Talking Trash: The Impacts of Modern Waste Handling
Photo by Matias Rengel on Unsplash
These are trying political times of grown-ups losing their cool factor and trash-talking one another over the silliest of topics. This piece is not about that. This is about actual trash; garbage; refuse; rubbish; waste or whatever your point of reference might declare. In my creative teenage years, when I worried about the state of the earth, I attempted to decipher how much garbage it would take to create enough trash to alter the rotation of the world. I hoped all four sides of the globe dispersed trash equally so that our orbit would remain in balance. At best, we would simply rotate slower; at worst, we would gradually drop lower into the universe until we were at of the sun’s range and perish for lack of Vitamin D.
As you might note, several inconsistencies are present in my non-scientific thought process. First, I have no clue how many ‘sides’ a nearly round object has and second, you can take supplements for Vitamin D. Still not quite on the right track, so you understand why I have yet to discover a cure for the flu: I do not possess the correct right-brain processing to figure out science stuff. So here lies my trouble with trash . . .
Back in the day, we had garage pick-up five days a week. The daily race was getting the metal can from the side of the garage to the street before the truck passed at 7 AM. I will forever hear my mother’s shriek to my brothers to “GET UP AND GET THE TRASH OUT!” In those single car garage days, a family of six had one metal can that easily filled up with EVERYTHING. Our can was beat-up, rusted at the bottom and smelled, unlike our neighbors who washed their can out every day and place cardboard at the bottom to protect it. We just let our’s leak out rancid fluids on to that little patch of ‘grass’ near the street. Who knows what seeped into the sub-earth environment. Lids were available, we just never knew where they were as kids found better uses for them than keeping flies and furry critters out of the can.
In my early teen years, trash pick moved to every-other-day. This was a math equation of confusing proportions, as every week had a different pickup day. To accommodate the less frequent pick-up, everyone just bought more garbage cans. Ours maintained the aroma and it lingered longer on the side of the house. Eventually, trash pick was scheduled for the same days, twice a week and plastic containers replaced the unbeloved metal ones. My family managed to fill up both the new plastic and the old metal cans.
By the time recycling entered the picture, my siblings and I were all adults with our own trash issues. The recycling circle took a while to filter out what was recyclable and what was true trash. First, there were trash cans and recycle bins. Trash plus newspapers but not regular paper; plastic, but only with a specific triangular mark; glass, but only clear and not broken. The rules were so confusing, my Dad never did recycle and maintained two full trash cans twice a week all his life. We were never sure what he put in the recycle bin. I still worried about trash equity around the globe and figured out trash plus recycling amounted to equal waste in different containers. How things get from one matter to another through recycling is still confusing, but I continued marvel how pictures show up in the television and whatever the wireless thingys are in the air get me phone reception.
I am currently befuddled at home residential trash collection. As a high-rise-resident, I recycle the best I can and just drop a bag of garbage down the shoot whenever it is convenient. Ground level residents apparently have a more regulated routine. Today, three containers (not of your choice) are required for disposal of unwanted waste. Old-fashion regular garbage is only collected once a week in a container large enough to store an artificial Christmas tree. On another random day, recycling is picked-up in an equally large container. Then on another day, environmentally-friendly-root related products are recovered for some-kind-of-mulch event.
As the landlord of an empty rental property, I am more befuddled than ever how to get the trash out. My first attempt was not met kindly in the neighborhood. I struggled to wheel out the over-filled bin my tenants left behind only to be told I had the wrong color bin out on the wrong day. I shoved the brown bin back in the garage and pulled out the green bin. Right color, wrong kind of trash. The neighborhood garbage patrol wagged her finger and threated a fine if I did not get the right kind of garage in the right colored bin. When I inquired how to decode the garbage, she told me to go-line. She was at least 80 years old, what did she know about ‘on-line’? A neighborhood where someone is peeking into garbage bins might not be one I need to remain a property owner . . .
For now, the garage is lumped together in the garage until I can decode the trash algorithms for the neighborhood. I think I feel the Earth rotating a bit slower, but I am taking a daily dose of Vitamin D, so let the trash collect—on whatever day it is due.