(originally written in 2011)

We saved $398.60.

On garbage.

Over a 20-month period.

Those of you who know us well, know that we are very into recycling and composting and not being wasteful with packaging, and we’re quite frugal as well.

When Jim and I first moved in together, we realized that our garbage can went to the curb less than half full each week.  We recycled everything that was paper, plastic, metal, glass, etc. which didn’t leave much “garbage”.

We installed a Trash Compactor in our kitchen, which turns out can hold about 2-3 months of garbage before it’s full.  And a full (compacted) bag only takes up 1/3 of a garbage can.  It would take us 6 months to fill a single curbside garbage can.

So we canceled our garbage service.

That’s right.  We have no garbage service.

For about ten years now we have had no garbage service.

Gross, you say?


First off, a Trash Compactor is a tricky little guy.  Since it holds so much garbage, you don’t want to put anything in there that could get stinky.  Remember,  whatever you put in the garbage can will sit in your kitchen for up to 3 months!  YUCK.  So no food scraps (those go outside in the compost bin or down the garbage disposal), and no “wet” garbage (like packaging from steaks and fish, juice boxes, etc.).  Those get rinsed out and dried and then if it’s recyclable (plastic trays, plastic wrap, etc.) we recycle it.  If it’s not recyclable it goes in the trash compactor.

So yes, it would be gross if you took your typical kitchen garbage can and smashed it in the compactor- juices would be running out and stinking up the place in a heartbeat.  Yuck.  Makes me want to gag just thinking about it!

There are extra steps necessary when living this lifestyle.  And yes, sometimes it is a challenge.  Like when we have parties and people don’t know about our garbage “sorting” so they dump plastic plates full of food in the garbage can.  One time we didn’t realize it before putting it in the trash compactor.  That was a wonderful discovery.  Wet and stinky.  Very stinky.

Usually after parties, a family member offers to take the bag of trash home with them to put in their can, since their can is often not full either!  But if there’s not a lot of garbage, or it’s not too bad, we actually go through the garbage- dump the food scraps into the sink, rinse off the plastic plate and clean it so it’s recyclable (if it has the stamp on the back), toss the napkins into a burnables bag.

Which brings me to another point.  Our local garbage and recycling service doesn’t take everything that’s recyclable.  Recycling does take some extra steps.  We also have a recycling depot nearby that takes almost everything…including cooking oil, athletic shoes, metals, etc.  Plastic bags can be recycled at our local Fred Meyer grocery store.

We recycle everything:
Scrap Paper
Milk Cartons / Juice Cartons (Aceptics)
Egg Cartons
Shoe Boxes
Cardboard Boxes
Plastic Bottles
Plastic Jugs
Plastic Tubs
Planter Pots
Aluminum Cans
Tin Cans
Aerosol Cans
Glass Jars & Bottles
Plastic Bags
Plastic Wrap
Ziplock baggies (if you cut the top off)
Bread Bags

Click here to learn more about the Far West Fibers Recycling Depot.

Once you process all the recyclables and burnables (napkins and paper plates and paper towels make great fire starters for our backyard fire pit), there really isn’t much left behind to take to a landfill.  Which brings me to another point.  Did you know that biodegradable items taken to a landfill do not necessarily biodegrade?  I heard that this week and was shocked.  I can’t find the printable news story, but I found something related online:

“Typically in landfills, there’s not much dirt, very little oxygen, and few if any microorganisms,” says green consumer advocate and author Debra Lynn Dadd. She cites a landfill study conducted by University of Arizona researchers that uncovered still-recognizable 25-year-old hot dogs, corncobs and grapes in landfills, as well as 50-year-old newspapers that were still readable. 

You can read the rest of that article here.

Back to saving money….

Our last trip to the dump was May 2009.   It’s been 21 months, and all our garbage storage cans were full, so it was time to go again.  Jim loaded up the back of his truck with six garbage cans plus eight Trash Compactor bags, and a slew of broken yard toys, deceased potted plants, a broken toilet, broken lawn chairs, broken bird fountain, concrete pieces, etc.  The bill came to….


Yep!   We had 21 months worth of garbage and we only paid $13.50 to haul it outta here!   We would have had to go to the dump anyway to dispose of the toilet and other odd items that wouldn’t fit in a regular garbage can (if we had garbage service) and I’m sure the bill would have been the same- $13.50.

We’ve been discussing getting garbage service again, for the convenience of not having to ‘wash’ our garbage or sort it so thoroughly, and with the daycare there’s definitely extra work involved there!  But after seeing how much money we save…there’s no way I can justify the $19.93/mo when we paid the equivalent of 64 cents per month.

We are considering getting Yard Debris only service.  Right now we have a large compost pile in our backyard, but once we do the addition on the side of the house, we’ll have to eliminate the compost pile.  Nobody wants one of those outside their bedroom window!  Once that is gone, we won’t have a place to put our yard clippings and food compost and the leaves that were too late for the water district pick-up.  I priced Yard Debris only service and it’s about $5.00 a month.  It’s “free” with the $19.93 service, but we’ve already determined there’s still no need for regular garbage service.

So what do you think?

Think you can do this?  Sure!

Do you think you can step up your recycling to make it happen? I bet you can!

Is it a lot of work?  Not really.

Is it worth it?  You tell me….saving almost $20/month and helping the environment is worth it to me!