Saturday, May 16, 2009

You May Gladly Have My Trash!

“Some guy with a truck took that broken lawnmower you left out for the trash last week,” a neighbor recently told us with a hint of scandal – even offense – in her voice.

“Great!” my husband and I both responded. “Glad someone could use it.” She seemed surprised that we weren’t as shocked as she was.

I like my neighbor, so I hope she doesn’t know about the time we agreed to hold a hot-tub cover in our yard for a passerby who spotted it on a different neighbor’s trash pile. (“My husband can pick it up this afternoon,” she had promised. “We were just about to spend $100+ to buy one!”) Or the time I offered to help a different couple load a perfectly good sofa into their truck after it [the sofa] appeared on the curb in our neighborhood. I might start to get a reputation as the neighbor whose love of “junk" is bringing down property values!

I do love seeing “junk” saved from the trash and made useful again. Maybe it’s the symbolic redemption I love, or maybe the resourcefulness of trash pickers simply appeals to my frugal nature. Whatever the cause, I hate to throw away anything that someone else can use; on the occasions when no one we know would appreciate what we need to get rid of, I hope for a stranger to take it home before the garbage collectors take it to the landfill. But I am certainly in the minority in our area. In fact, one of our township newsletters urged residents to report anyone seen “stealing” from the recycle bins. (The argument was that the trash company would raise rates for garbage pickup if it didn’t get enough recyclable materials to earn money on.)

I can understand the argument against stealing recyclables, but what I can’t understand is this: How did Americans become so stingy that we would rather see something be buried than give it away?


  1. Jen told me that in West York Boro, the cops will stop you if they see you picking up someone's garbage. Some guy got stopped trying to take their old refrigerator from the curb. I wonder if there is a law against it?? I don't understand why they want to punish people for trying to be resourceful!

  2. Your last line is spot-on! And seriously, don't the police have something more pressing to do than pick up people who are picking up someone else's curb side rejects?!? I admire their frugality too, and I have friends who do this regularly! People throw out good stuff all the time!!

  3. In my Pittsburgh neighborhood taking reuseable stuff that has been left for the garbage is acceptable behavior. It is well known that after the community yardsale is when the best deals become available. However, I think routing through garbage bags is where residents might feel threatened due to the potential for identity theft and other privacy matters.


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