One of my favorite childhood memories is going to the dump. My father was one of those tinkerer-jiggerers who could make something out of anything. Often, we would come back with more than we went there with. (Those were also the days when every house had a burning barrel and we didn’t buy everything in plastic packaging, so we had less everyday trash.)
People would set reusable things along the edge of the dump area proper. The men who worked there also pulled things out before the backhoes pushed the pile back. For a kid, the opportunities were magical. Fortunately for me, my father shared that knack of seeing treasures in trash.
In urban communities, dump-scavenging has been replaced with Craigslist Curb Alerts or professional trash-pickers. These people cruise neighborhoods early in the morning of trash day, looking for the reusable or resalable.
My former home is in a single-stream recycling community. This is sold as being more convenient, but in practice it is wasteful. About a quarter of what goes into recycling bins just ends up back at the dump. (For glass, that loss can be as high as 40%.) People don’t take the time to clean recyclables like they once did, and the filth gums up the works.
For communities that have moved to single-stream recycling, revenues have fallen dramatically. It takes manpower and equipment to sort in bulk. People are simply not as careful about what they toss into single-stream systems. For example, Styrofoam is (sadly) not recyclable, but one sees it on the street every recycling day.
We didn’t even negotiate for our own trash pickup. That was done by our municipality and the cost was passed along to us through our property taxes. It was one fee whether you produced yards and yards of waste material or merely a small bag each week. Yes, it’s convenient, but it hardly makes you think seriously about your role in the trash stream.
In contrast, here in Rockport we separate our trash into recycling categories and non-recyclables. Because we pay for trash disposal by the bag, we’re motivated to recycle. We’re also responsible for getting it the dump, either by paying someone to haul it there or doing it ourselves.
It’s taking me a while to suss out what’s recyclable and what isn’t, but I enjoy going to the dump. It reminds me of my trips with my dad. It makes me feel virtuous, and I like watching my fellow citizens scurry around.
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