July 15, 2009

Talkin' Trash

On average, I/we set out _____ of trash to be picked up each week.

2 kitchen trash sized bags (13 gallon) or less

1 small trash can full (about 3 bags)

2 trash cans full (or one of those larger gizmos the trash companies give you)

I don't use a trash service. I use only public trash cans for all household waste.

None. Period. I don't do trash. I'm 100% compostable. Here, pat me on the back.

I have a dumpster. And I fill it up. HooRah!

Trash was always a big deal in our family when I was growing up. There were rules and carefully outlined procedures that one must follow when dealing with trash. I wrote a paper about it in college. When I showed the A+ paper to my mom, I expected her to protest that I'd overstated how things were in our family. Instead she read it, laughed, nodded and was quite pleased with the extreme type A behavior that I had described.

One of the house rules was: Always get rid of trash at the first opportunity that presents itself. A follow up rule was: If no opportunity presents itself, make an opportunity. My grandma actually got in trouble with the law because she was following rule number 2. She was caught putting a bag of trash in another person's dumpster. I'm the only person I know who's grandma started her police record at the spry young age of 70, and for getting rid of a bag of trash at that.

As far as procedures go, the main rule of thumb was to always put trash into the trash bag the instant it could conceivably be considered trash. In fact, many times items were added to the trash bag long before any of us thought they were really at that "this is trash" level. (My dad had a favorite pair of shoes that became trash in my mom's eyes probably a year before they would have become trash in my dad's eyes.) BUT, and this is critically important, IF IT IS TRASH DAY, then trash is not to be put into the trash bag because that would have already been set out on the curb the night before. No, at this point, you have two options. You can either walk the trash out to the end of the driveway and deposit it there yourself.  Or you could add it to the temporary mini-bag that was set up for this purpose and which would be run out to the trash men at the moment of their arrival. Perhaps a specific example would help make this procedure a little more clear. (This is the example I used in my A+ paper, by the way.) Suppose you have a cold and you need to blow your nose. After blowing, one would usually deposit the tissue into the nearest trash bin. That was the usual procedure. But on trash day, that would be the exact wrong thing to do. Instead you would walk out to the end of the drive-way, no matter how ill you might be, and make sure that tissue was safely deposited where the trash men would get it.

I've diverged from the family path a short ways when it comes to trash. I'm not nearly as type A as my mom or grandma. But there is one way in which I've carried on the family tradition. Despite my family's love of getting rid of trash, we've never been very big on making trash. 

When Rob and I were first married (14 years ago next week), we had two housemates.  Soon after, we picked up a third and not long after that we added three kids to the mix. During that whole time, we never had more than one normal sized trash can. (It was a trash can that we found along the side of the highway once on our way back from a weekend retreat in Grass Valley.) When we moved to Colorado we reduced our number by 3 (since we no longer had the housemates) and the kids grew out of the diaper stage, so our trash accumulation plummeted.  Though I've been able to fill a trash can during a deep cleaning week, in general we seem to average about a bag and a half of trash a week (and the bags aren't packed down at all).

So I was struck recently, when reading the blog of an old youth group friend, that some people produce more trash than that in a week. Joanne (the Simple Wife) is trying to become more frugal and one of the by-products of that has been that their family has greatly reduced the amount of trash that they generate each week.  She wrote, "Since we've cut WAY back on being consumers and stepped up our recycling, I'm astounded at how little trash we have on trash day. This morning, there was only one trash can--and it was only half full. Used to be two full cans every week!" That comment really piqued my curiosity. Two full cans?!!!  What would you be throwing away that you'd have that much trash?  I asked that question in a reply on her post, but I suspect that I might have come across as a bit of a snot (not that that was my intention at all.  I am a bit of a snot at times. And generally I intend to be a snot when I'm being snotty. But this is one of those cases where I was asking a question because I was honestly curious, and the snot must have leaked out without my permission.  All I know is, she never responded to me.)

So, believe it or not, the whole point of this long and convoluted post hasn't been to tell you about my Type A family, nor to introduce you to Joanne. What I want to know is, how much trash does your family produce and what goes into it? Inquiring minds want to know.  ... Well, my mind wants to know.

And if you'd like a twist on what to do with trash, check out Cat's post on her garbage experiment in which, for a short time, she got creative about getting rid of the goods.