Let’s look at garbage as a resource

What would happen if we looked at our garbage as a resource?

This would reduce packaging waste. If the material was thought of as a valuable resource, then companies would design their products to minimize the use of the valuable resource. If the packaging held value, then consumers would think twice about throwing it in the garbage. Or simply, could the packaging be compostable, and all people could compost their packaging if it cannot be reused. Or another easier alternative would be to not have packaging if possible. 

Victorian garbage

In English Victorian times, glass jars would be reused, fish and meet bones and vegetable peelings would be used to make soup stock. Meet bones would have been sold to the ‘rag and bone man’. Unusable food scraps would be collected and sold called ‘wash’ that would be used to feed pigs as ‘hogwash’. This was sold to the ‘washmen’. Glass jars would be reused or taken to the greengrocers to be refilled. Metal cans would be sold for scrap metal. Dust would be collected in a dustman and pick up by ‘dustmen’.

Interestingly, Victorian garbage had economic value and perhaps we should look at them in the same way. In rural Victorian times, people living in rural areas would simply dig a hole and fill it with their garbage. There was not an organized collection in rural areas. There is potential to have more options for rural communities to recycle their materials?


What about the garbage in the landfills or dumps? Can we think of that as a valuable resource? There have been a few attempts to mine garbage dumps, but we need economic benefits to do this. We also need technology to make it worthwhile and useable. Additionally, we need health and safety measures to ensure the safety of all those involved. Reusing and recovering materials would have environmental benefits and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Eventually, we could also reclaim and prevent more land being taken up with landfills.

Interestingly, the Consortium for Waste Circularity (wastecircularity.org) in the US has proposed mining landfills to create syngas that would be used for power. They propose that syngas would provide endless circularity and be sustainable. Please see their website for more information. More research, policy support, and initiatives are needed.


We would recommend communities (large and small) work to implement a compost system for its residents. This would involve drop off areas and pick up bins at houses, apartments, and businesses. A municipal composting program would divert that material from the garbage dumps. It would create compost that citizens could come and pick up for their flowerpots, gardens, or yards.


Additionaly, we also recommend an educational campaign to show people how the landfills are collecting other materials that can be recycled. Interestingly, many people do not realize that is an option. Taking a load to the dump is time consuming for many people. We would recommend easier pick-up options. Additionaly, rural communities could take advantage of alternatives as well.

Ultimately, once we start thinking in circles of how to reuse, repair, repurpose materials and think of garbage as valuable resources, then there are circles of possibilities everywhere. Basically, when we start utilizing these circles, then it will become easier to implement new circles. Ultimately, the circles of possibilities will become circles of possible.

This would only be one part of all the possible that we could and should do. We realize that change can be overwhelming and scary. We think that the alternative is scarier. There is a lot of strength in being able to change for a positive future and work towards that.

Here at Prairie Circular Economy, we can help you become a leader in your community. Contact us for a free discovery call and we can work together.