60-Something: CLIP-CLOP, CLIP-CLOP PART I: What a Waste!

2013-10-15T17:30:00Z 60-Something: CLIP-CLOP, CLIP-CLOP PART I: What a Waste!By Denise DeClue nwitimes.com
October 15, 2013 5:30 pm  • 

How's your garbage lately? Gone, probably. Many of us separate the recyclables (most of them) into one bag and dump the food scraps, vacuum bag, (litter box?) and everything else in another bag. Then we move them outside into grotesque plastic bins. Voila! Garbage gone. Problem solved before it even becomes a problem.

Having traveled to a few Third-World countries and through some very poor neighborhoods in the United States, I can tell you that "no visible garbage" is one of the distinguishing marks of a prosperous and civilized society. Removing trash requires organization on a rather grand scale and nearly religious private participation.

Wagon-train trails leading through America's pristine west were often littered with refuse: bean cans, dirty clothes, heavy furniture. No trailblazers forged ahead to distribute garbage canisters along the routes. The modern camping practice of burning and burying refuse had yet to be invented. No rules and regulations in this huge unincorporated area! Yippee Yi Yah! Toss it out the window!

Documentaries I watched about India and Afghanistan lingered on the trash piling up in what were supposed to be good neighborhoods. Recently the people who revolted in Egypt were angry about the government's inability to remove trash (as well as just about everything else.)

Even Singapore, that tiny, wealthy, benevolent dictatorship has a big garbage problem. They built an island just to use for landfill (basically ash from incinerated trash). Then they filled it up. Singapore encourages garbage abatement in subtle ways: there aren't any fast-food coffee cups or napkins or cans or bottles lying around on the street, because they basically don't exist. Even in the vast food malls that evolved from hawker stands, you have to bring your own napkin and you have to take it away.

Singapore is appealing to peoples' inner angels, but according to Reuters, "Convincing people to buy less in a country whose national pastime is shopping is a hard win. Instead, a wave of 'softly-softly' initiatives are being deployed to enthuse, inspire, or slyly enforce compliance. Recreational Sentosa Island pushes edu-tainment, with a troupe of trained macaque monkeys who perform daily recycling displays."

Recycling reduces the garbage headed for landfills considerably. It's the law in Europe, and American communities are stressing it more and more. Each American creates about a ton of trash every year. In case you haven't heard, electronic garbage bins are being developed which assist in automatically fining folks for careless recycling.

One of my journalism professors spent an entire semester lecturing about garbage: waste management, the Mafia, city councils, zoning boards, state boards, landfills, incinerators, the EPA. Everything led back to garbage.

Recently it came to my attention that my town's Environmental Committee's Dumpster Subcommittee had concluded that we have an ever-growing garbage problem. Most likely they'll try to solve it when nobody's looking, like they did before.

For years we lived so far out the road that the garbage truck never came and we took our garbage to the town dumpster. Then one winter while we were away, the town instituted a new plan. They didn't just move the dumpster. They re-moved the dumpster and started collecting money to pay The Garbage Collector and his Behemoth Garbage Trucks.

Most of the people around here had sturdy little houses built just for the garbage. They were cute protection from the pesky paws of raccoons and opossums. The garbage houses merged with woody landscape. But the new Garbage Collector System apparently didn't like the little houses. They seemed to want to empty garbage plastic bins automatically.

Many people remember the old dumpster with fondness--about as much fondness as anyone can have for garbage. People wrapped up their refuse and dropped it off on their way to the little store, or the post office. Many also abhor the brightly-colored bins that people who come here on weekends are unable to remove from the roadsides on Mondays, when they have already left town.

Now they say there is more garbage than ever and it looks like the town is going to have to make another plan.

I have a new RRI (Really Radical Idea) and I think we could print it on yard signs and wage a campaign. The signs would read: CLIP-CLOP. CLIP-CLOP.

Our little town should hire horse-drawn carts to pick up our garbage.

I first saw these garbage carts in Montevideo, Uruguay. Many of their streets are cobblestone or brick, and the city was designed for horses not cars. Makes sense. Just like it does in more than sixty French towns, and in villages like Bristol, Vermont, and in Washington State.

Residents and children love the horses. They feed them apples, hitch rides in the wagons, help with the garbage collection. Like my old professor, I fear there is a lot more to say about garbage--and my wonderful, charming, melodic way of removing it. You're right, there are a few problems. But we can deal with them. Stay tuned.

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