A world without garbage collection

Garbage collection is something most of us take for granted and this can lead to us being a little too laid back about how much trash we produce.

Imagine a world without garbage collection.

Residents of Buenos Aires received a brief taste of it earlier this week. A strike by garbage workers that started on Sunday and ended on Tuesday affected 14 million residents. After just 3 days, 20,000 tonnes of uncollected waste had built up.

Built up trash isn’t just an eyesore, but also a health hazard. 

Back in 2008, I wrote about a trash crisis in Naples, Italy. Naples generates an estimated 8,000 metric tons of trash daily and during the period I was writing about, over 100,000 tons of rubbish had already piled up. Residents were burning some of the trash, unleashing clouds of toxic smoke.

Waste generation increases have really crept up on us and we’ve been encouraged, or at least supported, in some ways by not only business, but local government to produce more waste.

I’ve mentioned previously that back in the 70’s, each home in my street was allowed 1 trash can a week. There was no recycling then, so everything went in – non-recyclables, recyclables and green waste.

Nowadays, we have a huge wheelie bin for non-recyclables equal to the size of the two trash cans, an even bigger wheelie bin for recyclables, which is collected fortnightly; and another for green waste, also collected every two weeks. It’s great we can separate waste and recycle some; but we’re producing more.

I guess the two lessons from Buenos Aires and Naples are:

a) Treat garbage workers well 
b) Live like there may be no trash collection next week

It’s amazing how much we can reduce waste with just a little forethought towards not only the products we buy (need vs. want), but what they are packaged in. This is where the new wave of concentrated products can make a serious dent in the amount of packaging we throw away.Reducing food waste is also an important goal.