June 23, 2011


Today we had some yard work done here at the secret lair of the Trashmaster. We had some guys take out 88 feet of arbor vitae. They were all sorts of efficient, using pickup truck to pull out the trees, then digging the remaining roots out by hand, with occasional use of a chainsaw for who knows what all. I was impressed with how quickly they worked. I was even more impressed that as two guys were removing the arbor vitae, another guy was sweeping up behind them. I wasn’t too crazy about the leaf-blower they used to finish cleaning up the driveway and sidewalk, but okay. The yard looks all kinds of awesome with all the additional light. It may change what sorts of fruit & veg we can grow in the garden, and where the arbor vitae was, we’re eventually putting in a new fence to replace the 60-some year old chain link fence, with an eye towards growing grapes along it.

Tomorrow is garbage & recycling pick up. I cleaned up the kitchen a little bit and took out the last couple of cans to the recycling bin. Where the yard work guys had thrown all of their trash. Not just their pop cans and Gatorade bottles and cigarette butts and fast food lunch wrappers. That would have been understandable.

No, they picked up all the trash that had gotten caught or been thrown into the arbor vitae. Mind you, we’re on a busy street in a not-at-all-fancy part of town, next door to an intersection with no less than three mini-marts, two fast food spots and a taco cart. There was a lot of trash in there. I do appreciate that the guys picked it all up. I do appreciate that they went to throw it out. But into the big, bold blue recycling bin? The one up against the house that says “mixed recycling” all over it? When the garbage can was right up against the arbor vitae, where they’d have had to move it three times just to do their work? Really?

It frustrates me on a variety of levels: If they’d just thrown it all in the garbage, then a handful of recyclables wouldn’t have made it into the recycle/reuse stream. That would have been frustrating enough. And probably not terribly difficult for me to pick them out and put them in the right bin. Dirty, icky, but not terribly difficult. But because so much garbage is in the recycling bin, now a much larger volume of stuff won’t get into the recycle/reuse stream. Unless I dump the entire bin and pick through it by hand, which, yes, I like to pretend I’m the Trashmaster, but I’m really not inclined to go to this effort. So now I’m frustrated and mad, but I’m also lazy and a hypocrite.

-~deep breath~-

I have personal boundaries. I don’t mind separating a handful of recyclable objects from a mass of other recyclable objects. But I draw the line at digging through or dumping out a 60-gallon sticky, dusty, stinky bin for what will probably result in a whole bunch of small bits of garbage (and dust and dirt and branches of holly and cat poop…). Clearly, for the yard work guys, their boundaries included not looking too hard for the garbage can, much less separating recylables from the trash.

We all have boundaries, and our boundaries are in different places for each of us. I am annoyed at being confronted with my boundary and knowing how arbitrary it really is. Given how much we recycle in our household, and given how dirty I’m willing to get while gardening, how much more work is it really to dump out the bin and sort out the recyclables, and sweep up the rest for the garbage? Today, for me, apparently it’s insurmountable. Complaining is easier. Tomorrow morning I will let the recycling collectors take whatever is in the blue bin. Tomorrow afternoon, I will start again.

What is one of your reducing/reusing/recycling boundaries? What would it take to get you past it?


  1. I appreciate the sympathy. Once I was able to take a couple of deep breaths, I tried -very hard- to take it as a learning experience. That, and when the guys come later in the summer to put in the new fence, we'll know to pay attention to which bin they use for what!