Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Trash compactor

Mt. Rumpke, 1075 feet high and growing at 6,200 tons a day.

When I was younger, I remember trash men riding on the back of their trucks and collecting bags from any number of trash cans the neighbors put out. Then, at some point the city mandated these monstrous 90-gallon containers and each household only got one of them. They equipped the trucks with an arm built to lift the containers, and the day after Christmas is the only time you get to throw out more than what fits in one of those.

Growing up in a family of 5, I recall that we nearly always filled that container to the point where the lid wouldn't close and neighbors would kindly take some of the overflow and put them in their own containers. 90 gallons was barely enough for 5 people. I suppose I expected that this was typical, so as an adult with my family of 4 I expected each person to average nearly 20 gallons of trash a week. And certainly when we had diapers that was true. Our warm summer garage was really no place to be. Ew.

But for the past year or two, I've noticed that we don't fill our container even to the half way point each week. Were it not for the smell, it'd take us 3 weeks before we really needed a pickup. We recycle, despite the fact that there's only a single free drop off point close enough to us. That helps quite a bit. But as I drive to work on trash day, I often see many other bins so full the lids won't close. It's pretty sad, I think. It's all designed so well and works like clockwork and we never see the effects. We put our junk out weekly and it just disappears, so we forget about it and do it again next week. No incentives to examine our actions or attitudes. Someone else's problem. Until, at some point, it isn't.