Living without Trash Service

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Before moving out to the Missouri Ozarks, we lived just outside a large city on an acreage.  This meant that we had the privilege of a trash service coming out and picking up our garbage once a week and our recycling every other week.  We totally took advantage of this service, watching our garbage and recycling magically disappear week after week.  Sure, we fed food scraps to the chickens and had a compost pile going.  But the bulk of our waste was being carted away by a trash truck.

Then we moved to the beautiful Ozarks.  We live in an area that there is no trash service out here in the country.  Our trash no longer magically disappears.  In fact, we realized just how much trash our family of five made!  Holy moly!  It’s very common to see people burning their trash in burn barrels around here, so we tried it once.  It was effective, but it made Travis’s allergies flare up, he was stuffed up for days!   Not very pleasant.  So we decided to recycle as much as possible and try to get our trash output as low as possible.

Here are some of the things that we are doing:


  • We are trying to reduce purchasing any plastics/plastic wrap that is not recyclable.  A hard feat for sure, but we’re getting there. A great plastic wrap alternative that I’m eager to try are Beeswax Wraps.
  • Use reusable bags when shopping.  We keep extra bags in our car, just in case we forget to grab them when leaving the house.
  • We plan on growing and canning/preserving most, if not all of our food.  Processed food is something that we just don’t buy, but even buying whole foods can result in a lot of plastic.  Everything from bacon to broccoli is either plastic wrapped or placed in plastic bag!


  • Glass jars have been very handy for leftovers, broth, spices and organizing screws and nails in the garage.
  • If we use a ziploc bag, we wash it out and use it again. I would really like to get away from using ziploc bags altogether, but old habits die hard.  We’re definitely using them less often than before and using them multiple times.
  • Our chickens and pigs feast on food scraps.  They love it!


  • There is a recycling center in the town nearby.  We have been sorting paper, glass, plastic and tin and taking it all in to be recycled.
  • We are saving cardboard boxes for our garden beds this spring.
  • Using junk mail as fire starter has been a great way to get rid of the extra paper clutter that I never know what to do with.
  • We have several compost piles going, for food scraps that the chickens won’t or can’t eat, paper items that break down quickly, leaves, weeds, animal manures etc.


By doing all of this, we’re left with a small amount of trash that is not recyclable.  Currently, we take what we can’t recycle or reuse to the landfill, which is about 45 minutes away.  We typically wait until we have a pickup load before heading to the landfill.    We hope to reduce our trash even further. It is a work in progress.

Do you recycle?


23 responses to “Living without Trash Service

  1. Yes, we are so fortunate to have a great recycling center in Ava. We have chickens and also a compost pile for kitchen scraps but pretty much everything else we can recycle. Every once in a while we come across something though that can’t be easily disposed of…We are waiting for a hazardous waste disposable day in town to get rid of some of those things. We recently bought some additional acreage across the road from our farm and yikes there’s a lot of stuff to dispose of over there. They had a big hog operation back in the day and the shed was full of burned out heat lamp bulbs. Any ideas about how to get rid of those would be appreciated! 🙂 Enjoying your blog posts and hope we can meet some day. Kate

    • I will have to watch for hazardous waste day, we could take advantage of that! We’re finding all sorts of things here that need to be sorted and disposed of in the old farm buildings. Glad you enjoy the blog! I would love to meet you some day!

  2. We don’t have garbage pick-up where we live either, and that mountain of trash that we save up for a full pick-up load drives me crazy! Funny, I never thought to use the junk mail as firestarter, thanks so much!

  3. I know what you mean, the pile of trash that waits to go to the landfill drives me crazy too!! I figured that there had to be a good use for junk mail, since there’s always plenty of it. Works for us! 🙂

  4. Thanks for your kind response. We mostly recycle even the junk mail and just burn the stuff that has our name on it. I try and keep our burning to a minimum but there always seems to be things with SS numbers and other private info that I don’t want to share. Both Walmart and Town and Country have plastic bag recycling so if you find yourself in town without your own shopping bags you can feel a little better about recycling the store bags. I use our paper feed sacks in the garden to keep the weeds down. The DoCo recycling center in Ava takes almost all plastics 1-7 plus tin and aluminum cans, paper and cardboard. There is a nominal fee to recycle your glass but it’s way cheaper than a trip to the landfill. Feeling a little guilty about the burn barrel but overall, we have cut our actual trash to a small Walmart bag once a month. We are good friends with Frank and Mary and learned of your endeavors from them. Looking forward to reading more about your projects. Welcome to the Ozarks! 🙂 Kate

  5. Good tips. I cut up cardboard as a fire starter for our woodstove and any paper item goes into a bucket by the stove for the same. In the summer when we don’t use the stove I keep paper items in a special wastebasket and any time we get a cooler day I have a paper fire to get rid of the excess. – Margy

  6. I am SO bad about remembering my reusable bags! I’ll have to start keeping some in the car like you suggested. Hopefully I’ll remember to take them in the store!

  7. Great tips! Thank you for sharing. I started leaving my reusable bags in my car and it made a big difference. As soon as I unload my groceries from their bags I walk them out to my car. It makes a big difference. I also found reusable produce bags. I LOVE them. No more plastic produce bags (especially for smaller items like cherry tomatoes and green beans). I still use vacuum seal bags because I haven’t found an alternative.

  8. I am with you! We now live in a place where there is no trash service either. It has definitely made me pay even more attention to what products we buy and throw away! We use no paper products except toilet paper, and almost zero plastic. There are still things I have to buy from the grocery store that are wrapped in plastic, but I am working on reducing those as well. Thanks for sharing at the Homestead Blog hop!

  9. We’ve never had pick up service out here. Once every two months we load the truck up and go to the dump. We do have way too much, but have figured out ways to cut back. One, we get our mail delivered to the post office. We get very little junk mail, but what we get goes in the post office recycling bin. We also do burn paper products and keep everything separated. Out here people burn EVERYTHING and it can really stink!

  10. These are great tips! We do a lot of these as well. Soon I am hoping to make re-usable cloth bags for things like our homemade bread and for buying bulk foods in. We hope to continue to produce more and more for ourselves too. I think that will do a lot to decrease the amount of trash we produce.

  11. Has anyone tried making paper logs out of paper waste? I’ve seen the YouTube videos where you make it all into a slurry, then compact it until it all dries out to burn as a log/brick/whatever shape you dry it in. It looks like a great way to recycle without straight burning piles of loose stuff but I haven’t met anyone who has actually tried it on a sustainable basis.

    • I have seen a YouTube video about making paper logs, but haven’t tried to do it myself. It does seem to be a great way to use all the loose papers. I’ll have to look into that some more. Goodness knows we get plenty of junk mail. 🙂

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  13. Oh my goodness, you are a life saver!! I have been in the Mansfield area for a few months now and thought that recycling was out of the question. I am so happy to know that I can recycle some things in Ava. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

    • The Ava Recycling Center closed about a year ago, but there is one in Gainesville that is still going strong. There is also a scrap metal recycling place just outside of Ava that also takes cans and bottles. It’s nice to have a place to take some of this stuff to, isn’t it?

  14. My husband and I recently moved out to a house with no trash service, and I can sympathize with the eye opening moment when you realize how wasteful we, as humans are. I am working hard to change our habits when it comes to plastic usage and recycle more. We burn most of our trash, but I don’t like the idea of burning the plastics, so we are lucky to have a recycling facility about 45 minutes away. Everything is going well so far, but I am struggling with how to dispose of our cats used litter. It is possible for us to take it to the landfill (about 30 minutes in the opposite direction of the recycling facility) but it is not the most convenient option. Do you have any suggestions for alternative ways of disposing of this?

    I seriously did not appreciate our trash service enough when we had it!

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