Tag Archives: salvage

The Joy of Recycling One Nail

Recycling one nail

“The quest to recycle everything, or avoid buying it in the first place, is a lifelong journey, one where the end goal seems both incrementally closer and infinitely far away.”

Rationally speaking, it is admittedly futile. Why worry about recycling one rusty nail when other people seem callous to recycling anything? What’s one nail compared to two huge dumpsters overflowing every week with unsorted recyclables mixed with garbage? Cardboard, aluminum cans, tin cans, copper wires, and recyclable plastics… people pitch it in the dumpster along with equally recyclable scrap metal and easily compostable kitchen scraps and lawn clippings. It is shocking how much waste we generate in my community of just 250 people. It is sad how many recyclables are discarded with the trash when there are recycling bins conveniently located at the dumpster site. Extrapolating from our tiny rural community to the colossal mountains of trash generated nationally in a country of 325 million people, the waste is inconceivable, beyond imagination. Why would anyone keep trying?

Recycling a recliner

A couch or recliner is almost entirely recyclable.

Nevertheless, I carry on. I’ll wipe out a metal paint bucket and dry the can before recycling it as scrap metal. I poke holes in the bottom of empty aerosol cans with the can opener on my pocketknife, releasing any residual gasses, while pointing the can away from myself for safety. For insurance, I wear safety glasses. If the aerosol can is spray paint, I completely remove the bottom of the can to extract the glass marble inside. Then it is a simple matter to dry the can on the woodpile before smashing it flat with the back of the ax to recycle with other tin cans.

I’ll go the extra mile to recycle anything that can reasonably be recycled while pondering how to recycle whatever trash is leftover. A couch, for example, is almost entirely recyclable. After disassembly, all metal bolts, springs, and plates can be recycled as scrap iron. A five-gallon bucket is handy for collecting random bits of metal. Any untreated wood can be cut up for firewood, extracting warmth for the house while reducing the need for fossil fuels. The fabric covering can be washed and dropped off at Goodwill stores to be shipped out for sale to the rag market. The remaining foam pads make great sponges, easily cut to any shape or size, eliminating the need to buy big cleaning sponges at the store.

Recycling a trailerhouse

I dismantled a trailerhouse for recycling and successfully re-used about eighty percent of the materials.

In addition to saving natural resources from the waste stream, recycling provides a unique opportunity to consider green business opportunities working with recycled content. For example, a trailerhouse is built for temporary use and disposal, a poor use of natural resources. Most trailerhouses are ultimately bulldozed and landfilled. I once dismantled a trailerhouse for recycling and successfully re-used about eighty percent of the materials. Clean fiberglass insulation went in the attic of an adjacent building to conserve energy. The aluminum siding and copper plumbing and wiring went to the recycling center. Wood paneling was cut into nine-inch-wide strips on a table saw and screwed to the salvaged 2 x 3s to make formwork to pour the foundation of a new house built to replace the trailerhouse. The metal frame underneath the trailer was reconfigured and welded together as a deck on the back of the new house. Recycling the trailerhouse removed it from the jobsite without paying to haul it away. I also saved hundreds of dollars in materials costs.

Barbwire Basket

I’ve bounced around ideas for starting green businesses with free recycled glass, free tires, free barbwire, free wood, free rocks, free cinderblocks, free insulation, free deer hides, and dozens of other possibilities.

I see other decaying trailerhouses where landowners truly don’t know what to do with them. It occurred to me that anyone looking for work could knock on a few doors and offer to dismantle and recycle these old trailerhouses for a modest fee, less than hiring someone to haul the structures off to the landfill.

I’ve bounced around ideas for starting green businesses with free recycled glass, free tires, free barbwire, free wood, free rocks, free cinderblocks, free insulation, free deer hides, and dozens of other possibilities. Writing and publishing is career enough, but we incorporate recyclable content where possible, such as recycled paper for printing. For shipping wholesale orders, we salvage cardboard boxes and packing material from dumpsters, conserving natural resources and hundreds of dollars every year.

Most resources are recyclable in one form or another. I use a screen to sift nails out of the ashes from the woodstove. The nails go into a scrap metal bucket for recycling while the remaining ashes are distributed in the pasture for nutrients. Even used kitty litter is a valuable resource, scattered in the pasture to add water-holding clay particles to the sandy soil. All food scraps go to the chickens. Tree trimmings are used in landscaping projects. Woodchips from chopping wood are added to mulch piles to retain moisture for planting trees. Nothing organic is thrown away.

Boat in Dumpster

Everything purchased must necessarily meet its end somewhere, either composted, recycled, or landfilled—mostly the latter. Whole hot tubs are dropped in the community dumpster, as are whole boats, some nearly dumpster-sized themselves.

Through the recycling effort I learned that the most efficient means to recycle is to avoid buying disposable junk in the first place.

Everything purchased must necessarily meet its end somewhere, either composted, recycled, or landfilled—mostly the latter. Whole hot tubs are dropped in the community dumpster, as are whole boats, some nearly dumpster-sized themselves. Through consciousness of recycling I’ve developed an aversion to buying anything new. I buy about one item of new clothing per year, purchasing the rest secondhand. Good clothes gradually degrade into work clothes, which further degrade into rags, or in the case of cotton jeans, become char cloth used for flint and steel fire-starting in our wilderness survival programs.

It is still disconcerting how much trash I haul off to the dumpster, the twinge of guilt lessened by the fact that most of my trash originated at the dumpster. Today, for example, I discarded a clear plastic tarp, remnant of a larger sheet I hauled out of the dumpster a year ago and used for multiple projects. The garbage can was full of hanging plastic flower pots which I brought home to salvage the potting soil and organic matter, returning the unneeded pots back to the dumpster from whence they came.

The quest to recycle everything, or avoid buying it in the first place, is a lifelong journey, one where the end goal seems both incrementally closer and infinitely far away. By processing roadkill deer, I get free organic venison while avoiding those annoying Styrofoam trays that come with store-bought meat. Packaging the venison in bread bags doubles the use of the bags and eliminates the cost and consumption of purchased wrapping paper.

Wild game in the dumpster

We’ve squandered our natural resources in an orgy of consumption, impoverishing the world for the next generation.

While inching ever slowly towards the goal of recycling everything and eliminating all waste, I have to admit that my efforts are arguably meaningless in context of the waste that defines our culture. Why trouble myself to clean and save every tin can, aluminum can, plastic bottle or glass jar when other people thoughtlessly dispose of natural resources by the truckload? Why recycle a used compact fluorescent light bulb or the brass fitting from the end of a garden hose when other people don’t seem to care?

Do they not have children? It is difficult to comprehend how any parent or grandparent could carelessly dispose of a child’s future in a landfill. By any reasonable measure, we’ve squandered our natural resources in an orgy of consumption, impoverishing the world for the next generation.

Many people have given up already, not bothering to recycle only because no one else is. What’s the point? Industrial civilization must inevitably collapse they say, because we are consuming ourselves out of a planet. Recycling only delays the inevitable. Why bother trying to save civilization when it is demonstrably unsavable? By any reasonable measure, the future is a lost cause, and our children are doomed. Give up now, enjoy life, and quit worrying about the issue. Forget the nail and chuck it in the garbage.

Scrap metal bucket

Although a miniscule amount of metal, a bent and rusty nail can be melted down and fashioned into a new nail. Recycling one nail immediately saves one itsy-bitsy-teensy-tiny piece of the planet that won’t be mined.

Yet, I cannot. It is a nail after all. Although a minuscule amount of metal, a bent and rusty nail can be melted down and fashioned into a new nail. Recycling one nail immediately saves one itsy-bitsy-teensy-tiny piece of the planet that won’t be mined and refined because market forces registered the creation of a replacement nail through recycling instead. In a world of chronically bad news, there is something microscopically heroic about saving a cubic centimeter of a mountain.

In addition to saving a small piece of the world, recycling ensures that there will be resources for the next generation. If nothing else, there will be at least one nail for our children’s children, and one nail is infinitely more useful than no nail at all. Imagine then, recycling two or three nails, or a thousand.

 

“Recycling a nail may seem an inconvenience. Yet, to dispose of a nail requires a far bigger inconvenience, for one must also deconstruct the reality of hope.”

 

Recycling Glass

At a time when humanity often seems Hell-bent on its own destruction, recycling is a small act of hopeful defiance.

Recycling a nail may seem an inconvenience. Yet, to dispose of a nail requires a far bigger inconvenience, for one must also deconstruct the reality of hope. A world without recycling is a world without a future, whereas recycling is an act of faith and hope that there will be another tomorrow. And where there is hope there is joy.

Hope is a particular kind of joy. It is the joy of rebounding from a bad situation towards a better one, when hope seems lost then is restored. At a time when humanity often seems Hell-bent on its own destruction, recycling a nail is a small act of hopeful defiance.

Much like planting a tree for one’s grandchildren, recycling is the act of giving something back for tomorrow. Faith in the future is implicit. That is the irony of the iron nail, for most of the world’s problems are easily solved. Recycling reduces resource extraction, pollution, and waste to ensure a better tomorrow. The more we recycle, the more reason there is to be hopeful about the future. And that is something to be truly joyful about.

Elpel.info logo.Thomas J. Elpel is the founder of Green University® LLC and the author Green Prosperity: Quit Your Job, Live Your Dreams, and numerous other books about nature and sustainable living.

 

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Roadkill: It’s What’s for Dinner

My grandmother mentored me in breaking the law. It wasn’t legal to pick up road-killed game along the highway, but she taught me that it was the right thing to do.

My grandmother mentored me in breaking the law. It wasn’t legal to pick up road-killed game along the highway, but she taught me that it was the right thing to do.

My grandmother mentored me in breaking the law. It wasn’t legal to pick up road-killed game along the highway, but she taught me that it was the right thing to do. The key was to do it quickly, while nobody was coming. Roadkill deer were loaded into the back of her truck and brought home for gutting, skinning, and butchering. Good meat went into the freezer. Any questionable meat was a treat for the dogs. Fortunately, the 2013 Montana legislature legalized the use of roadkill game (limited to deer, antelope, elk, and moose). Although my grandmother passed away years ago, I know that she would have appreciated the new law.
The illegality of salvaging roadkill game always seemed nonsensical to me. After all, Montana has a law that forbids the wanton waste of meat if a hunter kills a deer, yet there were thousands of deer going to waste along our highways every year. Moreover, according to the Foodbank Network, thirty percent of the population in Montana is at risk of food insecurity, especially the poor, the elderly, and children. According to their website, “Food insecurity is characterized by not having the financial means to buy food or grow food, the need for emergency food assistance, and adults skipping meals. Food insecurity exists when the availability of nutritionally adequate food or the ability to access it on a consistent basis is uncertain or limited.”

Montana’s new roadkill law applies to deer, moose, elk, and antelope.

Montana’s new roadkill law applies to deer, moose, elk, and antelope.

I asked around, but no law enforcement officer could offer a compelling reason why it wasn’t legal to pick up roadkill game, and they always seemed to be drawing straws, making up answers about issues such as safety, liability, or the risk of encouraging poaching. But I finally figured out the answer myself: It wasn’t so much illegal as merely unlegal. Montana had no law against picking up roadkill game, yet no law allowing it either. According to Montana’s fish and wildlife laws, game animals can only be taken by approved methods, and anything not specified in the rulebooks isn’t allowed. Thus, picking up roadkill game was illegal by omission. For similar reasons, it isn’t legal to hunt upland game birds, such as grouse, with sticks or rocks. By the letter of the law, one is required to cheat nature and hunt with a gun or a bow.
I once dreamed of getting into state politics, and if I did, then I would have introduced legislation legalizing the use of roadkill game. But Steve Lavin (R-Kalispell) beat me to it. Lavin was previously a police officer. He and other police officers admittedly donated roadkill game to the food bank on occasion, even though it wasn’t exactly legal. Evidently, my grandmother was not the only outlaw! No doubt there were many other closet lawbreakers. It was the right thing to do.

Montana is especially rich with roadkill game. There are only about a million people in the state, somewhat less than the combined population of deer, antelope, elk, and moose.

Montana is especially rich with roadkill game. There are only about a million people in the state, somewhat less than the combined population of deer, antelope, elk, and moose.

I have enjoyed many roadkill deer over the years. Most were processed exclusively to fill the freezer with delicious steaks and roasts. Others were made partially or entirely into jerky and utilized as trail food for walkabouts and canoe trips. Processing roadkill deer is an essential component of our Green University® LLC internship program. Interns are encouraged to pick up roadkill game for processing. They learn how to properly gut, skin, and butcher the animals, as well as how to soften or braintan the hides and make fashionable buckskin clothing.
Montana is especially rich with roadkill game. There are only about a million people in the state, somewhat less than the combined population of deer, antelope, elk, and moose. Montana is also the fourth largest state, with a lot of long, empty roads that are often driven a little too fast. Thus, drivers face about a 1 in 77 chance of hitting a deer in any given year, compared with a 1 in 232 chance in neighboring Idaho.
Drivers are most at risk of hitting deer during the fall breeding season. Deer disperse during the summer while the females raise their fawns, but group together in the fall and winter. The late season routine covers more area and takes the animals into unfamiliar territory. In addition, male deer wander more in search of females. The learning curve is steep, as vehicular selection removes a great many inexperienced deer from the gene pool. The survivors are less likely to be hit during the winter months, once the herds have established a familiar routine. Mortality rises again in the spring as the herds separate once again.

To avoid a collision, it is important to reduce speed in the spring and fall during the evening, night, and early morning hours.

To avoid a collision, it is important to reduce speed in the spring and fall during the evening, night, and early morning hours.

To avoid a collision, it is important to reduce speed in the spring and fall during the evening, night, and early morning hours. Be especially careful where irrigated alfalfa fields line the highways. Whitetail deer breed like rabbits on the rich food. Driving these corridors can be a bit like running the proverbial gauntlet. The odds of colliding with a deer is substantially higher in these few key locations than elsewhere in the state. Drivers who blow by at seventy miles an hour without full light are courting disaster. In addition to the unfortunate death of the animal, the damage to a vehicle can run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars, and passengers are often injured and sometimes killed. Nationwide, about two hundred people die in collisions with deer every year. By that measure, these docile creatures are the most dangerous wild animals in North America!
Montana’s new roadkill law makes the best of a bad situation. It is good news for Montanans. Any family of limited means can now put healthy, organic free range food on the table and thereby save money and improve their financial situation. Moreover, they don’t need to buy a gun or a tag or wait until hunting season to feed the family. Anyone who is thrifty like me will no doubt butcher their own, but other people will haul roadkill game to the butcher shop, providing additional four-season employment.
Montana’s roadkill law applies only to roadkill deer, antelope, elk, or moose. Salvaging other roadkill game, such as pheasants, grouse, geese, mountain lions or bears, still isn’t legal. (However, no permit is required for nongame roadkill, such as rabbits or coyotes.) The law was supposed to take effect October 1st, but wrangling over the rules and procedures delayed implementation of the law until November 26th, 2013. The final rules are very user friendly to anyone interested in salvaging game.

In addition to the unfortunate death of the animal, the damage to a vehicle can run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars, and passengers are often injured and sometimes killed.

In addition to the unfortunate death of the animal, the damage to a vehicle can run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars, and passengers are often injured and sometimes killed.

A “Vehicle-Killed Wildlife Salvage Permit” is required for each animal taken, but the permit is presently free. A law enforcement officer can issue the free permit if they happen to be at the scene of the collision. Otherwise, individuals are required to apply for a permit online within twenty-four hours after picking up an animal. The permits serve as a tracking system for wildlife officials to watch for signs of misuse of the program. Law enforcement officers may occasionally require inspection of the animal, parts, and meat and/or they may ask to see where the animal was picked up along the road. It is a sensible check-and-balance system to help reduce abuse of the program by poachers who might shoot game and try to claim it as roadkill.
Salvaged game must be entirely removed from the roadway by the permittee. It is okay to field dress the animal on site, but the entrails and all other parts of the carcass must be removed to avoid attracting scavengers and predators to the roadside. The meat must be used for human consumption and may not be used as bait for hunting predators. And despite anecdotes to the contrary, the Montana Food Bank Network officially does not accept donations of road-killed game.
      One aspect of the rules I question is that citizens are not supposed to kill animals wounded in collisions. The individual is expected to call a law enforcement officer to the scene to finish the job. However, the more humane thing to do is to put the animal out of its misery right away. A blunt instrument to the head, such as a crowbar or tire iron, is highly effective. Death is instantaneous and humane, and it is the moral thing to do. Aside from that issue, I wholly support the new roadkill law, and I am glad to have competition for the resource from other Montanans. I would rather come home empty-handed, knowing that the meat went to someone else’s freezer, than see perfectly good meat go to waste on the side of the road. I believe my grandmother would have felt the same way.

Thomas J. Elpel is the founder and director of Green University®, LLC and Outdoor Wilderness Living School (OWLS). He is the author and producer of numerous books and videos. Harvesting and processing roadkill game is detailed in his book Participating in Nature: Wilderness Survival and Primitive Living Skills and expanded upon in his forth-coming book, Foraging the Mountain West: Gourmet Edible Plants, Mushrooms, and Meat.

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