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Monday, August 6, 2012

Garbage collector's strike

It's Monday, which means it's garbage day in our neighborhood. Or is it?

Something very interesting, from a frugal person's point of view, happened last week in the greater Seattle area -- a garbage strike!

Why would this be so interesting to me? Well, for 17 years now, we've just had a 1 can per month pick-up scheduled for garbage collection. Our neighbors have all been putting out overflowing bin after overflowing bin, each and every week, for as long as we've lived here. Yes, we do have recycling pick-up and yard waste collection. The garbage bins are separate.

two weeks of garbage,
and they're not the only ones overflowing

How does a family produce so much trash each week? Well, I'll tell you how. They buy, buy, buy . . . new, new, new. Each day, as I drive in and out of the neighborhood, I see their unclaimed garbage sitting on the edge of the driveways, with lids propped open, unable to contain all the week's trash. In their bins are piles of plastic shrink wrap, styrofoam box inserts, stuff deemed unworthy of a repair, and a ton of food product boxes and bags.

so, not so bad, but still this is two weeks' trash

Compare this to, just down the street, one little old can, only comes out once a month, the lid fits securely on top, not a peep into this bin to see what's going out to the landfill.

one can, once a month, this is 5 weeks' trash
The big and once-a-week can has been getting company, as the strike continues. Now garbage bags sit side by side with the over full bin. How long would these families be able to wait for a strike to end and their garbage to be hauled away?

But the little old can, that only comes out once a month, remains by itself. It's owners produce so little waste, they can wait out the strike, without needing to add more to their once-a-month lot of trash.

Now, this strike was short-lived, about 1 week. But I found it amazing how much garbage some of my neighbors managed to pile up in just one week of missed collection.

Not affected by the garbage collector's strike -- just another bonus of being frugal. What do the cans in your neighborhood look like on garbage collection day?


  1. Lili

    Isn't it amazing the amount of waste some people will produce. My family of 3 (which I realize is quite small. We have weekly pick-up (nothing less was available). We will put out our trash every 3-4 weeks, depending on the fullness and stinkiness, especially in the heat of summer. This winter I am trying 'winter composting' so I am hoping to keep the waste production as low as well, maybe even less since in winter you don't really have to worry about stinkiness. We could probably go less or zero waste, but that would mean getting the hubbie and the child on board more..if that would be possible! :-) Nice post!


    1. Hi Lisa!
      That is super that you don't need to put your garbage out every week! Composting year round is very helpful. Seattle is mild enough that I can get out to the compost bin just about any day of the year.

      Yes, in summer, if I don't freeze my meat waste, then it will smell. I try to remember to put bones and meat packaging into a bag in the freezer. Then I pop this into the garbage bin on our pick-up day. Otherwise, most of our garbage is of the dry variety.

      I don't know if we could get down to zero waste. That would be a challenge!

      Thanks for your comments!

  2. I agree. I think the key to having less waste is not buying so much. However, I could use one of those Styrofoam inserts right now for a project. Too bad a can't pick through your neighbors trash to find one.

    1. Wish I could send you one of those Styrofoam pieces! I'm guessing there's other good stuff in some of these bins, too. People nowadays, can't be bothered with repairing things.

      I saw a child once, about 5 years old, with a handheld gaming device. The batteries ran out, and he tossed it into the trash saying, "this is broken". And stomped off. I quickly grabbed it out of the trash and gave it to the child's mother. Just needed a new battery.

      Okay, granted this was a child. But this seems to be the attitude of many adults, as well. If it's not working just right, just replace it, don't bother trying to make it work again. So much good stuff goes to the landfill unnecessarily. Plus all the packaging from the new stuff.

      Thanks for your input!

  3. We also created very little trash, by comparison. Family of 6 (down to 5 with DD away at college), we heavily compost and recycle. We have a dump sticker ($25 or so/year plus 20 cents/lb charge)that we use about once a month, sometimes longer. Agree, we drive over more frequently come Summer, but most of what we haul there is recycling. We average, including prorated monthly charges for the sticker, $20 +/- a month for trash fees. Not bad.

    1. Hi Carole,
      I think you hit upon something. When people have to haul their own garbage to the dump, I bet they are much more concerned with how much goes into the garbage. My guess is when neighborhood collection became the norm, it also became the norm to be thoughtless in one's production of garbage. We've made the process of waste removal too easy, so why bother trying to reduce it.

      And yes, recycling and composting are key to having less to go to landfills. Plus composting at home provides you with material to add to your garden, free of charge. (I like free -- my favorite price!) Your monthly bill of about $20/month sounds very good.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Yes--a big part of being green is reducing the amount of waste you generate and the amount you consume, not just recycling.

    I live in a condo complex and we have dumpsters. But it's interesting to note what is tossed--there is a lot of packaging, etc. that is thrown away.

    1. Hi Pamela!
      Absolutely! The third leg of the green consumer movement -- reduce, reuse, and recycle.

      And reducing consumption doesn't mean doing without, as a lot of folks might think. It simply means choosing what you really want, and making that thing remain in working condition for as long as practical.

      For the most part, buying quality might cost more initially, but will outlast the cheaply-made purchases many times over. We made that mistake a while back, on a TV. We went cheap, and about 2 weeks after the warranty expired, so did the TV. Had we spent about 50 % more, we might've had a TV that lasted 15 years or more, instead of 1 year. Live and learn, the hard way.

      I imagine peeking into the dumpsters at your condo complex can be interesting. New hobby, instead of dumpster diving, dumpster voyeurism?

      Thanks for reading!

  5. We have no garbage service here, so I take ours to the local dumpster site, which I do as I am running errands once or twice a week. I don't store it outside because wild animals will get into it and I don't want to clean that up. We have a compost pile and use that so peelings from things like cantaloupe go there, so that creates less garbage to haul off. I may have one or two bags per week. How neat that the elderly lady only has the one can for 5 weeks worth. And who knows it may not be full. lol

    1. Hi Belinda!
      Most of our garbage is dry material, so the local animals seem to pass ours up for the more "interesting" (to them) neighbor's trash. It's always a sorry sight to see garbage strewn about the street. It's mostly dogs and coyotes that get into trash around here. Probably a good thing you take yours to the dumpster site regularly.

      In addition to reducing garbage output and providing free soil amendments, composting has another benefit. By not using the garbage disposal in our sink, we can make those appliances last practically forever!

      One more thing, I must've not worded it very well, but that one can for 5 weeks worth of garbage is ours. But it is full every month.

      I appreciate your comments!

  6. Oh, my GOODNESS! You have hit my HOT button! Since the Normanator drive from one end of town to the other every night-we clock 20 miles in 3 hours!- we see EVERYBODY'S garbage cans.

    They are stuffed, overstuffed and there are trash bags all over the ground beside the cans! There are boxes that were purchased for disposable diapers filled with take out boxes, junk that attracts coons, dogs, and opossums!

    We have a customer who has health issues so when I drop the paper on her porch I drag her trash to the curb. IT WEIGHS A TON WEEK AFTER WEEK-odd for a little lady who lives alone.

    It baffles and confounds me why people buy so much stuff and waste so many resources. Back when Roosevelt was in the Oval Office there was a saying that cropped up:
    "Use it up
    Wear it out
    Make it do
    Or do without"

    Maybe this needs to make a reprieve so younger peeps might catch on?

    Fun to be here. Thanks for another relevant post, Lili

    Mother Connie

    1. Hi Connie!
      You know I love that saying,
      "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."

      When I was growing up I couldn't figure out why my mom wouldn't get one of those new-fangled irons or toasters that had a cord with plastic covering. The cords on our appliances had cloth coverings. (Okay, so not as safe to have around.) But I asked my mom once, why we had old-fashioned appliances. Her reply was simple, "because they still work".

      How many things are consumers buying simply because those items are "new", when at home they have something that fulfills the exact same purpose (like our toaster and iron, when I was a child)?

      And don't you just want to take a peek inside the single lady's trash can, just to see what she could possible have that would be so heavy?

      Thanks for dropping in!

  7. Monday is trash day here in Kenmore too. All down the street multiple bags are heaped around the overflowing garbage totes of consumers in my neighborhood. There are a few houses with only their one can at the curb, pointing to the fact that I am not the only non-consumer on my street. I like you am on the once- a- month service schedule and still my 30 gal. can isn't full.

    1. Hey neighbor!
      I'm sure you feel this way too, about once a month collection. But I just love that we don't have to hassle with taking out and bringing in the can 52 times per year, instead just 12 times. That alone would make me want once a month service. Saving money on charges and knowing I'm leaving a healthier place for my grandchildren, are just icing on the cake for me.

      I'm glad you came by!

  8. In our area, you can either have weekly trash pickup (in the "approved" bins) OR you can put out an "approved" garbage bag on an as-needed basis. (You have to pay for the bags--I'm not sure how much they are, but I know we save hundreds yearly by doing this). I think our family of 4 puts one out about once a month. Our curbside recycling bin, however, is filled to overflowing! I don't understand why more people don't take advantage of curbside recycling--we find it saves money to do curbside recycling, very occasional trash collection, and composting.

    I feel a need to air my grievances about the quality of SO many items for sale now! My mother-in-law just bought a new washing machine. Her old one was over 40 years old. She said the new washers are only supposed to be built to last for 10 years. Yes, they save water, but that will be four times the washing machines in a landfill in the same amount of time. And think about how quickly electronics become "obsolete" these days ... it's truly frightening.

    1. Hi Kris,
      That's just unbelievable that a washer would be made to last just 10 years. I think of washers and dryers as part of the household appliances that you expect to last decades. Remember those Maytag commercials from a while back? I wonder if even Maytags are still so durable.

      Thanks for commenting (and you're always welcome to air grievances here).

  9. It’s good that your 3-year old son is willing to wait outside for the garbage truck to arrive. He must’ve been always excited to go out and watch out for the truck to come just like my 4-year old little brother, who always loves waiting for the garbage truck collector. Anyway, I think it would also be a good idea if you will teach your son about proper waste disposal and the importance of disposing the garbage weekly. This way, he’ll understand why he has to go out every Friday to wait for the garbage truck.

  10. It’s amazing that you just manage to only have 1 can of garbage per month. You must be very good in recycling, and I’m pretty sure all your neighbors are curious on how you were able to lessen your garbage into just one can in a month. Well, that is an advantage for you because even if the garbage truck collector missed one or two weeks of collection, you won’t be worrying a lot about your trash.


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