Waste management is more than just a smelly chore. Depending on where you live, it can be complicated and subject to a variety of local laws.
Understanding Waste Management
People produce a lot of waste, and proper disposal of that waste is essential for maintaining healthy living environments. Not only is garbage unpleasant to be around, but it also breeds bacteria, attracts pests, and takes up more space than you might imagine. So, governments create rules to properly dispose of it.
There are four main ways the trash gets taken out:
Landfills are by far the most common form of waste disposal. In the year 2013 alone, the U.S. sent 294 million tons of trash to landfills. While many people might think of landfills as simply a hole in the ground filled with trash, they are carefully planned out and expertly constructed structures. They have bottom liners made of either clay or plastic and are covered with soil daily. Landfills are designed to prevent the trash inside from coming in contact with environmental factors, including water and air.
Landfills are different than dumps, which don't attempt to separate the garbage from the surrounding environment. Typically, landfills also have runoff collection ponds, drop-off stations, and a buffer area around the premises. This keeps everything contained and reduces the effects on the environment and community.
Recycling means using existing material to create new products. The goal is to reduce pollution associated with creating new materials and decrease waste going to landfills. A wide range of commonly used products can be recycled, including:
While the U.S. has no national recycling laws, some state and local governments have implemented their own requirements.
Incineration, also called waste-to-energy, involves burning trash, usually to produce electricity for homes or businesses. Though this practice is common in Europe, the U.S. has been hesitant to adopt this method of waste disposal. However, some cities are beginning to embrace the technology. As recycling costs have gone up and participation in recycling efforts have gone down, some cities are turning to incineration for their garbage removal.
Composting refers only to organic substances, like food and paper waste. Composting quickly breaks down matter, and the resulting material can be used for agricultural or landscaping purposes, as it is filled with nutrients that are great for plants.
Cost of Garbage Services
Garbage is something most people don't want to handle more than they have to. Thankfully, cities arrange for workers to take your trash away for you. But, did you know that there are different types of trash that require different people to handle?
Trash removal refers to the waste collectors who come to your curb or building's dumpster on a weekly basis to remove the trash. This expense might be included in your utility bill, rent payment or another bill every month. However, you might have other options, depending on where you live. If you decide to hire an independent company instead of relying on the city-provided services, you might be able to save a little bit of money. Most trash removal companies charge between $10 and $40 per month, or $140 to $250 per year.
Junk removal handles items you don't want in your home anymore but can't easily dispose of yourself or in your regular trash. These items might include old furniture, tires, or appliances. Pricing generally depends on the scope of the task. For example, hauling away a hot tub will probably be more difficult than doing so for a couch. Therefore, hot tub removal will be more expensive - generally around $130 - than taking away the couch, which might fall closer to $80. However, some cities may have options to have your large items picked up for free. Check with your local waste management department to find out if this is available in your city and how you can arrange it.
If you separate your compostable garbage from your regular trash, you can pay for a company to come around to pick up your yard and food waste. This generally costs around $100.
Some states and cities have specific recycling rules, like Connecticut and San Francisco. If you live in one of these areas, your city might arrange for workers to pick up your recycling in the same way they pick up your garbage. You'll still have to separate everything out, though. Most companies ask you to put paper recycling in one bin, and plastic and glass in another. Some will also give the option to pick up unsorted recycling for a fee. Some recycling may get sticky, but unless there's solid food or debris stuck on, you probably don't have to worry much about residue.
When recycling pizza boxes and other similar items, rules may vary between cities. Find out from your city's recycling or waste management department to find out the rules about pizza boxes. If they do accept them, it's a good idea to scrape all the cheese and fallen toppings away before recycling the box.
Usually, regular recycling removal costs between $5 and $25 per month if you have one paper bin and one plastic and glass bin. If you have more than this, a fee of $2.50 to $7.50 per bin might be tacked on.
Like junk, waste is comprised of items or substances that you can't easily get rid of yourself. However, it's not always the size that makes removal more difficult. Rather, it's the composition. Waste generally refers to items or substances that could be dangerous to people and the environment, like chemicals, batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, old latex paint or debris from a construction project. Solid waste removal generally costs around $160; hazardous waste will cost anywhere between $50 and $100, depending on how much it weighs. Construction waste can usually be taken away for about $200.
Before tossing hazardous waste items in the trash, it's best to look into local rules. Some governments have laws about throwing away batteries, latex paint and other potentially toxic substances. Call your city's waste management department to find out what rules apply to you.
When handling waste, it's important to know how to keep yourself and anyone around you safe. Certain materials can be potential safety hazards. For example, improper handling of chemicals can harm your health, and construction debris haphazardly left around can lead to an injury.
Safety Tips for Handling Hazardous Waste:
- Wear gloves and a mask.
- Keep waste in a well-sealed container.
- Clearly label the container with a waterproof label.
Some common examples of hazardous waste you might encounter include:
- Pesticides, insecticides and other pest-controlling poisons
- Flammable liquids, including lighter fluid, carpet cleaner, brake fluid, household cleaners and waterproofing sealers
- Latex-based paint, paint thinners
- Chemical drain cleaners
- Broken thermometers
- Motor oil and oil filters
The average U.S. household generates more than 20 pounds of hazardous waste every year. However, not everyone knows how to dispose of it. Often, these potentially harmful substances get stowed away until the family moves or does a major cleaning overhaul.
Safety Tips for Handling Construction Waste:
When performing do-it-yourself home upgrades, you may encounter dangerous materials on your own. For example, asbestos, a harmful substance that was previously a popular insulative material, may be found in older homes. If you're handling asbestos on your own:
- Wear protective clothing and a respirator or face mask.
- Double wrap the material in plastic and seal it.
- Do your best to keep the material whole; don't break it apart, and if any remains on the walls, gently remove with water.
Other materials, like broken pieces of wood or boards with nails sticking out, should be directly disposed of into your rented dumpster or a designated waste pile. Be sure everyone working with you knows where this is. Also, see that everyone is wearing protective clothing, close-toed shoes, and work gloves. Safety goggles are never a bad idea, either.
Contacting Your City's Waste Management Department
If you're new to your area or have questions about trash, recycling, or compost removal options, contact your city's waste management department. Additionally, if you are working on something new that will require additional trash, waste, or junk removal, it's always a good idea to get more information about this prior to beginning your project. If you aren't sure about how to dispose of something, like an old car battery or asbestos you found in your home, contact your local waste management department to find out what they suggest.
Renting Trash Containers for Large Jobs
If you're putting on a big event or working on a large construction project, your kitchen trash can might not be big enough to hold all of your refuse. Dumpsters can usually be rented from your local waste management department or a close-by dumpster rental company. They are typically rented out on a per-week basis, so they are great for multi-day jobs. But if your project or event will be completed in one day, it might be more cost effective to pay for a junk removal service.
Dumpster-rental costs vary widely, depending on how long you'll need the dumpster and what size you choose. Common sizes include:
- 10 yards: Can hold about three pickup trucks' worth of trash
- 20 yards: Can hold 4 tons of trash
- 30 yards: Can hold about nine pickup trucks' worth of trash
- 40 yards: Can hold about 12 pickup trucks' worth of trash
The most popular size is the 20-yard dumpster, which is commonly used for outdoor projects or home remodels. Bigger options, like the 30- and 40-yard dumpster, are generally used for major home renovations. They are also ideal for community cleanup events. The smallest sizes can be great for major home clean-outs in the spring or small do-it-yourself remodeling jobs.