Reusing garbage in a post SHTF world

Reusing Garbage in a post SHTF worldYou’ve probably heard the expression “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” and even though it may sound amusing for some people, under certain circumstances you may discover that it holds a harsh truth. Every doomsday scenario depicts cities where garbage is piling up, but the reality may be different since the unprepared ones do not have the luxury of throwing out their garbage.

The concept of something having contradictory qualities to different people has been around a long time and garbage is no exception. While Hollywood movies show cities suffocated by garbage after it has hit the fan, I can’t help but notice the flaws in their scripts. If you are preparedness minded you’ve learned by now that improvisation is the mother of prepping. Everything can be reused and given a new life, including garbage. I feel that the topic of reusing garbage in the aftermath of a SHTF event is not given the proper coverage in the online media today. This is still one of those sensitive topics that is left untouched because people don’t want to think or discuss about things that will somehow affect the quality of their lives.  Some of them think that reusing garbage will make them a hoarder and that society will condemn and isolate them for adopting such practices. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really care what society thinks of me because society won’t provide for my family when it hits the fan.

Re-purposing or reusing garbage for survival is a common practice in third world countries, but for us, the more civilized ones it seems like a last resort. There are many ways you can reuse your garbage and I honestly think is better to acquire this knowledge as we never know what the future may bring. A lot of Americans fear that an economic collapse is on its way and they look with horror at how the people of Venezuela are looting and eating trash just to survive another day. While dumpster diving is a common practice in our country and the less fortunate ones know how to take advantage of what other people are throwing, it is not the topic of this article. We will concentrate on how organic and non-organic waste can be reused when things get really bad.

How to reuse non-organic garbage

Most families are recycling their non-organic waste and while this is a good practice for saving the environment, we also have to think about ways to re-purpose such waste when recycling facilities no longer work. Every household recycles a certain amount of glass, plastic, paper and metal each year and I believe we can find new uses for these materials if we are forced to do so.

Glass

Every glass jar or bottle can be obviously used as a container, but you can also cut these glass items to make various objects.  Nowadays there are all sorts of DIY projects that teach people how to cut various bottles and turn them into drinking glasses, candle supports, toothbrush supports and what not. However, since you cannot fill your house with glasses and toothbrush supports you could use the bottles and jars you store for your garden or as building materials. Some will make a bottle torch while others will use them as planters. I’ve seen shelves created from bottles and I’ve seen people use them as building materials for earthships and similar construction projects. You can even use glass items to create perimeter alarms or traps that will certainly slow down any intruders. In certain part of the world broken glass is cemented to the top of brick walls as a layer of security instead of barbed wire. You can even melt glass and turn it into floor and wall tiles if you can afford to buy a small kiln or if you know how to build one at home. There are many ways you can use glass items and the internet is full of DIY projects (even though mostly are decorative ones).

Plastic

Plastic items can be reused in many ways and you can find a multitude of DIY projects with a simple Google search. Reusing plastic for survival comes under various forms and besides the obvious uses of plastic items as containers, you can also transform this material to make new things. When it comes to plastic bottles finding a new life for them is limited only by one’s imagination. You can use plastic bottles as garden planters, as insect and fishing traps, as building materials to create furniture, rafts and even houses. You can create cordage or filaments from plastic items such as bottles or jugs. Plastic bags can be reused in the garden as weed control methods, to waterproof items, to gather water and what not. You can also melt plastic and turn it into various forms, you can make blocks of plastic and carve the items you need or manufacture machine pieces to replace the broken ones. There are even 3d printers using plastic to manufacture precision part items and it’s just a matter of time until manufacturing your plastic filament needed for such printers become a homemade task. Plastic is a versatile material that can be recycled and reused in ways you can’t imagine and the beauty of it is that you don’t need a factory to do it.

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Paper

While most people will use paper and other paper products as fire starter or burning fuel in a survival scenario, there are other uses you can find for it. First of all, paper and cardboard are great insulators and this is one of the survival tips I’ve learned from the homeless. During the winter, many of them would insulate their clothing and footwear with newspapers. There are those who would search for abandoned spaces and go a step further by isolating the walls of said spaces with cardboard and duct tape.  So as you can see, you can use paper or cardboard to insulate the walls and pipes from your home. You can use the paper even in your garden and while some will create homemade seed pots, there are those who use newspapers for weed protection instead of using plastic which is not biodegradable. You can even use it for construction projects and papercrete (concrete made from paper) is becoming more and more popular, especially in developing countries where general housing is becoming a problem. I’ve read that certain preppers would even consider using phone books as a bulletproofing method and that they plan on using them inside their walls as defense areas. And let’s not forget that paper can also be used as emergency toilet paper when nothing else is available. As a precautionary measure, you should not store your paper supplies inside or near your home since it can become a major fire hazard.

Recommended article: Survival lessons learned from the homeless

Metal

This is another versatile material that can be reused and transformed in useful items. From metal cans to coat hangers, everything can be reused. For example, you can use metal cans as containers to store or cook food, as improvised trip wires and alarms. Coat hangers can be used to improvise a grill to cook your food, or you can make traps to catch small animals. Every metal item can be bent, drilled, cut or melted to be reused and given a new purpose. I’ve noticed there is a trend of building your own foundry at home and making various blades and other items such as arrow tips.  Using metal items helped the ancient humans evolve into the modern age and it will help us survive, long after the modern technology is no longer working. This is one of the most versatile and durable materials that we can reuse and you can do everything with it as long as you acquire the proper knowledge on how to transform it.

How to reuse organic garbage

When it comes to organic waste, there are two main categories: human waste and everything else that is biodegradable. While the topic of reusing human waste sounds disgusting for most people and it’s a known fact that most of them don’t like to read about the less attractive parts of prepping, I still think it’s worth mentioning it.

Human waste

When it comes to human waste, few people dare to talk about using human urine and faces as fertilizer since it is an unappetizing concept. However, this is not something new that survivalist and preppers advocate for and it’s been common practice for centuries. For most of you, promoting a waste product that people associate with diseases and consider hazardous as a resource to grow your food may seem like a paradox, but even developed countries do it. For thousands of years, China’s farmers have used human manure as fertilizer. Recycling human waste is actually a good method to prevent the pollution of surface waters with nitrogen and phosphorus-rich wastes. Human waste is used as chemical fertilizer since it provides an inexpensive and convenient nutrient source for the soil. There are even thoroughly researched books on the topic of composting human manure and I recommend reading the “Humanure handbook” if you would like to know more about this subject. Another way human waste can be reused is as deterrent for other humans and I’ve read about how many preppers plan to use this human byproduct to conceal the presence of their caches. Some survivalists advise hiding a cache in an open area and deposit human waste in its vicinity or even in the same spot to discourage people from snooping around. There is even a generator invented by students from Africa that uses human urine to create power. The device uses electrolysis to separate hydrogen from the water in urine and then fuels a generator with the gas, so theoretically you could be charging your phone by using your own urine.

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Biodegradable waste (non-human)

When it comes to the other biodegradable waste that comes from your home there are two major ways you could reuse it in a survival situation. The first and the most obvious method for some would be to compost all the organic leftovers. This is a good practice in the countryside because it helps people get rid of their organic waste without having to pay someone to collect it. At the same time, they can reuse this waste to improve the quality of their garden soil and provide a boost for each gardening season. Almost everything can be turned into compost and it’s not even hard work as many tend to believe. You can check YouTube to learn more about how to compost as there are various videos for both beginners and experienced gardeners.  The other method that helps you make good use of your organic waste implies building a biogas generator that would provide you with energy when the power grid is down. This approach is rather new for most of the preppers out there and they think that this solution is only being used at an industrial scale and it cannot be used for typical households. Nothing further from the truth as there are now ingenious ways to make this technology available for your home. Check out this video if you want to learn more and build your own biogas generator.

Recommended article: How to make compost tea

In a world where consumerism is aggressively being promoted through every available channel, we tend to forget that everything we produce can be reused and re-purposed. Every item you come in contact with may turn into garbage at some point, but that doesn’t mean it is not useful anymore. Even the fabrics we produce can be reused, transformed or repaired to prolong their use. Batteries can be reconditioned and furniture items can be repaired or re-purposed. Reusing garbage may not sound appealing at first and yet every one of us avoids throwing away certain items because “they may come in handy one day”.

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