Monday, July 20, 2015

No more smelly trash

My buddy Andy and I were biking around a nearby neighborhood on their trash pick-up day, doing laps and trying to wear each other out. Trash pick-up day in this neighborhood is always a festival to me; the neighborhood is wealthy, and their trash is just totally amazing. I've come back to collect giant stuffed animals. Golf umbrellas. Running strollers. Shelves.

Okay, but this isn't a trash-picking story; it's a different kind of trash post.  On this particular day, Andy and I zoomed past an on-coming trash truck, and Andy wrinkled his nose and said, "We humans do make some smelly trash, don't we?"

It's funny, but it's been so long since I've thought of garbage as smelly that my brain had to do a little re-computation.  The golf umbrellas and shelves I've trash-picked aren't smelly, right?  My own trash isn't smelly, either.  Pretty soon Andy and I were talking trash to each other (which is great for me, because it slows him down so I can keep up).

So here, on a lovely warm Monday morning, is a little ode to non-stinky garbage cans.

1.  Remember that we DO have control over what we put into those giant garbage trucks . . . 
. . . or the small garbage trucks, for that matter.  Not only do you not have to throw away perfectly good bicycles and umbrellas, but you also can put many kinds of smelly things in more appropriate places, too.

2.  Some smelly stuff is hazardous materials (paint, motor oil, etc).  
Those shouldn't go in your regular garbage, of course.  You probably need to take it to a hazardous waste place yourself, although I've heard that some municipalities have a haz-mat pickup day.  Driving/biking this stuff to the HazMat Collection Station is a pain, but good and honest people like you do the Right Thing, yes?
I have no idea what this sign means --
but I'll pretend it means "no hazardous trash!"
3.  Food doesn't go in our trash, either.
The smelliest thing in most people's garbage cans is food scraps.  Okay, to keep your garbage from stinking, food scraps all go in the dog or in the compost, never in the trash.

MiserDog is part German Shepard, part Trash Can.  
Miser Dog, who has read all those articles about dogs being domesticated by living off of human garbage dumps, believes it is his duty to consume many food-like substances we consider inedible.   Hamburger grease, apple cores, turkey bones . . . he loves loves loves it.

(I used to worry about giving our dog post-soup-making turkey bones, because I've read about splinters and such.  Not only does Miser Dog tell me "GIVE ME GIVE ME GGGIVVVVEE MEEEE", but he's lived several years beyond his life expectancy with no digestive problems.  I do not promise the same for you and your pets, I'm just saying that's how *we* deal with bones and food scraps).

For the small amount of food scraps that MiserDog does not eat (potato peels, coffee grounds), we throw them on a pile on the ground in the back yard, not  in the trash.  As my daughter once explained proudly to a neighbor, "My mom has a PhD and a compost pile!"

4.  What about packaging that has "food juice" on it?

Clean it!  Yes, I know it's weird to suggest people clean their trash before throwing it away, but this doesn't have to be hard work.  In fact, in our home, if we don't clean the trash, this happens:

Another Dog with MiserDog's commitment to Trash Exploration.
Fortunately, this isn't nearly as intense as cleaning my son's bedroom -- a quick rinse is often enough.
  • tomato sauce cans: we run them through the dishwasher with the rest of the dinner dishes (it probably uses less water than rinsing them by hand). Cans are recycling, not trash, but it still gets clean before we put it out for others to take away from us.
  •  plastic bags that have held messy foods (such as meat), we turn inside out, wear it like a glove, and let the dog lick it.  (Inside out means he's less likely to try to chew the bag and ingest plastic pieces to get to the good stuff in the corners).
  • styrofoam/subway sandwich wrapping: again, give to dog first, or rinse it off.
You've probably noticed a theme here; there's a reason that we've already decided our next dog will be named "Pre-wash".  If you don't have a dog, a simple swish under the faucet will probably do as well.  Another useful ally is a squirt bottle like this one we keep next to our sink:  we put in one teaspoon(ish) of liquid dish soap and fill the rest with water; it makes for many quick and easy clean-ups.

5.  What comes out in the end.
With all that talk about what the dog eats, it's probably time to point out that there are a few smelly parts of owning animals.  dog poop:  bury it in the ground with Jimmy the Squirrel.

6.  All the other stuff : life is imperfect.
Baby A is mostly a cloth diaper baby now, but she's left a few disposables in our garbage.  When we had cats, clumping cat litter was our smelliest throw-away.  There's more, I'm sure, but you don't really need the inventory.

The point is, most of our garbage is clean plastic packaging, but there's still organic stuff that gets in there with the potential to be whiffy, I'll admit. We're not perfect, and I'm not trying to convince you that I am (or that you ought to be).  No trash grouches here!

And of course, there's nothing wrong with having a trash can that smells bad -- that's not a goal in and of itself.  It's just that sometimes the bad-smelling stuff shouldn't be carted by petroleum-intensive-trucks to overfull landfills.  Sometimes the bad-smelling stuff should turn into dirt or into dogs.



  1. Amen! When all five of our children were at home we put out way less trash than our neighbors who had fewer children. Yes, it takes a few moments (or minutes) to clean and sort the trash, but our earth, as well as our immediate neighborhood is worth the effort.

    1. Yeah, you reminded me that the best way to have less smelly trash is to have less trash, period. That, too!