Dealing with Trash in a Disaster

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This post is by Bernie Carr,

A couple of weeks ago, trash pickup in our apartment complex was suspended for two days due to severe storms.  The trash compactor area quickly filled up and people were leaving trash outside the enclosed area.  The whole place was filthy and reeked of rotting garbage.  It only takes a couple of days between pickups for those apartment bins to fill up to overflowing.   It got me thinking that garbage would be a big problem in a disaster situation.


Thinking about trash disposal is not the most glamorous side of emergency preparedness, but is worth some consideration and planning.   With literally tons of trash being generated daily, what would happen if garbage collection in your area were to be interrupted for a period of time?  Or if there were an economic collapse and cities could no longer afford to pay for scheduled trash pickup?

If trash collection were to stop for an indefinite period of time, accumulating garbage in the streets will attract flies, rats, cockroaches and other pests.  These pests carry disease, and it will only be a matter of time before an epidemic starts to spread.

Stock up on short term waste disposal supplies such as:

  • large heavy duty trash bags – lawn and leaf bags, or construction bags
  • an extra garbage can or two
  • bleach for sanitizing
  • gloves you can use for handling trash
  • insecticide for pest control

Longer Term Options

Burn it.  Burning trash is not be a good option in the city due to the danger of fire.  It would be even worse in a grid down situation, if there is no fire department available.

Bury It.  You may have to find an empty lot to bury the trash.

Composting.  You can deal with organic wastes such as food scraps, by composting. This can be done outside if you have a yard or in a bucket.

Recycling and Repurposing.  People will find new uses for all sorts of items if the shops were closed or if they have no money to buy things.

It wouldn’t be a bad idea to form new habits and minimize our garbage output.

  1. Start being conscious of how much is getting thrown out in your household.  Are you overly dependent on packaged goods such as frozen entrees?  Try cooking from scratch and you will notice how much less waste and trash it generates.
  2. Think about how you recycle or re-purpose certain items.  I save 2-liter soda bottles and 64 ounce juice bottles for water storage.  I reuse plastic grocery bags on a daily basis.  I also keep spray bottles with the plastic nozzles so I can make homemade cleaners.
  3. Minimize food trash by using up leftover food instead of throwing it out.  Find uses for fruit peels, reuse coffee grounds etc.
  4. Get into the habit of consolidating and tearing up large pieces of garbage into smaller more manageable pieces.  As a bonus benefit, you will save money by using less garbage bags.

© Apartment Prepper 2016



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  1. When you are planning your post SHTF garbage disposal keep OPSEC in mind …. garbage picking will become a full time occupation for many – don’t pin point your survival operation by disposing of food type items at your location …. plan on making nite time runs to other dumping locations, in the area, to spread out your disposals ….

    1. Ilini Warrior, Great point. Best to make your own runs to dumping locations. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Glad you brought this up as I too live in an apartment. Maybe a follow-up about how to deal as well as you can with the resulting pests like mice/rats, roaches, ants etc. Fellow apartment/condo dwellers will make a mess that attracts and supports them even if you don”t and they’ll use one place for a restaurant and another for living quarters. My workplace was fine til they built a grocery store next door. About 3 months later WE were the ones with the rat problem!

  3. A few years back, I started a Recycling campaign in our previous neighborhood to prevent the overflowing of garbage in our area. We were awarded by the local government. It’s good to know that they still do this today. I’m planning to start a similar program to my new neighborhood now. Aside from preventing the overflowing of garbage, I also wish to inspire and encourage others. That would really make a difference.

  4. I’ve dealt with delayed pickup before, and it’s never, ever a good time. The best solution I found, especially with living in the city, was finding a place I could go to dump my trash. I definitely didn’t want to try dealing with fire, and eventually the pickup balanced back out. Thanks for sharing.

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