Best Decisions: Rethinking How I Handle Trash

You may find this hard to believe, but some people pay other people to haul away trash for them. Doesn’t that seem ridiculous?

If you’ve taken a few minutes to think about how you deal with your rubbish, that certainly sound silly to you. If you live in an apartment complex or in an area where trash service is included with your other bills or free, you may not need to consider how you dispose of your trash.

I just hope you’re making an effort to reduce your trash output no matter how you deal with disposing of it.

For years I paid for “curbside” trash service (we have no curb), eventually paying almost $40 a month to have a couple of bags hauled away each week. Then, I took stock of my life and kicked the trash man to the curb. (Again, I have no curb, and no garbage collectors were harmed on my property.)

This is the sixth in a 10-part series of posts about my best decisions since starting this blog and getting serious about a simple life. In previous posts in this series, I’ve revisited creating totally clean countertops, accepting only high-quality experiences, ditching the dishwasher, simplifying my cell phone service and maintaining minimalist hairstyles.

Today, let’s get trashy.

Rethinking Trash

We’ve talked trash on So Much More Life several times. The last time we talked seriously about the issue was just over a year ago. In my March 18, 2011 post called Trash Talking: Two Weeks (And Counting…) Without Trash Service, I told you about my decision to cancel trash service to save money. In that post, I also linked to previous discussions about composting, recycling and my lofty goal of generating very little trash each week. (I haven’t yet met that goal.)

Of course, the biggest drawback to eliminating trash service but still generating trash is deciding what to do with the trash. I discussed that a bit in the original post and in its comments.

Here in rural Texas, there are plenty of people who burn their trash, but I don’t get along well with fire, so I won’t be doing that. It’s perfectly legal here and in many rural areas unless there’s a burn ban because of dry conditions.

If you ever get a chance to visit this area, you’ll also see that many people don’t deal with their trash very well. They pile it in the yard, stuff it into abandoned cars on their property or worst of all, simply live with it piling up in their homes.

For me, however, the easiest solution has been to recycle more and use someone else’s trash service.

We recycle all of our paper now, and we’re looking for a place to drop off some of our plastics. Dropping a bag or two of trash in a friend’s polycart or in the dumpster at a relative’s apartment complex is a good solution for everything else. It may not exactly be a self-sufficient way of handling the issue, but I promote simplicity, not self-sufficiency.

Substitutions Allowed

Like I said, there’s no reason for you to confront this issue if you live in a place where trash service is provided to you for free or as part of a package you have to pay for anyway.

If that’s the case for you, please make a mental substitution. There’s probably something else you’re paying for every month that you could eliminate to make your life simpler and more responsible while saving you money.

For example, many minimalist living gurus promote eliminating cable television or satellite service, but I won’t be including that among my best decisions. That’s because I’ve never paid for television service in the first place.

You see, I’m making two points today. The first is about the silliness of paying someone to haul away your junk. The second is about the silliness of living an unexamined life.

There’s always something you could be doing to make your life simpler, better and more responsible. And this is a good time to make one or more changes to improve your life.

I hope that seems like a good idea to you. If not, print out this post, wad it up and throw it away. Maybe that will make you feel better. Just be sure to think about what will happen to that wadded up piece of paper when you do.

Is trash service one of things you shouldn’t be paying for?


  1. So do I assume correctly that you just asked a neighbor if it would be okay to toss a bag of trash in their can every now and then?

    That’s a pretty good solution if you have a cooperative neighbor. Since the biggest curbside (yardside? lawnside?) cans are only a tiny bit more expensive than the smaller ones, I wonder if three neighbors could form a “trash co-op”?

    Interesting ideas.

    1. Hi, Robert. We take our trash to a relative’s house most of the time because the only neighbor that would be a good candidate always overflows their polycart every week. How they do that since they’re rarely home I don’t know, but they do run a business of some kind. Some of our neighbors don’t have trash service either, and I don’t know what they do.

      A trash co-op is a great idea. There are also private trash services in some areas where some guy with a pickup picks up everything and takes it to his dumpster for a small fee. That’s a good idea too.


  2. I was just wondering if you asked before using other people’s trash cans. In my opinion, it would only be fair to chip in a few bucks to those who let you regularly use their trash services. It would save you in not having to pay fully for your own services and help the relative/friend out who is being generous enough to allow you to share in their services that they DO have to pay for.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Megyn. We’ve never used the trash service of anyone who has to pay for it. It’s included in many apartment complexes, and some cities don’t charge for the service. Some people might also be able to use trash service at their jobs, if they still have one of the traditional kind.

      1. See this is interesting – a friend of mine *doesn’t* have trash service at his small business. He brings it home instead, because his business doesn’t generate too much trash and business trash service is more expensive than home apparently. 🙂

        1. That’s a smart way to handle it too. It’s good that he’s thinking about the issue. Companies do tend to stick it to small businesses. They seem to think businesses have deeper pockets than individuals and will stand for higher costs.

  3. Growing up in rural New York state we fed our food scraps to the pigs or composted, burned the papers and brought the rest to the -what it was called back then- dump. We never had garbage service, nor was my father willing to pay someone to haul away his trash. I guess I grew up with that mentality as we now live in a suburban area and still bring our trash to what we call the dump (old habits die hard) or the ‘convenience center’ for those folks that didn’t grow up with a town dump!

    I have a hard time paying for services that I can do ably by myself, especially if I don’t feel there is a benefit to be had by paying. I’m going to let the professionals paint my house, because if I did it, it would take me forever and look horrible! But for something that I can do myself with acceptable results, it will be done by myself or my husband or both. And for every decision we face, we discuss that exact option – whether we should pay to have it done, or do it ourselves and make the decision based on the pros and cons.

    As I’ve said, I often go back and forth between trying to simplify or be frugal but more often than not, I find they are not mutually exclusive.

    1. We didn’t have trash service where I grew up either. My parents finally bought a small trash compactor that sat in front of the washing machine. We went to the “dumpground” as we called it every week or two until the state forced them to close it. The dumpground was actually a fun place to go. It smelled bad, but my dad would often find good stuff there. He got lots of old records and furniture, among other things.

      I’ve learned to do some simple plumbing and electrical work and to do some of the repair work on the lawnmower because of my unwillingness to pay for something I should be able to do myself.


  4. We currently live in an apartment where trash service is one of the things included in the rent. I am pleased to report that one of our three dumpsters is for recycling and the list of acceptable items is huge! I really missed being able to recycle so many things when we lived in an RV traveling around the country. We hauled our aluminum cans until we found a facility for them but other items that could have been recycled just got trashed instead so this is one thing I’m happy about in being anchored again.

    1. In Fort Worth, the big city nearest me, apartment complexes are not allowed to participate in the city’s recycling programs, so apartment dwellers have no choice but to throw everything away or seek out places they can drop off recyclable items. Dumpsters where you can drop off paper for recycling are plentiful here — nearly every church has one to try to raise money from whatever the recycling company will pay them for it — but other things are difficult to deal with.

  5. It’s funny that your topic is trash just as I’m learning about bokashi. When you have a minute, do a little research on the topic (if you’re not already familiar with it). I’m finding it to be fascinating and am in the process of brainstorming how to make my own bokashi containers and bokashi compost starter.

    While on the subject of trash, have you visited the Johnson’s blog? They have a blog on zero waste. They are a family of four and their annual trash can fit into a small mason jar. Their blogspot blog is called The Zero Waste Home.

    Most of us can learn a lot from the Johnson family regarding waste and how to minimize our carbon footprint.

    While I am not ready to cancel my trash collection service, I am taking steps to reduce waste. Gip, your posts always get me to thinkin’. 🙂

    1. I’m glad to get you thinkin’, Felicia. Your posts have the same effect on me.

      I have read The Zero Waste Home blog, but I don’t read it regularly.

      I’ve heard of indoor composting bins, but I don’t think I’ve heard of bokashi until now. You’re welcome to write a guest post for me if you learn enough and want to share it. It sounds very interesting. I have to admit that my efforts toward composting have never been successful — and I have plenty of room outside to do it.


      1. I’d love to do a guest post once I’ve figured things out and have actually composted something successfully.

  6. Hey Gip…have to be quick today, heading into Toronto for an extended weekend.

    Great topic, as usual. There are many zero waste blogs, like anything life is about constant review. Making adjustments over time is probably the best way to do it.

    Burning and even creating waste is not a sustainable future. Eventually, we will have to find alternatives. Many global cities, for example San Fransisco have aggressive zero waste goals within 5 years. It’s possible.

    My waste is almost all recycled product, it took a few years to get there and I’m trying to remove plastic from the mix. Since I’m moving into my tiny home, an RV, in a month I will be creating a vermi-compost and limiting the waste items even more. I’ll also be looking for creative ideas to use existing product waste to make new items.

    It’s possible.

    To pay for something one can reduce seems to be fitting but sharing the cost of disposable with a coop and learning how to reuse what goes in the trash before it gets there is just smart and embraces simplicity.

    Foresight creates an easier future. Not sure I voiced things well today…I’ll drop back next week.

    1. You’re making perfect sense, Stephen. I do think planning in advance to use less and therefore throw less away is the best course of action. I don’t see myself getting anywhere close to zero waste, but I can certainly do better than I’m doing now.

  7. As far as I know, I have no choice. Our trash removal is included in my water bill from the city. They charge me for the sewer service on the same bill. I pay about $7.00 for trash removal, $7.00 for my water and $14.00 for the sewer fees for a total of about $28.00 monthly. Also, there is a law against burning in the city limits so that is out. We have a landfill in town but you have to pay to dump stuff there according to its weight. Any thoughts on getting around any of this? If you get a water bill in my city, you pay for trash pick-up whether you like it or not. And what is so bad is that they use prisioners from our local county jail to pick up the trash.

    Do no one else have these forced fees?


    1. When we paid city taxes at our previous home, all those services were included as well. And coming from a country upbringing, I was astounded that people would come and pick my trash up for me! LOL I gladly paid for that and the water and sewer service as part of my city amenities. That meant no longer running out of water in the dead of summer with our well! I guess it’s all a matter of perspective… I don’t think there is any way of getting out of paying town/city taxes , but if you wanted a opinion on the matter, IMO, that is pretty reasonable for charges for town services. IDK where you could do your trash for free without ‘skirting’ around rules and $7 a month seems pretty good.

      I’ll never forget when I moved to the south and the first time I saw the inmates picking up trash along with the prison guards with their rifles patrolling. I almost drove off the road in shock! But we have so much litter on our roadways, it seems to be a necessary evil until the populace as a whole cleans up their act (literally)!

      1. LOL. I had to laugh when you said you were shocked to see the prisioners picking up trash. I’ve lived in GA all my life and its always been that way. They also come out and clean the creek behind the houses on my block and cut the 6 feet of city property right by the street. Also they clean all the city parks. I don’t mind paying for those services I just felt like the way some of the posts were going I was a sap for doing so. Another thing about the prisioners is that they regularly run away from work groups in my city….LOL. I do think they are not supposed to have dangerous felons doing it but you never know.

        1. I’ve never heard of prisoners picking up trash, but trash is handled by private contractors here and even in most nearby cities. Prisoners fill the potholes in our road, however. It’s no wonder the patches don’t last; they couldn’t possible all be trained to do street repairs.

          1. It’s weird the things we take for granted. We learned how differently a lot of things are here in the South since my son has a girlfriend from LA….lol.

    2. I’d be curious to know what would happen if you called the city and asked them to discontinue your trash service. Someone must have asked before. Your rate, however, is very reasonable.

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