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Trash Talk: Survival Sanitation

garbage bagIt’s one of those pesky realities that rears its ugly head wherever life goes on—getting rid of the trash.  In a long-term survival situation, it’s not going to magically disappear every Thursday morning, so it’s best to be prepared.

For the best way to get along on your own, just remember the four “Bs” of survival sanitation: Bag, Burn, Bury, and Compost.  Okay, it’s three Bs and a C, but that didn’t sound as good, so I rounded it off to the nearest whole letter!

Ain’t Too Proud to Bag

For short-term situations (and unexpected circumstances that could be short or long) it’s a good idea to keep around a lot of plastic bags of many sizes and a good rubber garbage can or two with lids that snap on tight.  Even for long-term situations, you are going to want to be able to keep some trash around safely and sanitarily for a while between major hauls or burnings.

Remember, when you’re in survival mode, a lot of critters might be in survival mode too, especially if it’s a flood or natural disaster.  You don’t want bears and raccoons knocking on your door or your tent to find a snack, so keep the trash at a distance.  Bag your trash and seal it tightly to keep odors from escaping, both to keep your air fresh and to keep animals from finding it.  Bags are easily torn, and squirrels and other animals will have your trash strewn everywhere, so snap it tightly into a good garbage can that you set off at a distance, and tie the garbage can to a tree so they can’t knock it over.  If you have the option, keep it inside a garage or shed for a few days until you’re ready to deal with it.  You’ll want to bag your food and organic waste separately from your dry waste, because you are going to compost it.  We’ll get to that in a minute.

Your Trash Ain’t Nothin’ But Ash

The best way to get rid of the bulk of your trash is to burn it, if that is possible and legal in your situation and setting.  Be sure to use safety precautions.  Don’t burn on windy days, and get as far from trees and structures as possible.  If you have some chicken wire or heavy screen to put over the fire or fire barrel, these are helpful in stopping floating sparks from escaping and setting the grass or trees on fire.  If you have a good water supply, you should wet down the grass and any shrubs that are downwind of the fire.  If you’re in an urban or suburban setting, keep in mind that the smell of a fire travels a long distance, and the smoke is readily visible, so it’s not a good way to keep a low profile, particularly if there is a burning ban in your area.  Make sure you start with dry trash, burn your trash completely, and bury anything that doesn’t turn to ash.  It’s a good idea to burn your cans too, as it gets rid of the labels and residual contents, and it makes them easier to flatten and bury later.  It also reduces the time it takes them to decompose.

Trash & Bury

If you can’t burn your garbage, the next best option is to bury it.  And you can’t burn everything anyway.  If there is a place you can take your trash for burning away from your living area, that would be best.  But these are the main factors to consider:

• Bury it deep enough so that animals will not dig it up.

• Avoid sites that may contaminate ground water or surface water.

• Keep it away from your living area.

• Flatten all boxes and cans first.

• Don’t bury trash in plastic bags unless they are biodegradable.

Compost, or Be Grossed

There are two solutions for disposing of food and organic waste— a well-managed compost heap or an unsightly pile of maggots, pestilence, stench, and vermin.   We recommend the former.  Composting is nature’s technique for recycling organic material back into new soil.  It is great for topping off your garden soil or around trees and shrubs, and is rich in the nutrients that plants need.  You will want to keep your “compost- in-progress” away from structures and at a bit of a distance.  With just a little effort, it will be an integral and welcome part of your adventure in survival sanitation.

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