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Making Concessions to the Trash God

January 25, 1986

My first job at home was carrying out the trash. We had a small trash can in the kitchen that would be filled once a week, sometimes twice. I earned 25 cents a week. On Saturday, my father would burn the trash in the incinerator behind the garage. It was 1955. This practice was soon outlawed, as air pollution became a major problem.

As the years pased, I noticed with chagrin that the small trash can became full daily. Then it was replaced by a larger can. Small cans also appeared in the bathroom and garage.

Now my 6-year-old son, Cameron, has his first job. He takes out the kitchen-size, plastic garbage bag (with twist-tie). It's a daily job for which he earns $1 a week. We also have trash cans in the bedrooms, both bathrooms, garage and utility room.

Outside we have two large aluminum trash cans, modest for our neighborhood. To be honest, we need more but I'm holding out. The overflow goes in big, lawn-size Hefty bags. On trash day, all the yards look like disaster areas. After Christmas, our house was not visible from the street.

I heave a sigh of relief when I reach home the night after trash day. Once again the trash men have relieved me of this burden, and they do it for only $6.25 a month.

My wife hates it when I get in these moods, for it's a well known fact that for each item of trash that reaches a repository, 10 similar items are lurking about the house. I will always be reminded of the time I threw out her paycheck. Although she is the one who threw her car keys in the trash. (She claims to this day that the kids did it.)

Our neighbors swear by their trash compactors, but once again I am holding out. I refuse to make one more concession to the trash god.

What has changed since 1955?

1--Milk comes in disposable containers. We once reused glass containers that reappeared on our doorstep in the morning.

2--Vegetables come in cans and frozen cartons.

3--The mail comes in large handfuls, 50% of which goes directly into the trash; including the loan advertisements disguised as government checks or lottery prizes.

4--The Sunday Los Angeles Times outweighs Webster's Third New International Dictionary (Unabridged).

5--Paper towels and tissues have replaced their washable counterparts. The handkerchief has joined the dinosaurs and the dodo.

I became more aware of the trash phenomenon during our trip to Japan in April of last year. I saw no evidence of a regular trash collection in the country. I saw no trash in the streets, or anywhere., The trash receptacle in our hotel room would barely hold our nail clippings.

Japanese people live quite well in homes the size of one of our bedrooms. There are no lawns. All available yard space is planted with vegetables. Hillsides are terraced for planting. Their newspapers will slide under our front door. They eat raw fish.

My conclusion from all of this is that trash may be our solution to the balance-of-trade problem with Japan. They must have a use for it. It is up to us to convince the people of Japan that they need our trash. They will probably find a way to process our trash and sell it back to us. This cycle may not solve economical problems, but it will ensure that we have a constant supply of trash.



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