Garbage and Trash in an Emergency
- Learn how to separate different kinds of trash and garbage and make a plan for emergency storage or disposal.
- Practice the concepts of reduce, reuse, and recycle.
- Gather supplies for dealing with garbage and trash.
We live in a very disposable society. If a container is empty, we throw it away. If something breaks, we throw it away and get a new one. Even if something works well, but we just don't think it suits our taste or a newer version just came out, we get rid of it and get something else. In a disaster or an emergency, we may not have the ability to go down to the local grocery store or order a new on online. We may have to get by with what we already have on hand. Finding ways to fix or creatively reuse and refurbish items may become a necessity.
It's a sad truth that for many people, when the conveniences of modern living are gone, like garbage and trash disposal, that they become lazy and let their living environment become a hazardous waste area. When this happens, vermin like mice and flies are attracted and spread disease, causing illness in an already difficult emergency or disaster situation. When garbage service is not working, DO NOT block roads or areas necessary for emergency access with piles of trash. You need a plan for safe and proper disposal or storage until service resumes.
Separate, separate, separate
The key to safely taking care of the rubbish is to properly separate items into different categories because different things are disposed of or used in different ways.
It is important to learn to separate reusable for the non-reusable. Conserve your resources. What can you reuse? Can you use it as something else? Be creative and adapt to your needs. Reusable plastic and metal containers can be cleaned and used to sort and store other things. What useful things can you make from the items you would usually throw away? Do you have tools and supplies for fixing things? Small pieces of foil can be cleaned and used for many different things.
So you're left with the non-reusable things. Now separate the garbage from the trash. In this instance we're defining garbage as the potential biological hazards. This is food waste, disposable diapers, used feminine items, and other human and biological waste. Keep the liquids separate from the dry waste. Most liquids can be disposed of over gravel to harmlessly evaporate. If you want to throw it over your lawn, make sure it isn't anything that will kill your grass. Food waste, except meat and fats, can be composted. Meats and fats, feminine items, and human and biological waste can be buried or temporarily stored as described on the hygiene and sanitation page. Diapers cannot be buried, but must be temporarily stored until normal garbage services return.
And now you just have the trash, or the things that you can't use, but that are not biological hazards. Separate these into burnable and not-burnable.
Things like paper waste and cardboard can be burned to reduce space. Be aware that in an emergency, fire crews are already going to be busy and will not be able to come rescue you and your house if you are unwise or unsafe in your burning. If possible, try to coordinate trash burning with the local authorities. Find a safe place outside to burn this trash and don’t burn on a windy day. Use caution and always practice fire safety. Use the ashes to cover layers of buried or stored waste and garbage as described on the hygiene and sanitation page.
Not burnable items, are you sure you can't find a use for them? If not, crush and smash them as much as possible to make them as small as possible to conserve space. Store them in out of the way places until normal service resumes or land fills and other dumping sites are available. This would include metal cans, Styrofoam, and plastics.
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Disaster Supply Kit: Hygiene and Sanitation
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