Why Putting Trash on the Curb Should Weigh on Your Conscience

Yesterday was yet again Trash Day in Cleveland.  I hate Trash Day.

Where I’m from, we don’t have “Trash Day”, we having “Burning Day” where we burn anything that can’t be recycled, donated, or left to rot in our barn.  It’s not like my family is unique, though.  Everyone does it.  Everyone burns, everyone takes loads of recycling into town, and everyone finds a way to get rid of things without using landfills.

My hatred for Trash Day in Cleveland begins when I go to leave for work and someone’s decided to put the bins in front of my garage door.  (This usually turns into me returning that night to find that the trash guys threw the lids all over the place, but I never notice until I’m dragging one into the garage with the undercarriage of my car.)  I don’t even get out of my alley before being upset further.

I’m beginning to think my neighbor must hoard loads of things every week then schedules exactly how to place them on the curb.  This is because he always has several trash cans worth of stuff every week.  What pisses me off is it’s him and his wife and his dog – that’s it.  And yet they have so much trash.  Not only that, but all of the things are totally salvageable or useful to someone, or even just plain old recyclable.  Like yesterday when he had plastic flower containers stacked in one trash can.  Once I stole a set of new kitchen knives and a knife block from his trash.  The week before, I’d taken a metal wine rack.

Driving down my street, I see about five couches in three blocks just about every week.  Now, I can understand that couches, mattresses, furniture like that – those are things a lot of people don’t want.  Not from someone else, especially at a college campus.  But my first question is, why are there always so many mildly-used pieces of furniture getting thrown out?  Besides, go up the hill a ways and into the wealthy part of Cleveland Heights where very nice, intact furniture is being curbed constantly.  Lamps, crates, chairs, stools, garden trellises – pretty much anything you can imagine gets pitched weekly.

It all gets crunched up in those monstrous trucks that I hate so much, then dumped into our precious, suffering earth, polluting tracts of land and endangering little animals.  (They used to tell us in school to recycle because squirrels get their heads stuck in yogurt cups and to clip the circles out of plastic soda holders because fish get caught in them.)  With all the poor people in different parts of Cleveland, this waste just seems so unethical.

I asked my roommate last summer why people don’t take things in to recycling centers and the Good Will.  To me, there was no other form of disposal; Trash Days was a new concept.  To him, he was taken aback by how offended I was.  I explained my position and, in short, his answer was this: “I guess people just don’t want to take the time.  Plus, a lot of them don’t have trucks like they do where you’re from.”

Okay, the truck part is valid.  Although I do have to say I’ve seen services advertised where Good Will or others will come pick up your unwanted items.  But what about Craigslist?  That takes three seconds and if someone wants it, they’ll get it.  You might even get cash for it.

The lazy part though?  Are you serious?  These people live in the city.  Where I’m from, you have to drive at least 20 miles just to buy groceries.  Naturally, the recycling centers and Good Wills are nowhere near most families.  But we do it anyway.  Why?  Because we care about the land that we live on, farm on, let our kids play on.  Are people in the city so consumed by their stressed lifestyles that they can’t take three seconds to do the right thing?  Even the three seconds to post on Craigslist?  Unbelievable.

Finally, you’re only contributing to the same problems you’ll gripe about later if you toss everything.  By destroying these products, you’re increasing the demand of new ones.  These new things require resources and cheap labor most of the time (unless it’s Amish-made – my cousins run family stores so of course I support that).  E.g. a wooden chair that isn’t locally made, you can pretty much guarantee you just required a tree to be cut down and someone in a Third World country to assemble that new chair.

All I have to say is it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who feels this way.  I came across an article online by a poster named Trent and the points he makes are spot on: http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2010/04/07/the-stuff-rich-people-throw-away-is-often-better-than-the-stuff-i-keep/

So, for all you Trash Day culprits out there, maybe this comes as a new point-of-view for you.  Maybe you’ll start thinking about your alternatives and try to improve the world with small efforts and time donations.  Or maybe you just don’t give a damn and like contributing to the decline of American spirit (thinking of American laziness just calls upon memories of the WWII do-it-for-the-troops movements and how we seem to have lost that good ole American heart).  Or maybe you already have a conscience and you diligently work to clean up after yourself every day, in which case kudos to you.

Just do the right thing, people.  It’s not that hard, it’s just respecting the planet.

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