Monday, March 31, 2008
We went to see some friends on Friday night. They live one town over. When we pulled into their neighborhood, it initially appeared as if every single house was undergoing a complete gutting. There were huge piles of stuff lining the sidewalks. I realized what was going on when I saw a few trucks cruising slowly by, one with a passenger shining a flashlight out the window onto the piles: this must be the local annual "large item" pickup day.
It only took a second, however, before I realized that these things are annual. Did these people accumulate this much stuff in one year? I literally shuddered to think about it. I never want to have that much stuff that I am willing to throw in the garbage.
I was slightly encouraged to see that there were some treasure seekers out there who might give some of this stuff a good home - but a lot of it will end up in the landfill. That is exactly what I am trying to avoid right now. I never want to have so many belongings that I need an annual day to deal with all my extra trash. I never want to have wasted so much money on stuff I don't need (or want).
There are a lot of things that I don't love about where I live, but trash is one of the best things about this area. Here's why:
1. We get free, super easy recycling. We put everything in one big bin. And I do mean everything: paper, cardboard, "anything that tears", plastics numbered 1-7, all plastic bags, aluminum, tin, styrofoam, textiles, scrap metal. If your bin is full, that's okay. You just leave the extras in a paper bag next to it, and they'll take that too.
2. You pay for a trash bin - and the price increases as the bin gets larger. If you are able to make a small amount of trash, you only pay for a small bin. If you make a lot, well, pay up. It saves me money to make less trash!! Unlike with the recycling, if you can't fit all your trash in the bin, you can't just leave it on the sidewalk in a bag - you have to buy a special extra bag from the city. I think it's great that somebody in my same situation who makes more bags of garbage in a week has to pay more than I do for their trash pick up. The more you use a product or service, the more you pay. The awesome, easy recycling makes it super easy to cut down on your waste. We are a household of two, who entertain often, and we've never exceeded two bags of trash in a week. Most weeks we don't exceed one. I'm shooting for a week when I don't have a full trash bag to put into the bin come trash day.
3. We don't have a "free large item pick up" day. As the city explains in their guide to garbage and recycling, this would cost money. Instead of making everyone pay for a service that only some would use, they charge a fee when you need a large item disposed of. I can only imagine that this gives people a much larger incentive to find somebody to give their unwanted items a second home rather than sending them to the landfill.
4. We have free, safe disposal for hazardous materials, including motor oil, batteries, paints, fluorescent lightbulbs, etc. I think this is a wise idea. Since these items are so small, I unfortunately have a feeling a lot of people would just throw them in the trash if they knew they had to pay to dispose of them properly. (Read why fluorescent bulbs need special handling in disposal. Does your community not offer recycling of these bulbs? Ikea can help).
This week I'm going to try to think of as many ways as I can to reuse, rather than recycle (or of course, throw in the garbage), things that are in my home. If they're here in the house already, it's too late to reduce, so I'll have to settle for next best.
I'll post what I come up with later in the week, but put your thinking caps on and let me know if you have any creative ideas on ways to keep things out of the garbage can.