In a post-SHTF world, there will be trash piling up everywhere, and for the most part, it will stay undisturbed until vegetation takes over.
Every movie portraying the end of civilization depicts cities where garbage is piling up and we see scavengers looking for hidden treasures in those garbage piles. However, the reality may be different than what we see in the movies and the survivalist doesn’t really have the luxury to throw out garbage.
What may seem garbage to some, in a desperate situation, that garbage may have contradictory qualities to others. After all, improvisation is the mother of necessity, and everything can be reused and given a new life, even the garbage you throw out.
The topic of reusing garbage ore recycling it is not covered
as much as it should within the prepping communities. It’s one of the sensitive
topics that few people bother to think about, let alone talk about it. Some are afraid that reusing their garbage
will make them a hoarder in the eyes of others, while others fear that society
will isolate and condemn them for their practices.
Re-purposing garbage for survival may seem eccentric in our
“modern society,” but this is a common practice in third world countries. As
you will see in the following lines, there are many ways you can reuse your
garbage, and this is the knowledge you want to acquire before SHTF.
Dumpster diving is already a common practice in our country,
and in recent years, there has been an increased number of people having to
rely on it just to survive. Not to mention that we see more and more in the
news how people living in countries affected by economic collapse (such as
Venezuela) are eating whatever they can find in the trash just to survive
For the purpose of this article, we will look at how organic
and non-organic waste can be reused when SHTF.
Many American families are recycling their non-organic waste,
and it’s a good practice to keep our environment clean. However, when recycling
facilities no longer work, we would have to think of ways to reuse this garbage
without suffocating our living area. In your household, you are probably
recycling a certain amount of glass, plastic, paper, and metal every year. But
what would you do with all that waste if you are forced to reuse it?
It’s obvious that every glass bottle or jar can be used as containers. However, you can also cut these items to make various objects. You can find a lot of info online about turning glass items into drinking glasses, candle supports, toothbrush supports, and whatnot.
Since you cannot fill your house with drinking glasses and
you won’t need more than one or two toothbrush supports, you need to find
another life for your bottles and jars.
You can use the bottles and jars you recycled for your
garden chores and even as building materials. Some people will make a bottle
torch, while others will use them as planters. I’ve also seen shelves created
from bottles and other furniture. There are also people using them as building
materials for Earthships and similar construction projects.
Glass items are also ideal for creating perimeter alarms or
traps that will slow down intruders. Broken glass is cemented to the top of
brick walls to keep nosey people at bay, and if you top your fence with barb
wire, you will have a double layer of security. If you can afford to buy a
small kiln or if you are able to build one, you can melt glass and make floor
or wall tiles. There are all sorts of possible uses for your glass items.
Reusing plastic in a survival scenario is much easier
compared to glass. In fact, there are all sorts of projects online teaching you
how to reuse plastic items besides their obvious use as containers. Finding a
new life for your plastic items is limited only by your imagination. Preppers
are making plastic cord from plastic bottles, and it’s the “new thing” on the
All the plastic bottles you have can be used as garden
planters, fishing traps, or as building materials to create all sorts of
objects. Some can build rafts from plastic bottles, while others can build an
If you have plastic bags, these can be reused for weed control in your garden. You can also use plastic bags to waterproof items, to gather water or to set animal traps. Plastic nowadays is melted and turned into blocks used in construction. Some countries are using plastic to build roads while the modern teenager is using it to 3D print various objects.
In a survival scenario, most preppers will use paper and
other paper products as fire starters and burning fuel. However, I would personally use paper and cardboard
as insulators since this is one survival trick I’ve learned from the homeless.
They often use newspapers to insulate their clothing and footwear during the
cold season. Those that have found an abandoned place and made it their
temporary home will often insulate the walls using cardboard and duct tape.
In a blackout scenario where you can no longer heat your
home, you can use cardboard to insulate the walls of a room and move everyone
inside in order to survive the cold days.
If you like gardening, you can make homemade seed pots, and
you can use newspapers for weed protection since its biodegradable.
You can move things up a notch and make papercrete (concrete
made from paper) for your building projects. Back in the day, people were
stealing phone books and use them inside their shelter to increase protection
against home intruders.
However, if you would like to reuse paper or cardboard, I
advise you not to store these supplies inside or near your home as it can
become a fire hazard.
This is another versatile resource that can be reused in various ways post-collapse. Metal cans, coat hangers, and pretty much everything you can think of can be reused. All metal containers can be used to store or cook food, but you can also use them to improvise trip wires and alarms.
From coat hangers, you can improvise snares or make various
traps to catch small animals. With a little patience, you can use a few coat
hangers and improvise a grill to cook your food. If a metal object can be bent,
cut, drilled, or melted, then you can reuse it for your projects and give it a
Some preppers have their own foundry at home and their hobbies
include making various blades and other items they can sell. Since metal was
the main material that helped humans evolve, it will also help us survive long
after this civilized world fails us. You can do pretty much everything you want
with metal as long as you get the proper knowledge on how to transform it.
When we talk about organic waste, we should make a clear distinction between the two main categories. These two are human waste and everything else that is biodegradable.
The idea of using human waste is repulsing for some, and
from experience, I can tell you that some people don’t like to talk about the
“human waste handling business” of prepping. Regardless of how the following
lines will make some people feel, I still believe this is something worth
In ancient times, human urine and faces were used as
fertilizer by many cultures, but today, it’s an unpleasant concept for modern
people. 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.
In fact, to recycle human waste is a good method to prevent
polluting surface water with nitrogen and phosphorus-rich waste. When gardening
centers are closed, you may have to use human waste in your garden since it’s a
readily-available and convenient nutrient source for your soil.
If you don’t believe me and you think I might have lost my
mind, I encourage you to read the “Humanure Handbook,” and you will learn more
about this subject.
In a dog eat dog world, you can use human waste as a
deterrent for other humans. I’ve heard survivalists say that they will use
human byproducts to conceal their stashes and make cache sites uninviting.
Biodegradable, non-human waste
All the other waste coming from your home that is biodegradable can be reused in an SHTF scenario in two major ways.
As you probably have figured it out by now, the most common
one is to turn biodegradable waste into compost. Almost all the organic
leftovers from your kitchen can be turned into compost, and this is a common
practice in the countryside. Country folks use organic waste to improve the
quality of their garden soil and boost each year the gardening season. There is
a lot of information online about what can be turned into compost.
The second method of reusing biodegradable garbage is to
build a biogas generator that would provide you with energy to power your
appliances when the grid is down. This approach is rather new (and complex) for
most preppers out there, but it can be done.
In today’s world, the consumerism trend is making us dormant
and obedient, and we often forget that everything we produce can be reused and repurposed.
We are being trained to consume and produce garbage, and we keep repeating this
cycle. If you take a moment and think about it, you will realize that every
object you come in contact with during your day to day activities may have
other used besides ending up as garbage.
Fabrics can be reused, batteries can be reconditioned,
furniture can be repurposed, and we can prolong the lives of the items instead
of creating garbage. This may not sound appealing to most folks, but in a world
where resources are scarce, you may be forced to hold on to your garbage.
This content was originally published here.