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livingchoice's avatar

What is the proper way to burn garbage?

Asked by livingchoice (538 points ) July 6th, 2012

In my area we have to pay for garbage pick up. I’m always trying to save a buck or two so I thought that I would burn my gargabe instead by using a burn barrel. However it just didn’t turn out right. The items on the top were a little charred but still recognizable and the items on the bottom were still intact. Do you burn your garbage? What has been your experince and what’s worked for you?

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20 Answers

tom_g's avatar

Are you living in the U.S.? Is it legal to burn garbage in your town/state?

bkcunningham's avatar

I use to burn my garbage. Of course, you can’t burn cans or plastic bottles or glass. I would usually take a piece of cardboard, just a small piece, and light it with a lighter and toss it into the barrel with the other paper trash. I also had a grate that I kept over the barrel to prevent ash and possible burning pieces of debris from blowing or rising out of the barrel.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

I can’t burn garbage in my town or burn leaves and tree limbs. In the county outside the city limits you MUST have a burn permit form signed and approved by fire department.
Burning trash and garbage requires a very high temperature fire with additional combustibles like a natural gas fire.

bkcunningham's avatar

You know what, @livingchoice? I just thought about something. It has been awhile since I burnt my trash. I also had a metal rod, I think I used a piece of rebar, to stir the bottom of the barrel to turn the ashes and keep any pieces that hadn’t burnt up from settling to the bottom. You have to be prepared to remove and replace the barrel every so often to.

lillycoyote's avatar

You might want to check your local statutes regarding burning of trash, etc.first. Like where @Tropical_Willie lives, it is illegal in my county to burn garbage, leaves, etc. And a fire is pretty hard to hide, all that smoke and everything.

reijinni's avatar

burn barrel. Right now, waiting for enough rain to burn that crap again. same as @bkcunningham. Besides, how do you make sure that everything is burnt?

ccrow's avatar

I know it’s not legal where I am to have a burn barrel… I do burn paper trash in the woodstove, at least what doesn’t go in the recycle bin. I can get a permit for burning brush and leaves and such, though; and we have a campfire permit for the season. Assuming it is legal, don’t you have to have some sort of venting at or near the bottom to pull the air through, and create a draft?

cazzie's avatar

Some, uncoated paper trash is the only thing I would burn. Anything else, you are doing more harm than good.

Yetanotheruser's avatar

When I grew up we had a burn barrel that we kept out in the far corner of the yard. It was my job to take out the trash and to burn it. I found that if you burned one grocery-bag full of trash at a time, adding to it as the original bag burns, it is most efficient, and you would end up with only ashes accumulating at the bottom. The metal rod, or something like it, is a good idea to make sure the trash that accumulates at the bottom will burn.

bkcunningham's avatar

The bottom third of my burn barrel would be almost rusted through and bulging with ashes and who knows what before I’d have to haul it to the landfill and get a new 55 gallon drum to replace the old one.

jrpowell's avatar

This might sound crazy. You could start with a little bit of garbage and then add more once it gets going. I know, the idea is insane but it just might work.

bkcunningham's avatar

If @livingchoice is using his burn barrel like me and most other people I’ve know who burned their trash, he is putting the trash in the barrel like you would a trash can. Then when the weather is right and the barrel is full, you burn the trash. You may have to burn the trash more often.

bolwerk's avatar

WTF are you paying local taxes for if you don’t get proper garbage pickup?

cazzie's avatar

@bolwerk Our garbage pickup is contracted out and we pay a separate fee for it. The company that does it actually sends us a bill. I don’t know how common that is in other places.
We also have a rather elaborate recycling system. We have return deposit on all aluminium cans, plastic bottles used for drinks and most small glass bottles. We return them and get 1kr to 2.5kr back. It adds up. We bring them to the grocery store and put them through an automated machine. The machine gives us a receipt for the amount of deposit we put in it (one can at a time) and we use that slip as a discount off of our grocery store purchase, or we can take it up to the cashier and get cash. Cool system. I was damn impressed with it when I moved here.

We have separate bins for food waste, paper and plastic, but we have to bring our metal and other glass to a bin near a grocery store. It doesn’t leave that much left to pick up from regular household garbage.

bkcunningham's avatar

@bolwerk, not everyone has garbage pickup available where they live. When I burned my trash, I lived so far out in the country we had to haul our garbage to the trash dump or to a transfers station. For me, burning the paper debris made sense.

I’ve lived all over the east coast of the US and my garbage pickup has never been paid for with my tax monies.

bolwerk's avatar

@cazzie: Getting more common, I think. My parents live in a fairly rural (exurban?) area that flat out cut garbage service in the past decade.

@bkcunningham: I know, I was being somewhat facetious.

Yetanotheruser's avatar

@bolwerk trash pickup is not included in my local taxes; we have to contract with a commercial service.

bolwerk's avatar

@Yetanotheruser: yeah. That still just seems to almost defeat the purpose of local taxes. Local governments, at least outside of big cities (which usually have trash pickup included), don’t do much else. Well, little else that is of much use, anyway.

wolfieguy's avatar

Your trash is not burning on the bottom because you need to poke some holes in the barrel to let in some air near the sides and bottom. Fire needs air in order to burn. Here is what I do: Go to the hardware store and buy an awl. It is like a large nail and is used as a tool to punch holes in metal. Turn the barrel on its side and hammer the awl (you will probably need a sledge hammer) to poke holes in a ring around the barrel, about two inches from the bottom, with the holes spaced about five inches apart. When you are done with that, then do the same thing higher up on the barrel, about halfway between the top and bottom. This should be enough to get you started. There are some other things I would swear by, if you want to do even better:

1. If possible, keep your trash in paper grocery sacks. They will fit in the bottom of a kitchen garbage can and then when burn, they give you an edge of paper to light.

2. There is no need to burn every day. When you take out the trash to the barrel, toss in the trash and then use a piece of plywood as a lid on the barrel (when you are not burning) to keep the trash dry. When the barrel is full, it is time to burn the trash. Do not pack the trash tightly into the barrel. You want there to be gaps of space in among the trash, which will help it burn by letting air flow in. If you have cardboard boxes to burn, break them down and then stand them up vertically within the barrel. Set them on one side of the barrel and let your trash fill up the other side until you are ready to burn.

3. When you light the trash, do not just light a top piece with a lighter. It will go out three-quarters of the time and you will have to light it again. The real key is to get some trash lit down near the bottom. I swear by kitchen matches. Keep a box near your back door and just grab it on the way out when you take out your trash. Then at the barrel, strike a match and reach down pretty deep into the barrel with it and set it to any paper you can find among the trash. Then just let go of the match and let it fall in among the trash. The reason you want start the fire from deep down is that flames burn upward and will spread quickly instead of burning out if they hit a damp spot. After quite a while, your vent holes in the barrel will enlarge from rust and you will be able to light from outside the barrel by picking one of the larger holes where you can see a piece of paper, and poke a lit match through the hole.

4. If you can find a grate to put on top of the barrel when you are burning, it will keep larger ash and burning papers from flying out, drastically reducing fire risks.

5. When you burn your trash instead of having pickup service, it’s easy to become a packrat. It is something you want to stay on top of, and besides taking care of the garbage, make an effort not to let unwanted items and junk accumulate around the yard and in the garage because you are not sure what to do with it. It is easy to throw away the unneeded or unuseful in town because you toss it in the trash cart and close the lid and it is whisked away. When you burn, you have to deal with the unneeded more directly, and it can be hard. But you will need to remember that anything you no longer need and that can’t be used is nothing but trash to you and needs to be burned with the trash. When it comes time to do some closet cleaning, we usually start carrying out loads and build a pile out back. At some point while we are carrying out loads to the pile, someone will put a match it.

5. If you have a family, you will want to put some thought into chores, responsibilities and who takes out the trash and who burns it, or is allowed to burn it under supervision and without supervision.

Yetanotheruser's avatar

@bolwerk I’ve lived in several cities here in the US, some have provided trash pickup as a city service; they usually had a separate billing that came on the water bill.

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