How To Properly Dispose Of Waste At Your Cottage

By Johanna Crisholm • Last Updated July 12 2022

We discussed how to deal with washroom waste in the earlier section, but there are other factors around waste that you’ll have to set-up at your cottage depending on how off the grid it is. Again, if your water is hooked up to a municipal system or you have garbage and recycling collection at your cottage, then this section won’t be pertinent. 

Waste water coming from your cottage

Grey water, water classified as coming from your kitchen, laundry, shower and sink, is the kind you can treat with a leaching pit or, as it’s also known, a grey water pit. 

Each province and territory sets out their own specific rules around sewage systems and waste treatment. For instance, Ontario has very specific rules about where a leaching pit can be and how much water it can treat each day. Be sure to check out what the rules are for your region before purchasing or planning a build.

Waste coming from your kitchen

Takeaways: The average Canadian produces a tonne of waste each year, with about one half to one third of that being composed of organic material, aka prime compost resources. There will be many ways to safely dispose of your waste, but if it’s at all possible to compost it, do it. It’ll save you trips to the dump and produce nutrient dense (and free!) fertilizer for your summer squash plot, plus will help divert unnecessary products from our landfills.

  • What you need to know: Find out if there’s a garbage/recycling collection at your cottage, and if not, locate the nearest bins that you’ll be making your dump runs.
  • For recycling: Keep the age-old adage of reduce, reuse and recycle in mind. A lot of recyclables at the cottage can be repurposed for other uses. For instance, cutting the ends of milk jugs or 2L bottles of pop make for excellent boat bailers. Additionally, cardboard, shredded up paper and old newspapers make for both ideal for your compost (they add carbon and keep air flowing) or as natural fire starters.
  • For garbage: Try to reduce the amount of products that can’t be recycled or composted coming into your cottage. Not only from ecological standpoint, but from a convenience factor; if you need to boat 15 minutes across the lake to the communal bins, then you’ll likely start to reconsider food products that come bundled up in irritating plastic

What about composting?

You can easily do a deep dive on composting, but if you’re new to the game you’ll first need to decide what kind of composting you’ll be doing: 

  • Worms: Or more professionally, vermicomposting. This option can actually be brought indoors if you want, removing the fear that your outdoor bin will attract unwanted visitors. There are various ways to do this, and if you’re doing it correctly, the nitrogen-rich worm castings from the indoor bins will produce a year-round supply of compost material. The smell is often a deterrent for most browsing this option, but again, if maintained and set up properly, your bin, whether set up outdoors or indoors, should create no noticeable smell. 
  • Location: As mentioned in the pest section, you’ll want to keep this pit as far away from your main abode as feasible for convenience, while also still being on your property. (*Be neighbour conscious: don’t put your compost bin on the edge of your property line if your neighbour’s property is right up against it. In cottage country, a simple reminder for manners is to just ask yourself routinely: how would I feel if my next door neighbour was doing what I’m doing? If the answer is even lukewarm, then maybe consider not doing it.)
  • Trace the sun: Make sure when you’re locating the spot for your compost bin, whether it’s a standard pit or a worm-based option, you trace the sun’s path beforehand. You don’t want your bin to be getting direct sunlight if it’s a worm option, as that can kill the worms if it gets too hot. For other pits, you might want to use the sun to dry out your bin if it’s getting too wet.

What to put in your compost

Items to avoid Items that are safe
Meat and fish (*can attract larger prey) Fruit and vegetable waste
Cheese Coffee grinds and tea bags
Metals Dried egg shells
Feces (human and pet) Newspaper, wood fillings, cardboard
Plastics and glass Garden trimmings, plants and soil
Charcoal, gasoline, oil, petroleum Natural fibres
Cosmetics and hygiene products Leaves, tissues and wine corks

Products for keeping clean:

Context: A very quick and not so dirty list of items that you might want to consider keeping at home instead of the cottage where you’re that bit more connected to the land, and less close to treatment facilities that can handle harsh chemicals.

  • Remember: This list won’t apply to everyone, and is merely a list of suggestions to keep in mind. Again, it’s super important that you study up on the region/municipality/bylaws where you’ll be moving into to get a better grasp on what can and can’t be used in your new abode. 
Products you should avoid … … and products you and swap them for
Soaps and detergents with phosphates Natural, biodegradable soaps, body washes and laundry detergents (*check that it’s phosphate free!)
Fertilizers and agricultural products with harsh chemicals Natural fertilizers, or your own compost
Pesticides Planted-based extracts, oils and sprays
Single-use plastics (think: plastic cutlery and cups for big summertime bbqs) Keep canvas bags stocked for grocery trips, compostable cutlery and glass containers for storing leftovers
Store-bought firestarters Homemade fire starters made out of egg cartons,wax and sawdust