I am employed in the waste collection industry here in the beautiful city of Red Deer. So far, the experience of driving through the alley ways collecting refuse has been eye-opening.
I make about 1,000 stops per day and collect between three to five articles of trash per stop. I bring 10 to 12 tonnes of garbage per day to the landfill just outside of town. I am the end of the line in this consume-and-dispose civilization.
Before I got this job, I didn’t realize that Red Deerians throw away an obscene amount of recyclable things! I continue to be amazed and disgusted by what I see. I estimate there is about one can or bottle in each bag. Sometimes I throw entire bags full of bottles away. A modest estimation is that I personally throw away $1,000 of bottles and cans in one shift.
I see bags of clothes and shoes and perfectly good suitcases just set at the curb as if they were intended for donation to the goodwill but lazily left behind.
Then there is the cardboard and other recyclables, all just discarded without regard. We Red Deerians need to be more environmentally conscious and socially responsible. Sort out the recyclable items and the items fit for donation to the goodwill.
I hope this letter can catalyze some change. So let me point out some of the simple rules of garbage.
TVs, computers and other electronics must be disposed of properly. Keep these items out of the landfill because there are dangerous elements in them such as lead and mercury that will pollute our groundwater. Motor oil and car batteries cannot be put into the landfill for the same reasons.
I am amazed how many people will set out an old lawn mower or a TV in the back alley and expect me to pick it up! Please be a responsible citizen and do not just bag these items up and hope to fool me. If you have an item you aren’t sure how to dispose of, just google it or phone the city and ask.
Recyclable items — bottles and cans and any paper or cardboard items — should be sorted and separated from other trash. If being a good steward of our environment does not encourage you to do this, then consider the economics of recycling. Look at your receipt the next time you purchase a flat of bottled water or a case of beer or a jug of milk, for example. You will notice what you pay for a bottle deposit. You can get this money back when you recycle these items! If you are too arrogant and have too much money and can’t be bothered, there are bottle drives for many charity organizations you can donate your bottles to.
If you have items that can be donated to charity, please do so! Be thoughtful about what items are garbage to you but would be treasure to someone else. Last year’s winter jacket, those work boots for when you worked the rigs, those leather gloves that don’t quite fit you and that Santa Clause decoration that doesn’t match with your tree anymore can all be donated and will be appreciated by someone else! Many things I bet can be sold on kijiji or in this newspaper’s classifieds.
Many people do recycle and I see them making a good effort. I have a few points to make for them. Did you know that pizza boxes aren’t recyclable? Yes, only cardboard that is clean can be accepted. That means that there can be no food contamination.
Also styrofoam isn’t recyclable so boxes must be emptied in order to be accepted. I don’t have time to sort through everybody’s garbage and separate these items. If I see a TV box full of styrofoam and pizza boxes clearly intended to be recycled, I have to chuck it all because the recycling guys won’t pick it up.
Thank you to all who help me do my job safely and quickly. I greatly appreciate it when you put your bags close to the curb so I can just step out and rifle them off into the truck. Thanks for not overfilling the bags so I can lift them without hurting my back or losing my balance and falling. It makes me happy to serve you who show me courtesy in doing these things.
To those who carelessly do the opposite, I implore you, please show me some courtesy and consider that I have 1,000 houses to visit each day and it really makes my job hard when I have to run up to your door step and haul off overweight cans or broken-open bags. Be mindful of how you present sharp objects because I really don’t like getting shards of glass in my hands or getting stabbed by rusty nails.
Finally, if you have a pet, bag its poop properly so they don’t break open and splash all over the place when I pick them up. Your small effort can really help me out.
Please remember your garbage day so that you don’t have to put out 20 bags. My truck can only hold so much and your 20 bags means there is less room for other people’s bags. I will probably not tag your 20 bags, even though I am supposed to; just keep that in mind.
Also, please don’t expect me to lift your oak dresser or your 200-pound metal shelf. I will take these items only if you break them down so I can handle them.
There is one last concern that I really have to address. Although it brightens my day when kids wave at me and run behind my truck, it is a serious hazard for them because I honestly don’t see them! Sometimes I have a train of kids following behind me.
Parents, please teach your kids of the dangers of following too close. But this warning isn’t just for kids; I see adults who mindlessly walk close to my truck. Please keep a safe distance so that accidents don’t happen.
Thank you. We’re working hard to keep our community clean.