’s not easy being Green (Kermit the Frog)

    1. OOh and sorry I forgot but it isn’t very good to put household trash into public bins Kip. For one thing they may not look very full when you put your trash in but by the time they’re emptied they could be overflowing leading to all sorts of nasties like plastic in waterways. A measure I use to weigh up whether something has real integrity is to ask “what if everyone did it?”

      In NZ we used to have the option of buying pre-paid council rubbish bags that were collected. That was a true user pays system. Here in Australia we are in an apartment and the rubbish is collected but I wouldn’t have a clue who is paying for it. They even have “special” collections which are a hoot. Everyone puts all their junk that’s too big for their bin out the front of their houses. The piles grow for about two or three weeks before trucks come to take it away. But the really interesting thing is that before the trucks came here all these people with trucks, trailers, cars etc came and trawled through it to take away what they wanted. Very interesting the things you noticed when home writing all day. πŸ™‚

      1. I heard a folk singer from Austin a few months ago mention that “large trash collection day” — as it is called down there — is when everyone moves all their junk from their backyards into their front yards. I think the salvage people who come before the trash trucks have the right idea. At least there’s a chance someone will use the stuff. Around here, it’s understood that if an item is placed at the curb, it’s up for grabs.

        As for the free magazines, we get a small and useless free local newspaper thrown in our driveway — and so do all the unoccupied houses around. They sit there in plastic bags until they deteriorate and blow away or get in the street and get ground into the pavement. I don’t know why the county doesn’t fine the newspaper company for littering.

        I pick up other people’s trash from my yard all the time. No idea what I’ll be doing with it now.

  7. Gip, are your cats indoor or outdoor (therefore, litter boxes or not)? If indoor (litter box), how do you deal with the used litter?

    Our used cat litter makes up about 3/4 of our garbage. We have no place to dispose of it outside. I don’t think there is any answer for us but I’m always looking, just in case.

    1. And kudos for reducing your waste and eliminating your trash service. The savings will add up nicely over the year.

    2. Hi Jo

      When we were house-sitting our friend had bio-degradable cat litter that you can bury in your garden.

      1. Does the cat litter have something in it that neutralizes the bacteria, parasites, etc. in the cat waste?

        If not it’s definitely not safe to use it in the garden.

        There looks to be some interesting information on Google though about composting used kitty litter – it appears to require that you use a kitty litter that the vermicomposting worms find edible. πŸ™‚

    3. I don’t have a good answer for this yet either. Our cats are indoor-only, and they won’t use biodegradable cat litter, which is just as well since it’s very expensive. We’ve tried various things. Cat litter is usually clay, and that is nearly inert and won’t compost. The cat waste itself is compostable and doesn’t contain harmful organisms if the cat has been tested for diseases and treated. (Lots of people are afraid of cats and their bacteria, but it’s nothing to be afraid of if the cat is well.)

      In fact, anything animal, vegetable or mineral is compostable, including meat and dryer lint — which is mostly natural fibers and dead skin. Synthetic fibers don’t shed enough lint to matter. People usually leave out meat because it attracts animals, but that’s only for convenience.


  8. My parents live in a rural area and have to take their trash to the local dump. They have to be especially careful with what they store outside do to the danger of bears in their area (in spring-fall, at least). Having to load up the truck every now and then to drop it off makes you quite aware of how much trash you generate. They have the added issue of having to truck their water in, as well, so they have a greater appreciation for how much they actually use. I had the same issue with my last place (no local trash service), and in my current place, I live on the 4th floor and take the stairs when I take the trash out. Knowing the work involved in taking trash out has really helped me cut down on the amount of trash I generate (cut down on the processed foods so I don’t have plastic bags and boxes, read magazines and books online, etc).

    If only everyone had to make a serious effort to take their trash out, maybe people would start cutting down on how much they consume.

    1. Very useful comment. My parents had to haul trash to the dump, about five miles away, too. They only had trash service where they lived for a couple of years when the city nearby contracted with an out-of-town trash service that offered a deal to every house they passed on the way between the two towns.

      Once again, I’m finding I’m learning a lesson that previous generations already knew. While people didn’t recycle much in previous generations, they also brought less packaging into their homes. Very interesting…

      Thanks for mentioning this.

  9. Thanks for the comments, deb-LBS, Robert and Gip.

    How can cats be so wonderful and their litter boxes so bad? πŸ™‚

  10. From time to time I read a post and because I am from the UK I have to try and understand!!!! Okay got it – you have to pay for your rubbish to be collected? is that right? Is that all across US? Or just rural areas? I was going to have a moan about the UK – they MADE us go to fortnightly collection from weekly – but we don’t have to pay for it. Well we do I suppose in our taxes. Hmmm? Interesting

    1. In some cities, trash service is included in the water bill, but most Americans who don’t live in an apartment are paying for trash service in one way or another.

      Trash is big business in the U.S. because many cities outsourced their trash pickup to private companies who gradually raised prices, forcing cities to buy their own trucks again and start doing it themselves. What’s even worse, some cities still pick up trash twice a week, a real waste of resources.

      In rural areas, you often have several choices of trash companies and in the most remote areas, have no choices at all. In addition, it’s perfectly legal for small entrepreneurs to offer neighborhood trash service outside of cities, so lots of people have some guy with a beat-up old pickup haul their trash away for them.

      And then there’s the dump. Hauling something away yourself can cost lots of money. To get into the city dump, you pay a huge fee — if you’re even allowed at all.

      Trash is a trashy business.

      1. It’s an interesting back-and-forth – if trash service were basically a public utility, there’d be less incentive for people to generate less. But by the same token, the fact that they’re paying to have it removed can create the illusion that their trash output doesn’t matter because they’re “paying for” it.

  11. In our city of 19,000 people, the sanitation fee includes: garbage pickup, removal of recyclables (paper, cans), street sweeping, leaf truck that vacuums leaves, truck that removes yard and tree debris. The cost is $15 and is an item on the utility bill. The utility bill includes: electric, sanitation (trash), water, and taxes on all. Since I have a disability, I brought in proof of disability, a utility bill and signed my name to a form. Now, I have the charge eliminated from my utility bill.

    I don’t make enough trash to even justify trash pickup each week. Once a month is all I need to have it removed. In the summer the smell is the only reason it gets put out each week if I remember it. I compost and also have three hens that eat any produce or meat that is thrown out. Mostly, chicken skin or meat gristle or fat is all that is left of my meat. The few cans I use from my cupboard are recyclable. I carry soft drink cans and sell them. Newspaper is used for 3 hens that I bring in to protect from raccoons at night. (think parrots in a cage) I can compost that newspaper.

    Magazines are mostly eliminated from my life. I get the subscriptions free with My Coke Rewards and have not subscribed this year, so no mags coming in. I recycle those by passing on to others. They don’t go in the trash.

    I put a TV on the curb to allow someone else to have it. It got rained on, but a neighbor told me she took it and it works fine a year later. A box fan that worked was taken by someone. Old tires will be picked up by someone who can use them for off road use at a chicken farm.

    I put car trash or mail trash that is in the car into gas station cans. That is what they are for. However, I would never bring trash from home to deposit in those public cans. When I go into the grocery or to WM, I grab whatever is within reach and deposit it in the trash can outside the store.

    Clothing that cannot be worn if donated is cut and put into a rag bag. Those rags go into the trunk of my car and other people’s cars. Since I use NO paper products in this house, rags take the place of paper towels for messy jobs and are tossed only then. Some people compost cotton rags.

    I use cloth bags mostly, so no plastic needs to come in. But, what plastic bags that come in are used for trash bags.

    Sorry I wrote so much trashy stuff.

    1. I like your trash talking. I love long comments because they prove people are actually thinking about the issue.

      Yes, some cities do make trash pickup a fee that can’t be avoided without an exemption. In fact, I think most cities do this. For those of us who don’t live in town, however, the cost can be outrageous. Some of our neighbors get their money’s worth and then some, but we never did.

      Putting things at the curb around here also indicates that the item is free for the taking. Works almost every time.


  12. Gip, I too lived in a Rural area and faced high trash bills, so I feel you on this one! For a while we lived without trash pickup. Unfortunately I was NOT minimalist at the time.

    We composted all kitchen scraps (vegetarian so no problem with meat issues), and hauled all trash and recycling to the local center (conveniently located only 5 miles from our cabin).

    It was messy though, and like I said I wasn’t minimalist at the time so there was a lot of trash and recycling!

    When we moved back to our cabin a few years later we signed up for local trash service, but paying $27 always seemed like a giant rip-off compared to city prices. Your $37 is getting pretty crazy! I’ll be interested in hearing how it goes for you.


    1. It’s going well so far. We’ve found some convenient places for paper recycling that we are going to start using, and we’re gradually reducing our trash output. We’ve used the dumpster at my mother’s apartment complex a couple of times, a convenient interim step until we can reduce usage even further. We’re getting there!

      Yep, $37 is pretty crazy. It was about $18 when we moved here a decade ago, and now they add a fuel surcharge that seems to vary every month. It’s just silly.

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