Garbage in, more garbage in

Nobody I know spends much time talking or thinking about garbage. Sure, there’s the nice abstract “I’m against landfills/I’m so green I’m Kermit” comment that comes up now and again, mostly when people have drunk a bit of locally produced wine and someone brings up Hummers, disposable diapers, or plastic shopping bags. And then there are the avid composters, which out here are more common than say, in northeast DC, where one has, on average, enough space to compost as a couple of used coffee filters and some uneaten toast crust. Although on a side note let’s recall that there have been not one, but two, compost fires in Walla Walla in the last three years, as the sun really starts cranking out the gamma rays midsummer, so while we may have space aplenty, we still need to consider safety. You hear that, compost-people?

But garbage needs its due consideration beyond knowing when one’s household garbage pick-up day is. What can’t go into the garbage? What should be recycled? What needs to be taken directly to a landfill, and how should one dispose of unused medication?

I’m not saying I know the answers to all of these (I do know that you fill up the medicine bottle with water, let the pills dissolve, and then throw it in the trash once it’s become a solid mass), but neither do my neighbors. And not even my neighbors—I’m speaking more of the endless stream of people who drive up to the recycling center across the alley from us, looking confused at the locked gate. These people intentionally put cardboard, old cans, and 13 gazillion empty wine bottles into their car, only to find the center closed. This is because the recycling center at the college is only open from 8 in the morning until noon, Monday through Friday. Certainly this is for the general public’s convenience, because who is busy then?

I presume people don’t know about garbage (and its more popular cousin, recyclables) because this is where they do something that makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever:

They see the locked, 6-foot, chain link fence, and they walk across the alley to our house, and throw their recycling in our personal bin.

This makes me lose my mind. I find it soon after, little bits of gravel and dust clinging to it as it cowers in a corner next to the non-functional air conditioner, but I lose it nonetheless.

And not only do they dump their recycling, they dump their illegal recycling. This tells me a couple of things:

1. They’re not reading the instructions on the recycling bin

2. They’re not reading the instructions on the bin because they either can’t be bothered, or they know they’re doing something wrong.

I began trying to dissuade these cardboard interlopers and trespassers in much the way I used to try to keep deer out of my vegetable garden in New York. I put down dog hair. Okay, I didn’t put dog hair on the gravel, but I’ve tried moving the bins. And when that didn’t work, I put the car right next to the bins, sacrificing space to swing the door open, and making it so that on Wednesdays, the day before pick up, I’d come nose-to-stench with the garbage bucket each time I left the house or came home. Still, they contorted themselves around the private car in the private driveway to the private recycling bin, across the alley from the space declaring itself available (if not open) for their discardement. Faced with other people’s castoff glass, which is fine to recycle at the center but not in the weekly city pickup, I’m faced with a choice I don’t want. I can pick out their glass and take their recycling to the center, 40 feet from my kitchen, or I can leave it in the bin and get chastised by the recycling crew.

All of my determent failed last week, and the bin nearly didn’t close from all of the crap stuffed inside. I fumed. Susanne fumed. I picked up my mind again, brushing it off and promising it better, brighter days. Grabbing a marker from my office upstairs, I formulated two signs, one for each bin.





Maybe that would get through to them.

Unfortunately, I put these signs on the bins the day before trash and recycling pickup, so this morning, I was met with a scrawled note from the recycling  pickup staff, telling me NO GLASS.

It’s not me, I cried to nobody. I take my glass to the recycling center! I am abiding your rules! I just don’t want to touch other people’s crap! Please don’t make me touch other people’s crap!

A squirrel on the front lawn looked at me quizzically. I hissed at it.

Hopefully the signs in big, bold letters will work for us.

If not, I’m buying locks next week. Or I’ll fit the bins with an exploding Jack in the Box. That’ll show ’em.

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2 Comments on “Garbage in, more garbage in”

  1. Gail
    February 25, 2010 at 3:42 pm #

    I would be fuming as well… but perhaps another approach would be for you to place some sort of device in the bin that would trigger a loud recording, something to the effect of “STOP! Didn’t you read the sign? Do NOT under any circumstances put glass in this bin — the city (is it a city or a town?) will not recycle it. Don’t make me come out there to issue a ticket for trespassing…” or something to that effect. It could also end with a siren/beeper sound like a car makes when you try to open it without using the magic clicker to disable the lock. I could also see a large cardboard stand-up cut out of a cop holding the sign… Clearly I’m having too much fun thinking about this. Of course, we have always composted and take friends and relatives for tours of the recycling center, not to mention the years Sam’s students crushed cans that we transported to the Reynold’s program in NE DC to make money for her classroom. Now that I think of it, I can almost smell the stale beer and soda that lingered for days in our cars…

  2. evmaroon
    February 25, 2010 at 4:01 pm #

    I love the creativity, Gail! Unfortunately, all of those solutions sound expensive or tricky to execute. I often have thought of sitting inside our garage, watching for would-be plastic depositers and then springing out on them, but I figure those enouncters won’t go very well.

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