Taking Out The Trash (Less Often)

Back in the ” old days” (really not so long ago), garbage bins weren’t plastic, but steel and the garbage truck had a couple of guys hanging off the back who would empty the bins.

Today, garbage collection is a much more sterile affair in many parts of Australia. There are no “garbos”; just the driver. Various sensors and hydraulic equipment on the trucks pick up the bin, dump the contents into the truck’s garbage bay and places it back down. It’s every efficient – in some respects.

One of the benefits I’ve experienced in my green journey is I’m generating less waste and it takes weeks to fill a bin. But being a creature of habit, I was still dragging my bin to the kerb each week even though it wasn’t full.

On a recent bin day, I was watching as the truck approached and marvelling at how big these things are with all their whizz-bang gadgetry. Then it dawned on me that making this metallic monster stop for what is often a small bag of garbage was pretty dumb and not at all green.

The modern garbage truck weighs anything between 13 and 25 tonnes, without trash. Each time it stops, picks up a bin and moves away again, a lot of energy is required to do so. That energy is supplied by fossil fuels.

Nowadays, I wait until my bin is full before putting it out for collection. This means instead of 50 stops a year, the truck will only have to stop at my place 8 to 10 times a year. Families may not be able to reduce pickups to this level, but even if they can shave off a few stops a year; it all helps.

I was talking to someone about this action recently and they expressed concern about the smell of garbage piling up over weeks. As part of living a greener life that includes actions such reducing food waste, composting veggie scraps or using them in a worm farm, it means garbage becomes “cleaner”, so smell isn’t a problem.

How much fuel, emissions and wear and tear this saves I have no idea and while this is certainly not going to save the world, it’s just another example of simple green actions that collectively can help significantly reduce our personal environmental impact.