The dissimilarities in our similar languages keep tripping me up. No one throws out ‘garbage’ – they throw out rubbish. Or if it is household garbage, it’s refuse. There are no ‘trash cans’ – there are bins. Or dustbins. Or if the bins are really big, they are skips. Bins are not put to the curb — they go kerbside. The ‘garbage truck’ is a rubbish truck or a bin wagon, dustcart, dustbin lorry, or bin lorry and the gentlemen on it are dustmen.
At home in Maryland, we had garbage pick up twice a week, recycling once a week, and we composted in our yard. The kids’ school had an incredible environmental program with included recycling or composting everything, so at home the kids regularly reminded me when I was about to throw something in to the wrong container. We could recycle everything – plastic, paper, cardboard, metal – all in to one large recycling bin approximately the size of a 1966 Fiat 500.
Now we’re in Gloucestershire. I don’t know what is typical in other parts of the country, but here we have household refuse collection once every forthnight. Yes, you read that correctly, once every two weeks. The bins are provided by the town, each house gets one and one only, and everything to be picked up must fit inside the bin. Can you hear me tearing out my hair?
According to the city website, the rubbish is removed only fortnightly to encourage households to recycle. Fair enough, but would you like to guess how often the recycling is removed? Once every two weeks. And did you notice the size of the recycling box?
That’s right, I’m supposed to fit two weeks of recycling into something the size of an Easy-Bake Oven. And this is supposed to reduce the amount of rubbish the household will produce. Hm. I haven’t done all the math but … I don’t think that’s going to work.
Furthermore, not everything I would normally consider recyclable does recycle. Not all plastics. Not all cardboards. Everything needs to be completely squeaky clean (of course: it’s going to sit there for two weeks) and completely flat. And sorted. Possibly laid out for entry into ‘best designed recycling waste’ contests in the local magazines. I’ve started packing my recycling bin with more attention than I paid to wrapping my fine china for storage.
In one area I find myself very pleased with household waste removal: the compost bin. I have one cute bin to keep in the kitchen – called a food waste caddy – and one larger caddy to collect everything outside. And unlike at home, everything goes in – meat, butter, fish, bones, eggs, vegetables, sauce, bread, cheese, anything organic goes right in that sucker and is collected every week and composted by the county and used for soil improvement. Yay!
I think this is wonderful, but I’m finding the local folks I ask about recycling and waste collection almost uniformly dislike the ‘slop bucket’. I just don’t get the disdain. And the alternative — food sitting in your rubbish bin for two weeks — doesn’t bear thinking about.
The brown bin is for yard waste. It is picked up once every two weeks as well and there is a fee per household for yard waste pickup. More hair tearing. If you don’t pay to have the brown bin removed, you’d somehow need to fit your yard waste and your household trash and all the stuff that I think should recycle but doesn’t into one moderately sized bin for collection every two weeks.
I’ve found that there are some recycling collection points at major grocery stores. To get rid of extra trash (household refuse), however, the householder must make a drive out to the local waste center outside of town. Extra recycling goes to yet another location, also outside of town. So, cost of gas, cost of time, environmental impact of everyone making those drives – how does this save money? It seems that some people (deplorably) simply dump their trash anywhere they can rather than figure out compliance with the waste removal policies — the activity known as fly tipping, which also ends up costing additional money to clean up. How does this make sense? There’s plenty of controversy about the collection system in the local papers — I’m not just being American in my outlook — but it seems like this system is here to stay.
How do people manage? Why is everything so complicated? All I know for sure: I’m glad I don’t live in Newcastle-under-Lyme.