This week I will cover upcycling or repurposing in place of sending items to a landfill.
Background on landfills and curbside recycling. The landfill system is slowly going away although there is a long way to go. The challenge is much harder in rural areas but as technology becomes more available the landfill will go the way of the dinosaur. In the meantime, we can make small differences as individuals and larger ones collectively.
The most basic solid-waste landfill operation costs between $70-$200/ton to operate. In the end you have not gotten rid of anything but simply hid it underground. The average home produces about a half ton of waste per month. Some landfill operations at the high-end collect methane gas created by decomposition and sell it as heating fuel. Even then, this process only trades one type of pollution for another. Landfills almost everywhere are required to place a liner in the ground to prevent leaching out of chemicals. In the end, a landfill is still just hiding waste and leaving it for the next generation to deal with.
Curbside recycling programs are popular in urban areas but challenges remain. Every year these challenges are better met and the day of zero waste will happen eventually. Challenges are processing, storage, and logistics of moving recycled materials when those materials cost less than the recycling service itself. Recycling programs need to be sustainable without adding additional problems to the local environment, such as rat infestations and leaching of chemicals from processing.
One problem that emerged a couple of years ago was a glut of materials. Recycling programs could not resell any of what they collected and some residential programs went bankrupt as they had to pay more for storage than they collected in fees.
Reuse of items. Consider reuse of the following:
• Paints of the same type (such as water-based latex) can be
mixed together and used as a primer in places which will not
be seen anyway — such as the back side of a shed or a subfloor.
A subfloor will last longer if painted or sealed.
• For other types of paint (such as oil-based) check the label
to make sure they can be combined with paints of the same
type. Clear sealers will not mix well and it is not recommended
to do so as you could cause a chemical reaction.
Barrels, bins and other items
• Containers of different types and even things like washing
machine barrels can be made into garden planters. You cannot
safely reuse containers used for oil or oil-based products. You
can repurpose glass and clear plastic food containers as
Doors, windows and other home-improvement waste
• Doors can be used to make compost bins.
• Windows can be used to make cold frames and mini
• Use old lumber to make garden stakes.
• Old sinks can be sanitized as used as non-traditional
planters, or sealed and used as in-ground reservoirs for water
pumps in garden features such as small fountains. No one will
see it and you won’t have to buy one more thing.
• Sinks can also be hooked into your watering system and used
as a vegetable-washing station or fish-washing station for
those who fish.
Before you toss it out
• Scrap copper pipe can be used to keep ponds clear and to
make deep-water fishing lures.
• Broken hoses can be repaired or cut down into pieces to
be used in emergency plumbing repairs of pipes over 1 inch in
• Old fencing can be used for growing beans or as structure for
• Old lawn mowers can have the motors removed and the
bodies used as push carts in the garden.
Alternatives to creating waste
• Go paperless on your monthly statements.
• Turn plastic bags into art. Some people crochet bags into
• Make old clothes into rags or doormats.
• Cook smaller amounts and reduce food waste. Food waste is
the number one thing in landfills.