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Do You Also Judge People on Garbage Collection Day?

Garbage Day in Ottawa
Garbage Day in Ottawa

“I sure hope they had a party. That’s like… ten boxes of pizza. Or maybe they work for Pizza Pizza and get an employee discount. Still, that’s a shitload of grease wheels.”

On garbage night, as I stroll around the neighbourhood, I can’t help but silently judge people. Oh come on, I can’t possibly be the only person who eyes the pile of garbage placed at the curb in front of each home and make stupid assumptions about it, can I?

You have the really cheap people who don’t use proper garbage bags but whatever they find, including shopping bags—paper shopping bags. Squirrels and skunks will have fun with them, I note, feeling smug because I remembered to buy these ugly black garbage bags. People who always seem to have a bunch of broken items—broken lamps, broken plates, broken chairs… either they argue a lot, or they raise elephants in the backyard! People who have one-of-a-kind garbage—all pizza boxes, all bottles, all books, all cookie boxes, furniture… ah, furniture. So much can be written about furniture, abandoned sofas, wobbly chairs and sad-looking mattresses!

A couple of days before garbage collection, some people put their unwanted bulky items at the curb, usually with an over-enthusiastic sign—“FREE!!” “HELP YOURSELF!!!” Translation? “Please, someone takes that shit, thank you very much”. It rarely works. People have their own garbage to deal with, no one wants some stranger’s furniture, especially if it looks broken or has been sitting under the rain for the past few days.

The idea is good, though. An informal garage sale, if you wish, a generous offer, a green way to give objects a second life.

Or a lazy way to dump a mouldy second-hand mattress or a chest without drawers.

Eh, folks. No one collects garbage… we are all in the same boat, we want to get rid of it.

In France, the leitmotiv is “descends la poubelle!” (“take the garbage bag downstairs!”). My father usually nods and promptly forgets to haul the plastic bag to the bins across the street. Et merde. In Canada, Feng and I usually quiz each other every Sunday night: “is collection day tomorrow? Is it paper or plastic?” That’s because we have a weekly garbage pickup, and we must place our remnants of life at the curb before 6 a.m. on Monday.

We have two big plastic bins for recyclable waste–black for paper, blue for glass and plastic, collected on alternating weeks. In theory, a fancy collection calendar is distributed to residents but if anyone in the street takes the wrong bin out, you can be sure the entire neighbourhood will follow—it’s actually pretty funny when you notice the mistake, i.e. the full bins that weren’t picked up, on Monday morning.

We can also leave up to two plastic bags of general household waste, the non-recyclable kind, for collection every two weeks. Trust me, when we can finally take the garbage out, it’s a relief.

I can’t believe how much garbage we produce, especially considering that we rarely throw away anything bulky and that we cook our meals from scratch (i.e. we don’t have food delivered or eat microwavable meals). I blame manufacturers. Does packaging have to be so… bulky? So complicated?

Take a pack of cookies. The box is paper—easy. Inside, you have another plastic box, usually wrapped in plastic. I usually stay away from cookies that are individually packed in the box because that’s just silly. But still, we end up with a lot of garbage, and as I’m writing this I’m once again wondering why. In theory, everything is recyclable: paper box, plastic boxes and wrapping.

So what’s in our garbage bags? What the hell do we do? Do we dismember people in our sleep and hide body parts in garbage bags or something? When I haul the bags outside, I hate everybody. The City of Ottawa, manufacturers, myself. From now on, I’ll only eat… corn. Wait, no, where do I put the husks? I should use the waste explorer to find out, but I don’t feel like searching through over 800 products.

Yeah, I’m lazy. Look, I’m going to be honest: if you want me to be environment friendly, you gotta make it easy for me—for us. Sorting out paper and plastic for recycling has become second nature, it just goes without saying. I add to the bins in the garage several times a day—empty cans, junk mail, etc. I drew the line at composting kitchen waste. Go ahead, take my hippie card away, I don’t care. It smells, it’s full of flies and maggots and it’s only collected once a week. No thanks.

Fuck, it is collection day tomorrow… I have to get the bags ready.

At least, Mark enjoys Monday mornings, when he gets to see the late garbage trucks in action…

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