Garbage Day

It’s “Garbage” day. That means that we put our trash bin, a tall green container with two back wheels and a hinged lid (our lid has one missing hinge), a second, larger, gray container for recyclables, again with two back wheels and a hinged lid, and either a large green container for yard waste, or a yard waste “pile” of leaves and clippings away from the curb so the “Claw,” a hinged bucket apparatus, can pick it up. The containers are supposed to be against the curb, but lots of people move them away from the curb a few inches for the truck with the hydraulic arm to grab, raise, dump, and return the bins to the street. Some neighbors have an additional garbage or recycle bin, depending on their individual contract with the City.

On Monday mornings, the truck with separate partitions for garbage waste and recyclables empties the bins on the “odd numbers” side of the street first, and then returns for the “evens” side. The truck arrives in the morning, but the times can vary for reasons not understandable. It’s always a game to run out the house in the morning and throw a few last-minute newspapers or cereal boxes, and perhaps a last, small bag of garbage into the proper bins before the truck arrives, especially when the truck can be heard coming down the street. Score!

Some neighbors have been upping the ante with this game, calculating the arrival of the truck – early morning, mid-morning, late-morning, afternoon, and rolling their bins to the curb just before pick-up. They have to hope that no one has parked in front where the bins go, but they can always put them in their driveway. Residents stay tuned to the sound of the streets, listening for just that particular truck engine roar, which is different from the sound of the fire engine, or the “Claw.” And living in an urban residential area, there is a fair amount of traffic. Trucks come and go, and with drivers intent on snagging that perfect cup of coffee at one of the local haunts, neighbors’ ears are tuned to the traffic and quickly dismiss the private vehicles. Folks working from home stay tuned to the street noise, noticing not only the din of engines in front of the house, but in the streets behind and to the sides. Built into the discernment of pinpointing just the right engine sound is the calculation of time needed to roll the bins from the back or side of the house to the curb. Besides the adrenaline rush of just “making it” in time, knowing that a “loss” means opening and pushing down a full and stinky garbage bin to try to fit more trash, several times in the upcoming week, and potentially sneaking around the “hood” at night the next week, looking for an emptier bin in which to stash your bagged goods, the neighbors know this is not just a game.

It used to be that a few individuals would walk up and down the streets the evening before Garbage Day, removing bottles and cans with the CRV California Redemption Value for personal profit. So after weeks or months of putting up with these recycling bandits, and being annoyed that the City cannot profit from the CRV value of the cans and bottles, like a little gift to the municipality, most folks now drive their own containers to a recycle center, and deal with the noise, smell and broken glass in the parking lot to pocket the redemption value. It adds up; one neighbor jars the cash and plans a fine dining experience — all on the cans.

Cash is always a good reason to recycle. But if a wonderful dinner “on the cola cans” or supplementing your grocery bill isn’t high on your list, then avoid the hassle of storing these cans and separating the colors of glass and searching for those little stamps on unusual containers, and emptying the final drops out, and tossing them in bags, and dragging them to the car, and dealing with the recycling center, and just let the City, or the entrepreneurial bandits do it for you. But what happens when the bandits start messing things up?

One neighbor hasn’t had a garbage pick-up in two weeks; the driver attached notices that “garbage” and “recyclables” were mixed. So the bandits rifle through the recyclables and toss the non-CRV items in the trash as they make their way to the bottom of the bin. And bandits digging through trash hunt for treasure and toss the already-scanned trash into the recycle bin. Neighbors have caught bandits reading discarded mail, even torn-up mail, and yes, even taking mail. Some of the bandits aren’t that neat – they just search the bins and toss everything on the ground.

Usually the trash and recyclables are thrown in the street away from the yard waste pile, so that’s something at least.  But then patrons park their cars close to the yard waste pile, stopping for coffee or lunch, and no one is sure if it’s a quickie take-out thing or a longer business meeting, so when that telling roar of the Claw comes and it’s time for yard waste pick up, and the view from the front window shows cars on top of the leaf pile and with no owner holding car keys in one hand and a to-go cup in another in sight, and it took days to create a pile that large, and now the Claw can’t scoop it up and toss it in the awaiting truck that crushes the yard waste all together, there’s that “NOOOOOOOOOO” moment!

No garbage pick-up. No recyclables pick-up. And no yard waste pick-up.

But in case that’s not enough disappointment, and you either have to sweep up all that yard waste and store it, and then dump it back in the street next week, or just leave it there ’til next week pick-up day and it blows all over the place and more cars drive through it, there’s the chance that some elderly coffeehouse patron will try to park his older make, large by today’s standards and large for the sixties when it was built, and drive in front of your and your neighbor’s house, and systematically ram each bin, one after another, Bam!, Bam!, BAM!, until there is room for his enormous machine and the bins are now scattered and shredded.

This is a long time away from the days when our son waited for the garbage and recyclables pick-up, and the Claw was a thing of beauty. We used to pull out the yard chairs and wait for the guys to come by. Pick-up was a banner day. Our kid owned large garbage trucks and smaller Matchbox-sized ones. His toys were stored in plastic red “garbage” bins. Those were happy memories. Now I’m thankful that there are a full seven days until the next pick-up. Recuperation takes that much time.