Hogtown Once More

TheStar.com | GTA | Bigger bins no small problem

My response to that article was succinct and not for public consumption. Living in this city is becoming more exhausting with each pronouncement by city council. The reason why people look to the past and sigh that life was simpler back then was that life was less regulated, less stressed by government, less infantalized, freer. I’m sure government started imposing rules and regulations before I was born, but I swear they’ve accelerated like a druggie on a logarithmic curve. Take garbage (yes, please, take my garbage!). Back in the bad old simpler days, everyone put out all their garbage in whatever receptacle they wanted. On Wednesdays huge items that didn’t fit in bags or bins were picked up. Twice a week everything — that’s right folks EVERYTHING — was picked up. The streets were clean, gardens were gardens, and people didn’t waste time and brain power sorting their garbage. Everyone could participate, no matter how infirm or poor or overworked because bags are lighter than bins, brain power wasn’t required as everything went into one bag or bin and everything went out the same day of the week, the poor and overworked didn’t have to spend what adds up to hour or hours each week sorting and hauling out the garbage. For the infirm, poor, and overworked, garbage was quick and easy and even they could participate. Then recycling was introduced.

It made sense to separate the newspapers and cardboard from the rest of the garbage. After all, they weren’t stinky or had foodstuffs stuck to them. The most vulnerable and overworked could still participate, although what was doable started to become a little less so.Then recycling grew, and we discovered the blue box. And things became tough for the most marginalized in the city. The lucky ones had the money to hire people to deal with it; the not-so-lucky closed their eyes and hoped for the best, that the workers wouldn’t notice that they’d mis-sorted. Or some weeks they just couldn’t get to it, and so the garbage grew in-house, which became a doozy of a problem when the pick-up schedule was halved. And then rumblings started about just where this recycling was going. No-one in the media has yet done an investigative piece about the hidden back side of garbage disposal. I know, for a fact, that in some areas of the city all garbage is mingled when picked up. I have seen garbage from my separated bins all tossed into the same truck and mingled. I’m starting to get pissed not only because there are weeks when the garbage defeats me and I cannot physically comply with the city’s upteen regulations, but also because I have a sneaking suspicion that all this fatiguing sorting and lugging of bins is mostly for show. Plus I learnt what garbage workers make.

What used to be simple and made us the pride of the continent — a clean city, well run in the garbage department — has become a filth-soaked, scrabbling albatross. And it’s going to get worse. I cannot believe that people will haul these new giant bins up and down basement stairs; most front porches I see are laden with bins as it is, and this is before the giant bins come to our doors. No longer do people sit out on their porches and play checkers or chess. In the last 10 years, I’ve seen people disappear from the porches and bins pop up in their place. Is this the face we want to show each other? To our visitors? And then there’s garbage day itself.

Bins fill the sidewalks. There’s barely room to squeeze by, and once the trucks have rolled on through, forget trying to walk in a straight line. Bins lie higgledy piggeldy all over the friggin’ place. Garbage workers create an obstacle course so bad that I avoid walking in my neighbourhood on garbage day and, if I have no choice, I take to the road. Much less stressful on body and soul, cars and all. To make matters even more fun, if one is slow in taking one’s bins in, some passing dog walker will leave you a present. Lovely.

In the old, simple days, our family of six put out less garbage than my neighbours of two. It’s not that they’re garbage pigs. (Oh, and for clarity here, I don’t separate recycling, compost, and garbage into different entities, like politicians do in their well-greased speeches. Garbage is garbage.) It’s because manufacturers literally produce more trash and it’s because the city picks it up so infrequently. Garbage is a core city service, yet we’ve rolled over like a bunch of fat sloths in response to their taxing us specifically to put out garbage when we’ve ALREADY paid for the service. That’s called double taxation, yet few have noticed. Well, at least, we don’t have a bunch of criminals running our garbage disposal system…

If the city was serious about garbage, they would have done three things:

1. Build a sorting plant, which does a far better job sorting garbage than humans can, and will cover the entire city including apartments and those areas where garbage from all bins is put into one truck. If the city were serious about recycling, they’d have done this a long time ago. But perhaps the city knows much of our recycling and compost head to the landfill, so why bother building the plant? Why else would they not have cut back on a non-essential service and built that plant? Yeah, yeah, I know, because they’re lunkheads.

2. Use a bag tag system. Instead of telling us how to put out our garbage — thou shalt use only bins and only our bins and pay for them twice over through double taxation — they’d tell us how much total garbage to put out beyond which we have to pay. The real problem isn’t solved by the three Rs; the real problem is the creation of too much trash and the excessive usage of resources to create that trash in the first place that recycling isn’t going to resolve. Far better to reduce all that product packaging and use of non-renewable resources like metals and oil and the concomitant creation of carbon emissions in the first place, then to use more energy and pump out more emissions and pollution to reuse or toss what shouldn’t have been created in the first place. A bag tag system in conjunction with a sorting plant would address the real problem — too much garbage, no matter if it’s landfill, recyclable, or compostable. But then the city wouldn’t be able to impose more regulation on its already over-regulated and rule-bound society, like a junkie going for a new high.

3. Band together with other municipalities — don’t they have that vaunted municipal federation? — to force manufacturers to reduce product packaging, as a first step. In the old, simple days, we didn’t have to buy special implements and break fingers to get into a package and liberate the item we’d bought. We need to return to those days, especially since retailers can now use electronic anti-theft systems.

In the meantime, I think Hogtown, Toronto’s old moniker, evoking the picture of fat, lazy, filthy couldn’t-care-less-about-its-weakest, fits us once again.

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