Dear Readers: today, I’d like to talk garbage.
Here in the People’s Republic of Portland, the City Council made the unilateral decision in 2011 to end the weekly garbage pick up. Instead, we have our garbage taken away every other week while our recycling is still weekly. We now also have weekly yard debris service, because who doesn’t have 30-60 gallons of lawn clippings to toss every seven days?
One might expect a corresponding drop in rates when service is essentially cut in half. However, the Dear Leaders did not mandate that the trash haulers reduce their fees, even though they are saving a shit pile of money with this new deal. In fact, rates have gone up since the program was implemented two years ago. Charging more for less service is the American way, so yay, America!
In lieu of weekly garbage service, each household was provided with a small compost pail roughly the size of a saucepan. I’d include a photo, but I burned ours in effigy. Here – I’ll treat you to one I found on the internet…
Lovely – a small garbage can to sit on the countertop!
Into this quaint little slop bucket we are supposed to put our “food debris,” meaning everything that you are throwing away when it smells funny in your fridge or whatever you scrape off your plate after dinner. In my house, we try to shop smart and not throw food away, and because I am such a fabulous cook we are all members of the Clean Plate Club.
In addition, we have this nifty little thing – you may have heard of it? It’s called a “garbage disposal” or “Insinkerator.” It’s a remarkable device that allows you to rinse plates directly into the sink without scraping the contents into the garbage, and it grinds up the contents and swoosh! Away they go to wherever (I honestly don’t care – I’m really tired this morning).
The disposal has been around for so long now that everyone has one – even the Poors. My point is: not a lot of us were filling our garbage can with food that can now go into the slop bucket and then into the compost bin, which during the summer smells like New Jersey.*
This decision was made with zero public debate after the city conducted a small test program of 2,000 households. Of those participating in the test, only 335 bothered to respond to the city’s survey which was supposed to analyze how every-other-week garbage pick up impacted the residents. Of those 335 (I assume the other 1,665 were busy fighting off raccoons, rats, coyotes and feral dogs and thus could not respond) 80% were “somewhat satisfied” with the change.
Out of approximately 603,000 residents of our fair city of roses, 268 people are “somewhat satisfied.” I can see why this sweeping and dramatic change was made without input from the public.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big fan of recycling. Portland is at the forefront of being green, and as Kermit noted in song, it isn’t easy. I am reminded of how great my city is every time I travel somewhere that does not recycle. Recently I went to Tucson (which you should know if you are a faithful reader) and I was disgusted at the amount of garbage everywhere and how much of it included plastic water bottles and other items that we would have in a recycling bin.
But for fuck’s sake: can we please just dial our environmentalist bullshit back for a moment and give me my weekly garbage pick up back? Because as hard as I try to recycle and make as little garbage as possible, this is what I wheel down the driveway every other week:
The green one is the garbage, and though it isn’t always this full, it is not uncommon for it to overflow. This attracts all sorts of wildlife and I am often cleaning up messes made when they are searching for food. While as I mentioned I don’t throw much food away, there are some items (like bones) that can’t be put in the disposal and therefore end up in the garbage. When it is so full the lid cannot be shut, the critters come out and have a party.
And we are just a house of three people and two little dogs! Can you imagine having a baby in the house and all the attendant shitty diapers to deal with? This was actually so much of a problem that desperate parents just resorted to hiding their crap catchers in the recycling. What a fun surprise for the sorters at the recycling center!
This is not just about the garbage, either. It’s never about the thing with me, it’s about the bigger thing. The bigger thing is I am sick of our city government making these vast changes, usually reeking of the “nanny state” mentality, without putting it to a vote or at the very least a spirited public debate. You know what else the city council has done in the past few years?
1. Made it illegal to smoke almost anywhere except in your own home. With the windows open. Unless you live within 5 miles of an asthmatic llama, in which case you cannot smoke but you are allowed to use chewing tobacco (please discard your spit in the compost bin).
2. Redirected almost $500,000 in public funds earmarked for the water bureau to build a house in which the caretaker at Powell Butte Reservoir resides. Nope, I’m not kidding.
Looks like a charming little place, doesn’t it? If you live in Portland, you paid for that!
Worse still: it’s not even the first house built by the water bureau…the last one cost almost $1 millionmotherfuckingdollars! It was built to showcase “conservation ideas.” In the two years it was open to the public, it had a whopping 2,500 visitors!
Wow! Despite the crush of people pressing to experience these conservation ideas, the house was put on the market this summer for less than half of what it cost to build, and in a neighborhood that does not typically see homes for sale in the $400-500,000 price range. At $475,000, this was the most expensive listing in a 27-block range and as of today, it remains unsold and is now listed for $399,000. What a deal!
It’s cute, right?
3. Banned plastic bags.
4. Elected not to participate with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, which even San Francisco is involved with, and that city is left of Al Sharpton. The JTTF is an effective tool for coordinating federal and local authorities to prevent and deal with terrorist activities. That’s important in my town, according to this map. I should note that I think it was created by a bit of a right-wing nutter, but it serves my purpose so here you go:
I know I’ll sleep better tonight knowing that although Mohammad Ahmad Abousamra Mohammad and his buddy Fred Jones** are free to build improvised explosive devices in the basement of the vacant water house, at least they will throw the leftover fuses and such into a paper bag and recycle the refuse. And all without the threat of second-hand smoke harming their health! This is such a win-win I just can’t stand it.
Portland: stop protecting us from ourselves! I don’t WANT to live forever; my husband is older than I am and I’d like to kick it around the same time he does. I like plastic bags and I have two dogs who crap regularly…I need those bags to pick up their poop and toss it into my asshole neighbor’s yard! And as far as the trash goes, guess where my garbage ends up when there is no more room in the can?
In the recycling bin.
Rant over, I need to finish Christmas shopping and continue my ruse of actually liking the holidays this year. Don’t tell anyone, but it’s actually all an act. It turns out my bah-humbug was bothering a few people, so the City Council made it illegal for me to say “Fuck Christmas.”
Any anti-holiday statements from me will result in a fine of $475,000 (they are trying to make back some money from prior bad decisions) so as far as you know, I LOVE CHRISTMAS! Merry Merry, everyone!
*I’ve never even been – sorry if you are from there. “Smells bad like New Jersey” is the best I could do this morning – I’m slightly hungover so I grabbed the low-hanging literary fruit.
**I chose this name to prove I’m not racist or religiously intolerant. Send hate mail to firstname.lastname@example.org