Do you have the new automated trash pick-up service in your neighborhood in which each trash container left at the curb gets completely automatically lifted, emptied and crushed, with only the truck’s driver present? No more three man trash guy teams; two for gathering and emptying and one for driving the truck? Well this service started here a few months ago and, call me old fashioned, but I miss my guys I waved to each week, and I worry about how many lost their jobs in the name of modern efficiency.
Homeowners here in my town received advance notice that one new trash receptacle would be delivered to each household and a schedule of pick-up days would be included along with the additional schedule for items for recycling. When my new container arrived, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was huge! A gargantuan, blue, heavy, plastic, wheeled, garbage can that could comfortably hold several of me inside, it had a handle across the top rear surface so one could tilt it back on its wheels and roll it to the curb. I pulled out my yardstick and measured it: 30” x 30”x 45” deep, it came up to just below my shoulders. Maybe for a family of five or seven, it would be adequate with the two times a week pick-up schedule, but for me, that was WAY over the top! And my poor little 100 year old next door neighbor wouldn’t be able to get it to the curb at all since she used a walker. I solved that problem by putting them both out at the same time.
That got me to thinking, though, about when I lived in Germany. We had garbage pick-up once a week and the container we had was one small circular can approximately 15” wide at the top, tapering some to the bottom, and it was about 35” tall. I have no idea how other larger families managed. It was tough for us, three people. The main problem we had was the American packaging of the products we bought at the military base. We Americans love to put lots of packaging around small objects to fool ourselves into thinking we’re getting more for our money. We often don’t bother to flatten or break down boxes that things come in, either, because here in the U.S. there aren’t always restrictions about this. We’re a large country with the room, we think.
It’s actually rather comical watching me with American packaging even today, all these years later. For instance, I buy my orange juice in a half-gallon waxy cardboard container and when it is empty, I squeeze it in the middle with my fingers and then step on it to fold up the bottom and down the top, and while I’m stepping on it I reach down and screw the top back on the carton so no air can expand it even a smidge. Only if it is perfectly flat will it see the dark interior of my garbage can. I’ve caught my son looking at me with that, “Are you out of your mind?” look, complete with matching grin.
Now, I put my perfectly flat trash out once every three weeks unless an odor requires it go out sooner. I’m one person, I don’t generate much trash, but when I do, it’s FLAT!
Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.
Join her here each 11th of the month.