If you are reading this in America right now, go out and hug your garbage bins for me. Because I miss them.
Here in the village there is no public waste management. So basically, you have two options for your trash: you burn it or you throw it on the ground. Or if you are a PCV, maybe a third option as well-- throwing it down the chim. None of these options really appeal to me, so I've been putting off dealing with it, but after three months I had a fair amount of trash and it was time to do something about it. (Interestingly, the amount of trash I collected in three months is about what I disposed of each week in America).
So I waited until the wind was calm and burned up my trash today.
And... it was oddly satisfying. Paper makes great kindling, so I got a pretty good blaze going. It wasn't too smoky, and the plastic didn't smell bad. Best of all, no more trash!
But I'm an environmentally-conscious person, and a firm believer in the 3 Rs-- Reduce-Reuse-Recycle. So they are the foundation of my trash management plan. Burning is more a last resort.
I am trying to buy less packaged goods, but I really don't buy much besides food and cleaning supplies, which are both pretty important. Even if you buy produce though, the vendors put it in the ubiquitous blue jumbo (bag) and knot it before selling it to you. I have a pretty good collection of these now.
I have found some cool uses for some of my paper, cardboard and plastic trash. I use the backs of old note pages to write my shopping lists on; I use the cardboard packaging that came with my sheets as a dustpan; my old peanut butter jars have been cleaned and are now used to store salt, sugar and dried fruit; also, the plastic trays from biscuit packages make great soap dishes and sponge holders. And I keep a stack of those blue jumbos to reuse at the market. A lot of the vendors know I bring my own bags now.
And of course, as a science teacher with few resources available to me, I use everything I can in my classes. So water bottles, scrap paper, coins and old batteries have played supporting roles in my science demonstrations.
Food scraps go into my compost pile and will help me enrich my soil and grow yummy things in my garden. I also put some small bits of paper and cardboard in my compost. (Of course, my neighbor torched my compost while I was away, so I need to start all over again. That's a story for another blog post though.)
Recently I heard that there is some kind of public plastic collection here, where people come into the village and you can give them old plastic buckets, cups and plates. Then these will be recycled into new plastic products. But I haven't seen this myself yet.