It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Does this bother you, too?

Today is garbage day in our neighbourhood. It’s also a beee-youtiful fall day, so the tots and I went for a long walk just to soak up the warm golden sun and breathe in that soft fall air.

And kick leaves!

On our travels, we collected a lovely, sturdy ride-on toy. It was even clean! We saw a beautiful Perego high chair, which, had it not been quite so heavy, might also have found its way into my stroller. Somehow. There were also a couple of shelves, not in such pristine shape as the baby equipment, but good for a garage or a workshop. And a box of stonewear – I didn’t take a close look, but I’ll bet there were four place settings in there.

This makes me sad. The waste! This is perfectly usable stuff, and because the family in question doesn’t want it any more, it’s being thrown out.

This also angers me. The selfishness is abhorrent. This is an affluent neighbourhood. Has it not crossed their comfortable, privileged minds that there are people who would be grateful for these things? Do they not stop to consider that there are families who must do without the things that they are so glibly tossing?

This is a well-educated neighbourhood. Generally, the higher the education level, the higher the concern for the environment. But it seems the concern is all talk and no action. Unless the action is writing a cheque, I suppose. Which is laudable, and I wouldn’t want them to stop doing that — but hey, how about considering the things you might do?

It wouldn’t take much. There is a quality consignment shop that specializes in maternity and children’s clothing and accessories, no more than five blocks away. There are cars in all these driveways: they could bundle these things a mere five blocks. There are routine charity collections of clothing and household goods. Last week I gave a bag of outgrown childrens’ clothes to the Canadian Diabetes Association. Last month, it was the Cerebral Palsy Association.

I keep a large garbage bag in my back porch, into which I toss whatever the children have outgrown, and small household items we no longer need/use. When the charity calls, informing me of the pick-up, I have it all ready for them.

It takes no more effort to haul these things to the curb for collection by one of these charities than it does to haul it out for the garbageman.

And yet, these things are going into the trash.

I’m back to feeling sad.

October 3, 2007 - Posted by | manners, socializing

23 Comments »

  1. I am SO with you on that! Perfectly good stuff going in the trash that somebody could reuse. *shakes head* I am both a donor and shopper at stores like Goodwill, ARC, Salvation Army, etc, often in the same trip. I just don’t see WHY people don’t donate – it’s not like nobody has ever heard of these charities and that they take donations of stuff like that.

    (And the strategy of a box or bag out of the way to put stuff in as you go works well for me. I’m a “saver,” so my rule is if I put it in and don’t miss it in the time before the bag’s full, then it should go. I forbid myself from looking back through the bag before donating it because _something_ would get pulled back out. *grin*)

    Comment by Ms. Huis Herself | October 3, 2007 | Reply

  2. Very sad. My fourth graders come in with that “throw-away” mentality. If you’re tired of it, throw it away. If it breaks, don’t bother trying to fix it–just throw it away. That is something I work on all year, as I head up the recycling/energy conservation program at our school. You just gave me an idea for a lesson plan. 🙂

    Comment by McSwain | October 3, 2007 | Reply

  3. Geez, an’ y’know if the throwerawayers in question aren’t feeling particularly charitable that day, couldn’t they at least put these things up on craigslist or eBay or something? Make a buck or two?

    I don’t know if it’s selfishness so much as outright laziness.

    Comment by Kendra | October 3, 2007 | Reply

  4. definitely very sad. i’m like you, keeping a constant pile of things ready to go to goodwill. when the pile gets big, i drop it off at the collections area. seems pretty easy to me – it’s actually a preferable chore (in my opinion) to taking out the trash!

    Comment by Lara | October 3, 2007 | Reply

  5. Isn’t is sad how we live in a throw-away day and age now? If it’s broke/scratched/used once… we’ll just get another one. Throwing out perfectly good things not only shows selfishness and laziness, but it is also evidence of a consumeristic (is that a word? Did I even spell it right?) society.

    Comment by Karly @ Indescribable Life | October 3, 2007 | Reply

  6. I do the same thing that you & other commenters do–I keep a bag in the garage for donatable items. Unless the clothing is stained beyond saving or the toys are broken, I donate them. It keeps the clutter in my house from taking over, and I know someone else will get use out of the items.
    Which reminds me, I need to take a load to Goodwill tomorrow!

    I just don’t understand the “throwaway” mindset. I don’t want my kids to be like that.

    Comment by Alison | October 3, 2007 | Reply

  7. It annoys me insanely. I live in a co-op. Our backyard faces a row of dumpsters from the condos across the alley. Two weeks ago someone threw out:

    A perfectly good bedstead
    A perfectly good side console
    A perfectly good dresser
    A perfectly good couch.

    We have a large sign that says “DUMP UNWANTED FURNITURE HERE.” Because we’re poor students and will use it, sell it, or pass it on to some other needy person. WASTE!

    Worse then that, though, are the people who try to feel good about bringing absolute TRASH to Goodwill (insert your charity of choice.) People need real clothes, not your stained and torn castoffs, kthxbai.

    Comment by C.I.F. | October 3, 2007 | Reply

  8. er…I meant, that sign? is on our back fence and perfectly visible. No one ever pays attention. We salvaged one peice, but by the time we saw the furniture in the dumpsters other trash had been tossed on top and it was sticky and ruined.

    Comment by C.I.F. | October 3, 2007 | Reply

  9. Hey, I work for the Salvation Army Thrift Store. No argument from me!

    Comment by nebcanuck | October 3, 2007 | Reply

  10. Maybe you could see if there’s a freecycle site in your area and print flyers and hand them out. It gives the stuff one person doesn’t want to the person who does want it. And keeps usable things out of the trash.

    http://www.freecycle.org/

    Comment by ktjrdn | October 3, 2007 | Reply

  11. I hate when people put out perfectly good stuff, but it can be great for trash hunting.

    And you seriously turned down the Peg high chair? I would have dragged it to the park and back… Seriously. 🙂

    Comment by b*babbler | October 3, 2007 | Reply

  12. I agree with you, but don’t people come down your street looking for things to take? Here, you can’t leave anything around outside or someone will take it. Yes, it’s left out for trash, but someone always gets to it first since the trash doesn’t come before 9pm on my street.

    Comment by kate | October 3, 2007 | Reply

  13. I belong to freecycle too, great idea, nothing gets wasted here. I tried to arrange one saturday when all of my street would have a yard sale, we could advertise on the radio and get lots of people along but only 2 or 3 people were interested! I think people put it out by the bins in the hope that someone will take it? I know our bin men wont take anything thats not in the bin, according to their ‘policy’ they dont have to empty the bin if the lid is pushed up by the rubbish inside! It must be ‘contained’!

    Comment by jenny uk | October 4, 2007 | Reply

  14. Totally bothers me. But, like kate, there are guys in trucks who come around every single trash night and take what looks good. It’s great and all, but I doubt that many people here put that stuff out with the trash and think, “Oh, those guys will come and take it, it won’t go in the garbage.” No, they think, “I don’t want this anymore. I’m throwing it away.”

    I have a friend who regularly benefits from my and others’ charity (bags and bags of hand-me-downs, and I’ve personally given her a high chair, a dresser, and a stroller) who also regularly tells me about the toys they throw away because they’re done with them. I sort of gently suggest that Goodwill or the Salvation Army might put them to good use and she just says she doesn’t have time to cart stuff around to charities. I haven’t given her anything of ours in a very long time.

    Comment by candace | October 4, 2007 | Reply

  15. I can’t tell you how much stuff I have gotten by checking out the curb. I will say, in their defense that occasionally Brian and I will stick things out at the street before we take it to Goodwill etc because most times, someone will stop and pick it up. Obviously we don’t put things out when the weather is inclement.

    We take a lot of things from friends and neighbors and try to give back everything we can. Lately, my quest has been to find a place that takes used toys. A lot of places won’t take them. I’m going to try the pirate toy fund next and see if they’ll take some of our less used goodies.

    Comment by Dani | October 4, 2007 | Reply

  16. Our neighbourhood association is desperately trying to get a “take away drive” going. So far the response has been less than we had hoped but even a few co-operating neighbours can pull one off.

    The idea is that, NOT ON GARBAGE DAY, people put their unwanted and gently used items at the end of their driveways so others can just take what they need/want. Whatever is left over at the end of the day (or weekend) is collected and donated to the Salvation Army or other charity.

    Great post Mary.

    Comment by Sheri | October 4, 2007 | Reply

  17. My daycarista’s husband works at the local transfer station (that’s the PC way of saying “dump” around here) and, well, let’s just say the daycare has benefitted greatly. Perfect kid bikes and all sorts of stuff. The craziest thing he found was a chicken. Yes, a live chicken…. in a box. The kids named her “Garbage” and she’s clucking around and laying eggs today.

    They had a place at the transfer station called the “reuse it” section but they had to close it down because they were calling the cops multiple times a week to break up fights over things left there.

    Comment by Homestead | October 4, 2007 | Reply

  18. Our house is full of garbage-picked, freecycle, garage-sale, hand-me-down furniture and household items! I don’t think we’ve ever bought a single piece of furniture new (or many other house-hold things for that matter!). And I never throw out something that is still usable. Our society has such a throwaway mentality! It’s very sad… I hate the waste. Some people throw out so much good stuff (and food, too!).

    Comment by rosie_kate | October 4, 2007 | Reply

  19. In our neighbourhood, it’s customary to put things out that someone might want the day before garbage day, and they will usually walk off. In fact, plenty of trucks and grovery carts drive around our neighbourhood nabbing tasty bits. And me, I’m a big-time scavenger, A lot of my furnishings and things for Misterpie’s classroom have come this way.

    As to my own things, I either follow that custom (and things are always taken) or, with things like clothes, I do the Goodwill drop about once a year. So far, kid clothes are being boxed for future use by us or our friends, but there are plenty of shelters and a few teen mother centres that could make good use of them someday when we are all done having babies. After all, babies don’t wear them for very long!

    Comment by kittenpie | October 4, 2007 | Reply

  20. Garage sales are huge in our area, so at least the stuff does get reused. Many of us donate to Goodwill or other charities.

    We don’t have trash pick up like that. Perhaps that helps people give to charities more, although I really have no idea. Or all that stuff is just collecting dust in people’s garages.

    Comment by mamacita tina | October 4, 2007 | Reply

  21. I come from a family of donaters, and married into a family of garage salers. I would much rather give away things that we don’t need or want straight-away. I take things to the charity drop-offs about every other month, but usually only the small things because if it is big or “nice” my husband wants to try to sell it (so he can buy more things that won’t be appreciated and will soon be “boring”).

    Every summer my in-laws have a family garage sale. Each year I price things cheap, and say anything that doesn’t sell gets donated. Most of our things sell. Other relatives are greedy. Until recently, even family members had to pay full asking price to get something. The things that don’t sell, many store in the garage for the following summer.

    But we also have stuff up to our eye-balls. Because of various divorces over the years, my daughter has 5 sets of grand parents and my son has 3 sets. They have 5 great grand parents still living and a whole host of aunts and uncles. It is rare for a week to go by where someone doesn’t give them a gift of some sort. We have toys that get broken simply due to over crowding in the toy bins.

    How can I get the kids to appreciate what they have when they don’t even know what all they have? And they know that there is a steady supply. The kids donate toys they are bored with too, so they are generous in that respect, but they don’t take care of their things. Games that have lost their pieces are only fit for the trash (I’m speaking of essential pieces, like the cards for Clue, not like dice). Some toys get played with for a bit after being damaged, but I wouldn’t donate a baby doll missing an arm or a Barbie that has had her hair cut off. Yet it makes me sick how many things like that end up in our trash because it is so wasteful.

    My uncle was a garbage collector in a university town for years and at the end of May there would be hundreds of dollars of lumber out at the curbs from all of the students who tore down their lofts, and a large percentage of those students would come back the following August and pay to have new ones built. It just wasn’t worth it to them, or their parents, to take it apart and store it for the summer and put it back together again.

    Comment by qgb69 | October 5, 2007 | Reply

  22. With a recent move to a smaller house, I’ve discovered a distressing problem: I couldn’t get anyone to take our stuff! I tried several organizations that pickup items (in June) and they were scheduling pickups in late August to September.

    Everything that we could load into our van we did, and discovered that they pick through it (and don’t provide any disposal for things they wouldn’t take)

    I wasn’t trying to get rid of garbage, but a sofa that was only 2 years old, dining chairs, books, oh god the first place we went to said they didn’t take books at all.

    It was horribly frustrating, and in the end we put several items out at the curb for pickup, only to find that they were gone before the garbage truck rolled around. Most things went to someone in the end, but I can see where next time I might choose to skip the intervening frustrating steps and just put stuff on the curb with a “free to a good home” sign.

    Comment by Monica | October 6, 2007 | Reply

  23. I can say that I have gotten very nice items from the “so called trash”, and dumpsters. Look like new clothes that even fit, I found a desk that was all oak wood, toys, lamp shades, doors, new carpet, wood, lamps, bikes, prety much you name it. I have wondered “why” people throw away items instead of donating them. There are donating centers that only take certain items. that is true. I took children clothes to a well known good used clothing store and what they would buy from me, I would in turn take the money and purchase used or new clothing that my boys needed at that time. I had friends that had younger children than myself and I would also give some stuff to them. I know of a person that has gotten all kinds of new items and food from dumpsters. This women had rounds that she took and when she got home she would go through it and divide it up for her family. She knew what days and what times to do this, because from what I understand from them is, it is illegal to get things out of store dumpsters. I understand that stores throw things out, the damaged or expired items, but why is it illegal for people to “use” these things? It is wrong to take your trash to a dumpster if it is intended for certain individual housing or retail store, but why to take.

    Comment by Angela | November 18, 2007 | Reply


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