Nobody Wants Your Garbage

When we first got to Arizona it was shocking to see people toss empty soda cans into the garbage. Coming from Connecticut, the cultural attitude toward trash here seems quite unconcerned. There is no 5¢ deposit here for cans so there is not much initiative to recycle them.

Connecticut is a small state tightly packed and it seemed to be the policy of each small town to do everything legally possible to not take your garbage. It’s not easy to legally dump stuff in New England. We did “dump runs” for people back in Connecticut (a fun and interesting facet of the cleaning business), but the stressy part was taking the stuff to the dump. We couldn’t go to the town dump of the owner’s trash because they won’t let you in without a sticker…and if you go back to your own town dump, they want to know where the stuff is coming from. Same with leaves and brush…if we raked a lawn for a customer in another town, and had to go dump the truck bed a couple of times, it was always an ordeal. Recycling, proof of town residency, and gratitude that they’ll condescend to take your lowly garbage was all strictly enforced in Connecticut.

Back in Chester, we had the Dump Nazi aka King of the Dump, that’s what people called him. He was a grumpy old Yankee and you had better show proper documentation when you entered his kingdom. He was feared by all good citizens, but, when you make it this hard to dump stuff, some people are going to dump the stuff out in the woods, and they did.

Nobody follows you around at the dumps here in Arizona, or demands you have a sticker on your windshield or asks for ID. And the people who work at the dumps here all seem pretty mellow.

Only recently have they provided separate recycling containers at our town transfer station. Prior to this year cans and cardboard, etc., went into the hopper with everything else. If you wanted to recycle, you had to find a place to bring your cans, like the Boy Scouts, who will recycle them for money. Or you can bring them to a recycling-for-money plant yourself, there’s one in Douglas. I have no idea how many cans it takes to be worth doing that.

Despite the ease of dumping stuff here, there is still plenty of litter and piles of trash in people’s yards. Not so much in the town centers, but here in the outback  neighborhoods people can be lazy about it. That part is annoying, but Arizona is vast and can probably accommodate it…but I just friggin’ hate it, especially encountering it on my walks.  I pick up litter constantly in front of my house, on my street, in my neighborhood. A common Arizona sight is piles of metal, wood, plastic—whatever—piles of junk, and junk cars…but they are immobile and you get used to them—it’s the other kind of garbage that’s disgusting—kitchen middens in backyards. I grew up considering littering to be low class; here, they don’t get that. People don’t want to litter up their cars I guess so they throw it out the windows.

Why are these two areas of U.S. so different in their attitudes toward garbage? Is it due to small spaces or big government? Each person is estimated to produce around 1500 lbs. of garbage a year in America, plus the several pounds of daily sewage that gets flushed. One reason may be the number of wells in Connecticut that must be protected. But even here, garbage processing is a complicated and expensive series of steps involving sorting, compacting, packing into shipping containers, and transporting by truck to another plant where it goes through more steps to either recycle it, burn it, or put in a landfill. Many landfills nowadays are high-tech, collecting gases and other recyclable byproducts of our garbage, which are then used in ingenious ways to make power.

This is one tiny part of the “infrastructure” they always talk about when countries suffer catastrophes, or just haven’t gotten around to actually having an infrastructure. Think of how intricate America’s is and where we would be without it…cold, hungry, and sitting on top of enormous piles of garbage, probably.

Garbage waiting to be processed at town transfer station. The smell here is utterly foul. Best to breathe through your mouth.

The hopper where you throw your garbage. It moves along on a track that goes underneath that office there, into a huge compacter not visible.

The dump is one of the places they let the cons work. These guys were funny, trying to flirt with girls. They're probably not supposed to do that.

Look at this con waving! Oh you bad boys what did you do?

You back your truck into a bay and push your garbage off into the hopper. It's fun, and great to go home to empty barrels.

The hopper

6 responses to “Nobody Wants Your Garbage

  1. I always wonder how people can justify throwing garbage out of their car window. I still see it once in awhile here in Texas. I grew up in Canada and it was a social no-no. I don’t think I ever saw anyone do it there. I remember someone telling me a parked cop tossed something out the window and they stopping to tell him to pick it up. IIRC, he did.

  2. It makes me crazy. So disrespectful to the land. It’s the same as throwing a beer can on your living room floor! If I see somebody doing it with a company truck, I’ll call and report it. But in general, there’s nothing you can do. If you see someone throwing something out the window here and you beep at them, they give you the finger. So classy.

  3. Debra: You have a knack for writing the most interesting posts. This one on garbage and how people use it or misuse it is quite telling about different locales in the country. I get really frustrated to see people trash the roadside. On our place, there are two gullies emptying into the intermittent creek that have been filled with metal refuse. Part of the reason is to stop erosion, but the other is to discard trash. My spot-check of the relics indicates early twentieth-century car parts, i.e., doors, hoods, and lots of old barbed wire. If I had the money I would dig out the pits and fill them with rock that would allow the water to flow through and into the creek.

  4. Hi Jack, I know what you mean, I would clean up all these washes and draws here if I could. People who live right next to them don’t even try. It takes bodies and organization, you can’t do it by yourself. The trash is heavy, and there’s just too much of it.

    I’ve been thinking, would I rather live in CT where junk piles are forbidden by zoning laws, or here where we don’t have any zoning laws that I know of, but plenty of junk piles? In this case, I have to go with the lawless choice.

  5. I too am from the Northeast. I lived in the West for many years and must say I agree that the cultures and mentalites are quite different. History records that those who had a difficult time socially in the East moved westward. Also, the West is younger and a lot of established cultural ways have not yet arrived. Then there is the attitude “No one’s going to tell ME what to do” and “It’s a free country”, which usually means the same thing. You sure see this reflected in the drivers on the roads in the West. Freedom from laws which govern a society of people pursuing the same goals seem to be in direct opposition to the mind set of the Westerners who value “rugged individualism.” Eastern friends of mine would ask me what it was like in the West and my answer would be, “It’s the Wild, Wild West!”
    But as you have found out too, there is much to enjoy in the beautiful West and in its people.

  6. Hi Al,

    Well there are plenty of bad drivers back east too—consider the “Masshole” driver, then there’s New Hampshire’s “Live Free or Die” state motto.

    I’m not sure how to assess the ‘rugged individualism’ levels of residents of various states. It does seem like we have fewer laws and more freedom here, but there are plenty of tough souls back east too. You kind of have to be to deal with the horrible weather, the expense of living there, etc.

    I agree it’s still the Wild West here—but isn’t it amazing how fast you adjust to that? I’m becoming one of those very people who don’t like to be told what to do! And as far as the beauty of the land and the people here, both have easily won me over. Your comment about those who had a difficult time socially in the east moving westward definitely applies to me! Much easier to get to know people here.

    Take care and thanks for writing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s