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May 14, 2008

I’m not sure what this says about me.

Every week on garbage night and on garbage morning, we see people (OK, not herds of people, but it is more than a couple) wandering around the neighborhood with plastic bags, going through everyone’s recycle bins (I don’t think they get into the garbage bins) and taking out returnable glass and cans.

This really bothers me.

Am I feeling possessive about my garbage? I mean, I’m throwing it away. If I felt possessive about it, wouldn’t I keep it? And it’s not like I feel as if they’re stealing money from me, because I chose not to take the cans and bottles to get the deposit back myself – in essence, when I bought those beverages, I did it knowing that I would be out $0.05 per drink because I believe that the time I would spend standing at the machine processing the returns is worth more to me than the $1.20 I would get back; and that the space the returns would take up in my garage until I got around to doing it is more valuable taken up with the bags of books I save to take over to Powells.

So why does it bother me? Is it my middle-class sensibilities offended by seeing people going through garbage? The people I see are carrying a couple medium-sized garbage bags and walking through the neighborhood, so presumably they live very near by, and so are middle-class also. While some of them are elderly Asian women, there are definitely some younger Caucasians doing it also, and it bugs me when I see anyone doing it – so whatever it is, it isn’t just latent racism rearing its ugly head (in our society, I suspect that it is nearly impossible for a white person (or a person of any other race) to have completely escaped absorbing the prejudicial thought-patterns that are showered upon us in pretty much every medium available).

Is it because I suspect that the people doing this live in this area, and thus are living with means that should preclude them from needing to collect those stupid deposits? I mean, unless you collect *huge* amounts of returnables, collecting the few that wastrels like myself toss into the recycle once a week is hardly going to help someone pay the mortgage, or even buy them a meal out.

Is it that they make me feel guilty for being so lazy as to not bother returning them myself?

Or is it feeling “invaded”, as if someone is getting into something that belongs to me (when, actually, I don’t own the recycle bin, it belongs to Waste Management – they’re just lending it to me. Hey – do you think they feel possessive about us using it?). Am I feeling as if someone is stealing something from me? (See note about “I’m throwing it away”).

Tonight, I saw a woman getting into a neighbor’s recycle bin, and even that bothered me, so it’s not just that I’m feeling possessive of *my* garbage – I’m feeling possessive about my neighbor’s garbage, too!

Ultimately, the returns are going to make it into the same place, just through different routes; and this is not only benefiting the collectors in some small way, but it is saving the recycle company the bother of having to haul and sort the stuff. What’s the problem?

So it bothers me that this bothers me – in part, at least, because I don’t understand why it bothers me.

I guess I would make a poor communist…

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2 Responses to “May 14, 2008”


  1. 1 David S.
    May 20, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    What would bother me is something going through stuff on my property, no matter what it was. And of course, while they’re helping themselves to a few bottles and cans, they might just take a peek at the unshredded receipt or bill copy…

    I haven’t seen anyone taking recyclables from our bins, probably because I only put the non-nickel ones at the street, and save up – for months – the cans to take to Safeway, where I will often just leave a grocery bag’s worth by the machines for some more interested person to cash in.

    But, from time to time some party person has left a six-pack of Pabst or Michelob beside my bins, which wouldn’t bother me – maybe where they live they don’t have curbside pickup – but jeez, do they have to drink crappy domestic? I mean, I’ve got my image to protect!

  2. 2 Cats
    May 21, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Hard times hit everyone not just the disenfranchised. If you could collect enough recyclables for a tank of gas why not. It also reduces the carbon footprint of both of you. A solution might be that you pull out the recyclables and put them in a bag on a different night of the week, so that some real determined and maybe someone in more need could pick them up. Or you could donate them to a favorite charity.

    There are many more things you could do with them, these are just a few suggestions.


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