If your community didn’t have trash collection services, what would you do with your trash? That’s a questions that most Paraguayans face. Few communities have any organized trash collection, so every family is on their own.
Let’s assume you’re already doing everything you can to produce as little trash as possible.
Would you burn your trash?
Burning your trash would get rid of it, which is a plus because it would keep your property neater. But, when you burned plastic it would create a terrible smell and release bad chemicals.
Would you throw out your trash, just on the ground at the edge of your property?
That would avoid releasing bad chemicals in the air like when you burn it. Tossing trash is easy. But, it would make the entire area where you throw your trash ugly, and you might have to clean up trash a lot when animals and wind bring trash into your living space. Depending on what kind of trash you have and where you decide to throw it, it could contaminate water or make animals sick.
Would you bury your trash?
Burying your trash would get it out of sight and avoid releasing bad chemicals into the air. But, you’d have to dig a hole and cover it, and then a dig another one when it got full. That’s more work than burning it or tossing it. Depending on where you decide to dig your trash pit, it might contaminate your water, and it would make that area bad for growing things if you wanted to put a garden there in the future.
Would you divide your trash and treat each type differently?
It would be a lot of work, but you could do something with each kind of trash.
You could burn your paper trash. That would get rid of a lot of it—in Paraguay you can’t flush toilet paper so you have to get rid of used toilet paper somehow. Because it’s paper it wouldn’t release too many harmful chemicals into the air.
You could make a compost pile or feed your food scraps and other organic waste to animals.
You could collect and reuse glass, metal, and plastic bottles, jars, and containers. In some places in Paraguay you can get money for glass and plastic bottles you bring to recycling, but sometimes those centers are really far away. Sometimes there is someone who goes around buying glass and plastic bottles for recycling.
What about all other plastic waste? It could be buried. With things like plastic wrappers and bags you could use them for other things. You could make trash art or eco-bricks. Plastic is the trickiest.
In places where there are public trashcans and trash collection it’s easy to just toss your trash and never think about it again—especially in areas where litter doesn’t serve as a visual reminder. But, despite what you think, your trash does go somewhere. In Paraguay, often that somewhere is a lot closer to home than a dump at the edge of town.