Five Reasons to Talk About Garbage

I think about garbage a lot.

I never used to think much about garbage. I just used to bag it up, store it in outside garbage cans, move those cans to the curb once a week and let the garbage disappear into the “garbage abyss”. Out of sight, out of mind. Then I moved to a small town where wildlife roams freely through the streets, so there’s no curbside garbage pickup. All garbage and recycling must be stored inside and then taken to central bear-proof bins.

Naturally, I started thinking about how I could reduce our garbage to reduce the number of times I had to take the garbage and recycling to the bins.

As I started to face the amount of garbage we generated as a household, I began to connect with what that garbage meant. I started thinking a lot more about where all the garbage was going once it left our house (spoiler alert – there is no happy garbage abyss). Our everyday garbage became a very tangible reminder of the impact of our daily activities on the environment.

At first, I was able to find some comfort in shuffling stuff from the garbage pile to the recycle pile. Then one day, a small sign went up on the big recycle bin indicating that the town could not recycle plastic bags. Like many other municipalities, our town was struggling to find places to send our recyclables. I was forced to realize that much of what I was trying to recycle was actually going to the garbage.

When my son was in junior kindergarten, his teacher read him a book about garbage going to “trash mountain,” so each time I take the garbage out, I think about the mountains of garbage worldwide, growing larger and larger.

I’m sure not many other people find garbage as interesting as I do. Still, I think changing our relationship with garbage might just change the world for these five reasons:

  1. We have way too much garbage. It is easy to see that we generate a lot of garbage in our own lives. It’s not just garbage that we have too much of. It is stuff overall. Hands up if you have a storage room, garage, or closet hiding things you aren’t using anymore but don’t know what to do with
  2. Garbage isn’t just garbage. Garbage is personal. Seriously, do you ever worry that someone might go through your garbage and find out everything about you from it? Our garbage represents our values and the choices we make in our lives. Think of the garbage generated from a convenience dinner that you’ve picked up to make a busy schedule work. Or think of the broken things you’ve thrown out because you didn’t have the time to fix them.
  3. Garbage is undervalued. When we throw away things, we deem they have no more value but is this a miscalculation? Every single item we throw away was at one point a part of this earth, and so maybe it still has inherent value? When we value new, flashy and modern, we often discard functional items.
  4. Garbage shame is real. Do you ever put stuff in the recycle that you know can’t be recycled? Have you bagged up ripped or stained closed for the second-hand store? We understand that these items will end up in the garbage, but we don’t want to be the ones to throw them out.
  5. We can’t fix the things we don’t talk about.

Join me on this blog as we Garbage Talk and strive for a less garbagy future.