This week, we look at the rules of rubbish.
There are quite a few rules in the USA, like not being able to get out of your car and pump your own gas/petrol in New Jersey (what’s that all about?) and Arkansas State Wine being the only brand of wine allowed in Arkansas supermarkets (yes, it exists). When it comes to rubbish/trash however, no one seems to care that much. Here in Chicago we have huge black wheelies for most of the stuff, and bright blue wheelies for all recycling. Yes, all recyclables go in one receptacle, and we only got that a year ago. Apparently, the City Hall web site is offering $50 off garden rain catchers, but this seems to be a closely-guarded secret. Despite the fact that we live right next to the largest body of fresh water in the world (Lake Michigan), our water’s not free and by golly those water people don’t want you saving the free stuff.
When we first got the blue wheelies, the City basically delivered two to every house and didn’t bother taking any black ones away. Chaos and much gnashing of teeth. No one could get their bloody cars out. Apparently you could phone the relevant city office to have extras removed, but who wants to spend all morning trying to get through? Instead, I lay in wait for the trash guys and asked them to take a few black ones away. No problem at all. None of that “more than me job’s worth”, or “you have to fill out a form” malarkey. They just chucked them in the back of the garbage truck and destroyed them. Ironic since they were embarking on a new recycling program, but – baby steps people.
Strange, yet fortuitous, that this subject should come up. When I am not entertaining my fans with humorous vignettes of my adventures in Britain, I work as a project manager for a software company that installs systems for local councils to help them track their trash pickup. It’s true; I even go to rubbish conventions. It’s a laugh a minute.
But we take recycling pretty seriously over here (at least some of us do) and the system I am working on at the moment is the most comprehensive of all. This particular council has three types of bins: green for organic waste, blue for dry recycling and the standard black bin for everything else. And there are rules, oh yes. The recycling teams go around in the morning, and if they find a bin that has not met the criteria they punch a code into our system and this tags the customer with a “contamination.” When the customer gathers enough of these misdemeanours (sort of like a football player earning yellow cards) they are labelled as a “serial contaminator.”
Now, at this point, my job is done, so I don’t know what happens to you if you are awarded the title of “serial contaminator” though I don’t think that’s’ something you want to see in the local papers. I can only imagine the miscreants being ceremoniously stripped of their green and blue bins and summarily shunned by their neighbours. Since denying them the privilege of recycling would be counterproductive, I can only speculate that some sort of mandatory rehabilitation is imposed—community service at the local sorting depot might be a suitable chastisement.
Whatever the case, be aware, if you live in one of these districts, that they do not take kindly to you putting unauthorized items in the bins. Just look at what happened when that lady binned the cat.
22 hours ago