Dealing With Discarded Items: Exactly Where is ‘AWAY’?

by Texas Homesteader ~ 

Have you ever thought about where things go when they’re tossed ‘Away‘? Not just as trash to the landfill but food through a garbage disposal, unused household items, celebration decorations, remembrance gatherings and more. This post may give you a few things to think about.

When you throw something away, where is this imaginary place called 'away'? #TexasHomesteader

(Note: Some links in this post will take you to other related articles for further information. But links preceded with * are affiliate links. If you click and buy something I could receive a tiny commission.)

My Beginnings Of Environmental Awareness

Recently RancherMan & I were talking about things that have impacted us strongly over the years. I recounted how an article I’d read decades ago kick-started my fledgling environmental bend into high gear.

Oh yes, several SEVERAL decades ago. Way before worrying about the environment was the fashionable thing to do!

I’d read a story about how people throw things ‘away‘ never thinking about where AWAY actually was. 

You know, when that broken whatzit is chunked into the trash as you tidily dust off your hands & walk off. Then the trash bag is bundled up and placed on the curb. Finally a large garbage truck comes & takes it away

Yep, it’s gone. Taken care of. Cleaned up. It’s taken away. 

But where is this mythical place of AWAY?

As I explained the premise of that article to RancherMan he shook his head enthusiastically and said that’s a viewpoint not often thought about.

Then he begged me to write this post, so this is for him…

First Problem of ‘Away’: The Landfill

By now you know that ‘away’ isn’t a mythical place where beautiful rivers run and butterflies float lazily in blue skies & flower-scented air. It often means the landfill.

I have no image of a landfill to show you. You know, to really bring home the emotion I’d like to impart. 

But I really don’t think it’s needed – you’ve all seen it. It’s the landfill. A multi-million-dollar problem for any city. 

Mountains of stinking, rotting trash that become a bigger & more expensive problem every year.

Oh sure we can feel better knowing we’ve cleaned up our own living space by neatly tossing that discarded item in the trash.

But by sending it ‘away‘ we’ve certainly not made the problem disappear.  We’ve just moved responsibility of dealing with it to someone else.

Make no mistake, it remains a part of a growing problem. It never disappears, it just stacks upon yesterday’s trash and the day before, and the day before, and…

Alternatives To The Garbage Disposal?

But it’s not always about the trash can & household goods. What about your garbage disposal? 

You shove those potato peels down the sink drain and flip on the garbage disposal switch. The motor roars into action and a stream of water flushes the undesirable material ‘away‘. Done & done!

Any plumber will cringe over the massive amounts of food waste many people attempt to flush through their kitchen sink’s plumbing pipes.

But… where does it go? 

If you’re lucky enough that it doesn’t clog your pipes over the years, those ground-up solids are flushed to the municipal water district who has to deal with it, filtering out the solids and disposing of them as they work to purify the water.

So manpower (and our tax dollars) are being wasted because of the way we chose to make food waste go ‘away’.

We tell ourselves there’s no need to deal with it ourselves by composting. The garbage disposal helps make it all disappear magically. 

Out of sight, out of mind, right?

A garbage truck comes & hauls your discards away. Yep, it's gone. Taken care of. Cleaned up. But where is this mythical place of AWAY? #TexasHomesteader

I’m not casting stones here now. I spent years cramming things down the garbage disposal until I read the aforementioned article a long time ago.

Balloons Floating ‘AWAY’ Are Dangerous For Animals

And what about those balloon releases that seem to be popular these days? Oh how I wish people who participate in balloon releases would stop & think about the final destination of all those balloons.

Sure the crowd can enjoy those few fleeting seconds of feel-good warm fuzzies as they watch all those balloons float ‘awayinto the blue sky. 

But do they stay in the sky forever? Of course not!

They all come down eventually, either hanging up in the trees or twisting & snagging on fences. Or sometimes just discarded beside our roadways or clogging our creeks and streams.

Balloon Releases produce lots of trash for someone else to deal with. Where is this mythical place of AWAY? #TexasHomesteader

Oftentimes one of these balloons will float down into one of our pastures where they’re potentially deadly for our cows when they pick up a balloon’s string along with their next bite of grass.

But no matter where these balloons land make no mistake, they’re trash for someone else to deal with!

Better (And Often EASIER) Options To Eliminate Trash

The point of this article isn’t to shame anyone nor make someone feel bad about their actions. It’s simply to get the gears moving and come up with better ways to do things. 

Perhaps ‘away‘ is something that you’ve never even considered before. Now’s a good time to consider it though.

Making Better Choices In Your Own Household

Think about it – when we send something away are we really taking care of a problem, or just pushing the problem to someone else to take care of? 

Oftentimes the result of making something go away is really not much different than someone who rolls down their car window & tosses out that empty bag of fast food. Sure their car is nice & clean now, but the trash problem hasn’t been solved at all. 

And the responsibility of dealing with it has just been forced upon someone else.

Better Suggestions For Dealing With Trash:

Giving Items A Second Life

Instead of throwing away your unused items, donate them for yet another life in another home.

If you donate to your favorite charitable thrift store they’ll sell your unused items and raise money for the causes you believe in.

Now those dishes you’re tired of will be a delightful change for someone else’s table!

Taking household goods to a thrift store and also buying from a thrift store is a way to close the loop on charitable giving. #TexasHomesteader

You’ve removed unused items from your home, your charity gets a little financial boost and someone else gets to enjoy affordable & new-to-them items for their own home. 

Plus  those items you no longer needed weren’t discarded & sent to the landfill. How awesome is all of that??

Food Waste For Healthier Plants

And Instead of shoving those potato peels through your garbage disposal, why not put them into a compost pile.

There they can naturally decompose and become that coveted natural black-gold compost for your flowers. 

Don't shove food waste through your sink pipes, use it to make healthy compost for your garden for FREE! #TexasHomesteader

We have several convenient *Tumbling Composters to use as our compost bins here on the Homestead.

But really all you need is a dedicated pile on the ground to make compost!

A tumbling composter is the perfect place to put food waste, banana peels, apple cores, cardboard, etc. to make black-gold compost for a healthy garden.

By using food scraps to make compost, no water was needed to flush potato peels down the sink drain (and no plumber’s bill to be paid when he unclogs those pipes). 

No solid waste from those ground-up potato peels had to be filtered out & removed by the city. And you get free natural compost for healthier plants that require less watering. 

All.  Good.  Stuff.

A honeybee visits the blossom of an apple tree. It's all part of a healthy eco system. #TexasHomesteader

A Better Way To Honor A Loved One

What about this? Instead of watching a balloon float away to honor a loved one, Plant a Small Tree in his or her honor. 

We’ve done this many times here at the Homestead. A Pistache tree with beautiful fall colors to honor my mother and a bright Crape Myrtle tree at my brother’s favorite Homestead fishing hole to honor him.

Sweet remembrance at the old fishing hole my brother loved. #TexasHomesteader

The planting of the trees was also part of the celebration of their lives. Mourners gathered and were involved with poems read, memories shared, mulch placed to care for the tree and watering cans to water the tree to nurture it.

A very comforting tradition in our family.

Plant a tree the right way - I'm sharing tips and tricks. Mourner watering memorial tree while reciting poem after planting remembrance tree. #TexasHomesteader

There have been many memorial plantings at our Homestead. And one year at the memorial service for a friend, mourners were given sunflower seeds to plant in their own yards to honor her memory.

You get what I mean… If you plant something in memory of someone you love, then it will remain as an ever-visible living monument to honor them right in your own yard. So much better than  mere seconds of viewing balloons destined to be trash for years and harmful to animals.

Sunflower bouquet angel remembrance #TexasHomesteader

So there are just a few examples to think about. The good news is that it only takes thinking a bit to solve a trash problem. I know we can all do better if we just take a moment to think outside the box.


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8 thoughts on “Dealing With Discarded Items: Exactly Where is ‘AWAY’?

  1. Judith C

    Something we women should think about is their feminine waste. In a woman’s lifetime, if she’s using disposable feminine products, she will have created a mound of trash six foot high and six feet in diameter by the time she reaches menopause. It was when our daughter began working on private yachts and sailboats (not big cruise ships) that she started using a Diva Cup for her “monthly” needs. A girl can’t flush things down “the head” on a boat and you can’t toss it overboard. Diva or Luna Cup to the rescue. Once she told me about them I was hooked. Besides, my husband had worked for years in the water industry. He had told me about the floating disposable products in the treatment ponds at the waste water facilities and I didn’t want to be a contributor to that problem. After the water is drained off the ponds to be cleaned, what’s left is bulldozed off to a land fill where it’s left to decompose.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Judith, thank you for sharing this. In days gone by I’d simply flush tampons & applicators, full-on not realizing the impact. They were simply flushed ‘away’. And by the time I became aware of the Diva cup, I was no longer in need of feminine protection. But I love that more & more women are being made aware. Those who use the Diva cup (or one of the many other manufacturers) love them. And many are buying or making resuable pads too. Sometimes it takes a while to get a population onboard with a new mindset like this, but the winds of change are blowin’ and I love it! ~TxH~

  2. Brenda

    So, SO important! Thank you for posting this!

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      🙂 That post was the very genesis of my environmental bend, Brenda. And it still colors many of the actions I take even now. ~TxH~

  3. Lori Martin

    I love this post! What I find really frustrating is planned obsolescence in consumer goods, particularly appliances.
    I have been able to drastically reduce our household waste and it no longer seems like a chore. We maintain and service our appliances but even if we get more years than expected- such waste when they need to be replaced. However, I just spent a week trying to unsuccessfully repair a vacuum cleaner. The waste from the packaging on the new one was greater than a month of our normal garbage.
    I wish there was a good way to put pressure on manufacturers for higher quality. It seems like washers and dryers now have about 40 functions ‘you can’t live without’ but the machine has a 3-5 year lifespan. No thanks.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      You’re so right Lori and the disposable-appliance conversation is one that RancherMan & I talk about often. Heck, our parents had a refrigerator, dishwasher, washing machine, etc for decades, often only replacing because the trendy avocado green was no longer trendy! RancherMan & I bought all of our appliances brand new in 2008 and we’ve already had to replace our expensive counter-depth refrigerator. And we’ve had to order parts to repair our microwave numerous times already. And as we speak, the oven is on the fritz. It’s almost like consumers now accept that manufacturers will build non-lasting products with a short usable life. Like you, I wish we could put the pressure on manufacturers to build products meant to last like they used to! ~TxH~

  4. Mrs Shoes

    We’ve never had a garbage disposal – no need. Instead we have pigs & chickens & rabbits, & horses, & dogs, & cats &, betwixt us & all of them, not much of anything food related goes to waste.
    When I make a meal, it is almost always with leftovers on purpose. Many years ago now Mr Shoes hit a ‘sandwich wall’ and has since demanded a full meal (2 on double shifts) that he can heat & eat at his off the farm job. He uses reusable containers for his food and a special hot mug for his coffee.
    We separate our garbage into recyclables (there is a section for everything at our local dump), burn barrel stuff, and real trash. We only have to burn &/or haul away once every 4 to 6 weeks with just the 2 of us, and most of what goes to the dump is our recyclables (which they collect & sell).
    When Mr Shoes DOES go to the dump, he always has his eye open for something reusable; he salvaged all the tin we needed to side our cattle & pig shelters FROM the dump.
    I reuse feed bags to cover my gardens in winter, and also as ‘catch alls’ under the bunny cages – the haul from the catch alls goes right into the gardens, the rest of the bunny waste (mostly soiled hay) goes into the compost where it’s hot enough to kill seeds.
    Chicken waste goes to fertilize my fruit trees. Pig waste seems to disintegrate into the ground, but a few times a year we replace the straw in their shelter, even though they do not eliminate where they nap. We drag the pastures so that horse & cattle dung breaks up quickly and goes back as fertilizer.
    I reuse the plastic that toilet paper comes wrapped in as garbage bags (I refuse to use cloth wipes & launder them, thank you). I reuse as many boxes as come into the house to package Christmas gifts, or to pack meat for gifting (we support some family members, whether they appreciate that….?), etc. If I get too big a collection of boxes, then I fill them with stuff I don’t need & send them to the thrift store.
    We have also found & cleaned up a number of what we call “farmer dumps” from the old days when folks just piled stuff up and buried it in rocks and let Mother Nature reclaim it (most of Los Angeles was built in the same manner, I think). I’m glad those days are done and that we do have a dump to haul AWAY to for the little bit of actual garbage that we send there. It’s good to be mindful of our imprint on the planet – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      It sounds like you’ve also considered where ‘away’ is, Mrs. Shoes. Great job lowering your footprint! We’ve located the ‘farmer dump’ on our own property as well. We gathered up all the metal & hauled it to the metal recycling company. We also gathered up the massive quantities of glass and hauled it to the recycling company. But I’ve kept some of the old discards that I use in my home such as intact canning jars (Properly labeled so they won’t accidentally be used for canning or food storage), a lovely old porcelain pitcher, etc. I feel a quiet connection with the generations that lived here before us when I see & use those things from so long ago. ~TxH~


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