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Waste Disposal Has Become a Pain

Updated on October 29, 2013

New Waste Handling Laws

Here in the USA, there are a good many laws of fairly recent enactment re-defining waste into a number of new categories. We no longer have garbage. We have waste. Waste is big business. Garbage (or trash, if you prefer) just gets dumped; waste must be sorted.

While industry may be responsible for the lion's share of producing the quantities and kinds of waste resulting in all the newly-invented categories, the onus of following these cumbersome laws is also foisted upon us "little guys," i.e., the lowly homeowners and renters.

There is a single main reason given for this new set of laws: "The Environment."

Now, I'm as "green" as anyone, and I do believe in careful resource management and proper disposal of trash. However, I also believe this concept of "green" everything has become a bit of a trite and overused term. It is becoming downright annoying, and I think if I see one more "green" advertisement, I may lose my lunch. (Kermit may want to consider a dye job.. I’m just sayin'...)

All the Categories (Well, Most of Them)

Instead of trash or garbage, we now have waste, divided up as follows:

Things they will pick up:

  • green waste (lawn and garden trimmings, and dang, there’s that 'green' word again!)
  • recyclables (anything from cardboard to glass bottles, tin cans, and plastic jars--the exact items accepted vary greatly from city to city)
  • general trash (such as kitchen waste, and other things we used to “normally” call garbage)

Things they won’t pick up:

  • hazardous materials (this includes paint--even water-based latex paint, assorted household chemicals--anything from furniture polish, window-cleaners, bleach, insecticides, garden or pool chemicals and the like)
  • "E-Waste" (this is the newest terminology and category; it deals with any electronic gadget from dead cell phones to TV’s, computers and monitors, keyboards, fax machines, etc.)
  • F.O.G. (Fats, Oils, and Grease-generally leftovers from cooking)
  • Automotive fluids (old gas drained from a vehicle or gas-powered yard tool, motor oil, transmission fluid, anti-freeze, brake fluid, and so forth)

And here's a new one they've added recently--it's now illegal to dispose of household batteries in the trash. They've been classified as "hazardous waste." Oh, really? And who are the 'battery police' who are going to go through all the bags of garbage loaded with coffee grounds, spoiled food, and the scrapings from kitty litter boxes, to find out if there are batteries in the trash?

When is it Picked Up, and How?

In our city, bins are supplied for all three main categories: garbage, recycling and yard waste, and they will drop off, on request, a container for recycling motor oil and oil filters. Not all towns do.

I have to wonder how much the environment is actually being helped by two additional trash pick up vehicles now driving each route: the original “garbage truck,” and the two additional ones for recyclables and for yard trimmings.

Most areas serviced by a disposal company have weekly pickups, and that is fine. Well, it would be fine, if everything was picked up every week. Here again, there is wide variation city-by-city. Where I live, the recycling and "normal garbage" is picked up weekly. Great. However, the yard waste is picked up only on alternate weeks. That may be fine for tract homes, but the area where we live is semi-rural, with larger lots; twice a month is just not enough in summer and's crazy. But, go a mile away, to where my daughter lives (in a tract home just across the line in another town), and their yard waste is picked up every week, but the recycling only on alternate weeks. It is backwards to the need in both cases.

What is picked up in the recycling? Again, it depends. My daughter's town takes pretty much anything...the usual cans, bottles, plastic, cardboard, but also broken kitchen appliances and torn, discarded clothing and shoes, broken toys, and so on. In our city, we can only recycle cardboard, glass, (but not broken window glass), metal cans and plastic (but only food and other plastic containers such as cat litter buckets, empty cleaning products, etc., but, no broken toys or Styrofoam). Loose scrap metal, must be taken to the scrap yard, but they only buy aluminum—they will charge you to dump steel.

There are many items marked with a recycle symbol that are not accepted by our waste disposal company! That is another problem—if the material is recyclable, then any disposal company claiming to have and operate a recycling program needs to accept said material, or the entire concept is bogus. This inconsistency between cities and different disposal companies is a big problem that needs to be addressed in the laws that put the programs into place to start with.

It seems to me that since recycling is mandated by law, then waste management companies must also be mandated to pick up any and all items deemed recyclable by these laws.

The Sorting and Disposal Processes

Now that we know what all the categories are, we are put upon to sort them all out ourselves into nice tidy piles or bins for storage and eventual transport or pick-up. Therein lie the problems. Some of the items will be picked up by the local waste disposal company. (Remember when we just called them "garbage men?") These items usually include the household recyclables mentioned above, the normal "always-was-garbage" food waste, and the yard trimmings.

And those household batteries? Well, how many really get used up and tossed out in any given day, week or month? We are supposed to store them in some kind of container until there is a reasonable amount (for us!) to take to the collection facility? I'm not going to spend the gas to drive there for 1 or 2 batteries; and I'm not going to store them until I have a bag full, either--that could take years--during which time, they are likely to leak their chemicals and become even more hazardous--no, I don't want them hanging around my home!

Aside from the bins provided by the trash pickup..oh, pardon me.. waste management company! .there are all the categories of items they won't accept. These include almost every category from the first section, as well as larger things that we've always had to haul to the dumps ourselves, such as dead refrigerators, furniture, mattresses, and construction waste from building or remodeling projects.

Storage Space Needed

The waste companies are also perfectly happy to take aluminum cans from soft drinks and beer; soda bottles, and glass beverage bottles. Hold the phone, however—those are the items on which I have paid a “California Redemption Value” added fee. If I recycle those myself, I get at least part of that money back—not so if I dump it into the general waste pickup recycle containers. That means three additional bins in my yard to separate the money-back recycling from the trash pickup recyclables.

Sorting and storing all these myriad categories of "special waste" takes up a lot of space. Most people don't have that much. Who wants their garage full of buckets of used motor oil, waiting for a chance to take it to a drop-off station. You used to just be able to take it to the local gas station, where they did your oil change. That was back when they were called "service stations," because they actually provided services. Now, they have no service bays, and you pump your own gas. Service has gone the way of the dinosaurs.

The places that now specialize in doing oil changes, charge a lot of money for a simple oil change--and this includes an "environmental disposal fee." If you are a do-it-yourselfer, and just bring them your bucket of oil, they're going to charge you a fee. Some will charge you more than the amount tacked on if they had done the oil change.

Or, you can bring it to a special-collection location. The same is true of other haz-mat waste such as paints. No one, however, wants to leave these things sitting around in the garage or house--they are fire hazards. You're not allowed to dump them on the ground or down the storm drains, or into the toilet, either. I don't have a problem with that. All of those means of disposal are harmful to the environment in one way or another.

Inconvenient to Comply

What I do have a problem with, is the days of the week and hours that the collection facilities are open for dropping off this waste. They want you to bring it to them to dispose of properly, but they have such oddball hours of short duration on only 2 or 3 days of the week, that it is nearly impossible to arrange a time to get there. Hence, the dangerous stuff continues to sit around your house. As if the hours are not inconvenient enough, the law places limits on how much "hazardous material" you are allowed to transport at one time in your private vehicle.

It is rather a catch-22 situation: you stockpile the stuff at home until you have enough to be worth the trip, and re-arrange your schedule to get there--I'm serious--many of the "open for acceptance" days are daytimes in the middle of the week! Oh, but don't have too much, or you'll have to drive all the way home and back again, making two trips, even if it all would have fit in one. Hey--that costs money at the gas pump!

The problem with storage is multiplied many times for apartment dwellers who may not even have garage space, or may not be allowed to have anything in the garage but their car.

Recycling must be pre-sorted by the consumer
Recycling must be pre-sorted by the consumer | Source

Further Reading

Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash
Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash

Trash and rubbish from an anthropological and archaeological standpoint.


That Pesky "E-Waste" and Other Problem Things

So--your computer died? You have an old, discarded cell phone that doesn't work so well anymore? You can't toss them into the trash to end up in the landfill. Nope, we don't do that anymore. We must take them to an e-waste collection facility.

Sometimes, these are separate facilities; sometimes electronics stores will accept 'dead' electronics. Other times, it is just a separate section at the transfer station. That's the “new-speak” term for the dumps. The trouble with having to take things to the dumps is, they charge a fee: an outrageous fee! Our local "transfer station" charges a minimum of $25.00 for a pickup truck load. It doesn't even have to be a full load--it could be a single item, such as an old broken-up workbench. No matter--$25.00! Remember--that's the minimum charge! If you have a really stuffed-full load, they'll charge you more.

Or, goodness--if you have anything electronic, such as an old microwave oven, computer, TV set, etc. you are going to pay an additional $25.00 each for those items! If you should have a mattress, other furniture or refrigerator, you are going to pay an additional $25.00 to $40.00 each to dispose of those items!

These are tough economic times--most of us don't have that kind of extra change lying around, but if the waste company won't pick it up, what are we to do? Turn our backyards into trash dumps? Not an acceptable alternative at all.

We are being sent mixed messages. There are laws stating that the input to landfills must be reduced by half, and all these mandated recycling and special-purpose disposal programs have been put into place, but then, they don't make them convenient, and they charge so much money that folks can't afford to comply.

And you were wondering about all that discarded stuff along our's called "midnight dumping," and is becoming an increasing problem across the state and the nation.

We need to campaign to our legislators to create amendments to these laws, so that if they are going to be forced upon us, they must be both convenient and either free, or very low cost fees so they are affordable for all.

Midnight dumping despoils the beauty of nature.
Midnight dumping despoils the beauty of nature. | Source


Submit a Comment

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi there, Sally's Trove--

    Thanks so much. I'm glad you liked my bit of humor, there.. ;-)

    We live in California--EVERYthing is regulated, taxed or fee-imposed in one way or another! But, moving costs even more money, and is out of the question.

    I'm pleased you found the article worthwhile. Thanks very much for the share and helping get the word out!

  • Sally's Trove profile image

    Sherri 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

    Lol about Kermit! Loved that observation and I totally agree.

    Truly, I never gave the inconveniences of "waste disposal the modern way" all that much thought, mostly because I don't have waste regulated as strongly in my community as you do. For us, it's metal, paper, glass, plastic, all clearly described by a firm that picks it all up once a week. We don't have to sort it, and we don't have the recycling refunds you do. So, it's kind of easy except for hazardous materials which we have to cart elsewhere but don't have to pay for the privilege of disposing safely.

    This is a great article, MsLizzy. It's an eye-opener not only about reducing landfills, but also about rethinking what community governing bodies are asking of residents and mandating what they do or don't do about "green".

    Shared on fb. :)

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, formosangirl--

    Thanks so much for your input. Yes, some things we throw away could be repaired and re-used by someone else instead of taking up space in a landfill. Stuff that can only be melted down into new raw materials, however does take up a lot of storage space, and extra time and trouble to sort. There must be a better way..

  • formosangirl profile image

    formosangirl 6 years ago from Los Angeles

    Hi DzyMsLizzy, I agree. It is a huge project to throw things away, not only because of the laws but other people could be using the stuff.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, nikashi_designs--

    Thanks very much for the compliment. All I'm trying to do here,is uncover all the B.S. the politicians want to sweep under the rug.

    You make some further excellent points about the environmental costs of trying to reclaim battery materials.

    Not only does it take up storage space to sort all this stuff, but (in our city, at least) they don't want "contaminants" on the food remnants. Excuse me? Now I have to WASH GARBAGE??!! I do give food containers a rinse to avoid ants..but clean it thoroughly? I don't think so! They still have the labels and glue to remove--and somewhere along the recycling line, there has to be a process to remove such foreign matter....

    Thanks much again, for stopping by and adding to the discussion.

  • profile image

    nikashi_designs 6 years ago

    Great article and one that hits close to home. I used to recycle but have gone in the complete other direction. Everything is garbage...simple and easy. Hazardous material I dispose of properly, batteries, paint, and that sort of thing. But sorting garbage is no longer an option. My apartment is to small to be hoarding garbage. One more point is, how friendly is recycling anyway? For example, batteries take six times more energy to recycle, sort by chemistry, heat to expose the cell, and once again into the furnace to make bars of metal or "pigs". Those metals are sold but what about all the pollutants that were released into the atmosphere. Sorry, went away from the hub, once again fantastic hub and one that I will spend sometime researching.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, tirelesstraveler--

    Thanks much for stopping by and adding your input. Comments such as yours serve to illustrate just how inconsistent these policies are!

    Right now, we live in a semi-rural/suburban area...undergoing transition from the former to the latter. It is rather hard to find places to recycle the haz-mat stuff. We used to have an electronics store that took TVs and computer stuff for free--but they went out of business--now it's only the disposal company, and they charge outrageous fees.

    However, we came here from San Francisco, and you can't get much more "metropolitan" than that--and their "recycle" for haz-mat was the biggest PITA I've ever encountered. There were fewer than 5 hours a week available for public disposal, and those were chopped up into 1 or 2 hour segments on weekdays only. Folks are supposed to take time off work???

    As far as "midnight dumping" unless someone is stupid enough to do so right in front of a surveillance camera, you can't prosecute until you catch them at it. You are also correct about the cost of said enforcement and all that follows. But then, no one ever accused a politician of being overly intelligent....

    And yes, flourescent bulbs ARE now classified as hazardous, and it is equally illegal to put those in your trash can.

    I appreciate your added really helped underscore this point.

  • tirelesstraveler profile image

    Judy Specht 6 years ago from California

    Just down the road in Livermore, we have places that take TVs and electronics for free. I suspect local governments think if they make laws that most people break they will get more revenue. They don't figure the cost of enforcement and putting people into jail. The curly light blubs that are hazardous materials, supposedly longer lasting, no one says anything about them and they are a real danger. The more metropolitan the easier to recycle.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, kittythedreamer--

    Seriously??? "Too much" stuff. Wow! Unbelievable. Danged bureaucrats!

    Thanks much for your input and the votes!

  • kittythedreamer profile image

    Nicole Canfield 6 years ago from the Ether

    Very has definitely become a pain in the ars. LOL. We try to recycle as much as we possibly can in my household, just to have one of the recycle management folks lecture me for throwing "too much" stuff in the bin...seriously? Can I really recycle "too much"? Voted up and useful!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, homesteadbound --

    Thanks so much for stopping by and the compliments. I'm glad you liked the article.

    (I sure don't want to be the battery police, either.)

  • homesteadbound profile image

    Cindy Murdoch 6 years ago from Texas

    there is alot in the article to think about. You have brought us some very good points.

    I certainly don't want the job of battery police.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

    @ Cobra -- Hello, and thanks very much for your support.

    @ Minnetonka Twin -- Ridiculous is right--maybe even a gross understatement. It is getting far too complicated... apparently none of these rule-makers have ever heard of the K.I.S.S. principle... Thanks much for stopping by and adding your insight.

  • Minnetonka Twin profile image

    Linda Rogers 6 years ago from Minnesota

    Thanks for a great article. I think it's getting ridiculous and let's get real-Most people can't afford this and aren't complying to the rules. I will admit, I am one of them. Too much hassle and too expensive. When did garbage become so complex?

  • profile image

    Cobra 6 years ago

    way to go, a story long over due. And one that needs to be told over and over again, until government listens....