In the Dumps

We are blessed to be able to pretty much take for granted the fact that each week we can roll our accumulated garbage and recycling to the curb and leave it there to be taken away the following morning.  It’s a simple arrangement which we pay for each month.  Whatever I have thrown into the garbage or the recycling bin is pretty much no longer of use or interest to me.  I’m happy the city takes it, but I don’t really care *who* takes it.  

Not everyone feels this way. (http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-outthere16-2009jun16,0,2611118.story)
It was fascinating to read how adamant some people are about the ownership issue of their trash and recyclables.  I particularly found the last quote to be rather telling – “No matter what anybody says it’s not trash.  It has value.”  Apparently, this translates to roughly the idea that anyone is going to take the materials in trash or recycle bins other than the designated city authority is guilty of theft.  I’m pretty positive that once the owner throws something into the trash can or recycling bin, they don’t remember and value what they put there.  
Where does value come from?  Economically speaking, it makes sense that value is something that exists in the act of someone wanting something.  Interestingly enough, this is the case theologically as well.  I tend to think that the latter fact ought to inform the former behavior – but I’m often disappointed in that assumption.
Convenience vs. a very modest income opportunity for some people.  Once a week dog barking vs. the ability to eat or not.  It seems like a no brainer.  And yet it strikes at the heart of our assumptions about ownership, private property, the nature of community.  It derives from peace of mind that drives how people decide where they are going to live.  Several of the residents interviewed are older, a demographic particularly vulnerable to abuse, intimidation, and other violations that younger people don’t perceive as a real risk.  Unfortunately, the article doesn’t bother to indicate if there have been any incidents of theft, or violence, or intimidation directly linked to foragers.  It would seem unlikely though, if they’re coming through late at night to avoid encounters with the residents.  Nor does the reporter bother to indicate whether or not there are other incidental annoyances due to the foragers, such as litter and spilled garbage or recyclables.  
So who’s trash is it, anyway?  Thoughts?
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3 Responses to “In the Dumps”

  1. Melani Says:

    I have read what you wrote several times. Guess I am not fully awake, even after my coffee! LOL Anyways, I think that someone’s trash, for lack of better word, is someone else’s treasure. I know when I throw something away, say a dirty diaper, it is in the trash and gone, and really I don’t think of it again, until Monday morning, when the cans need to be put out. And I don’t think of the dirty diaper, just the garbage in general. Does this make sense??? hahah

  2. Paul Nelson Says:

    I think that your perspective is pretty typical.  Trash doesn’t become an issue – let alone an asset to be controlled – until somebody else wants it and we aren’t sure that we like that.  Frankly, I’d love to know that my recycling was going to directly benefit someone.  I could foresee organizing entire blocks to get together and ‘adopt’ a forager by providing them with their recyclables.  I might feel differently if I knew the specific arrangement that my city had made with the collectors, so that I could follow the financial trail better.  I’m paying to have my stuff towed away, but somebody somewhere is attempting to make money off of ‘my’ stuff.  I’m sure that fact helps lower my city fees each month – or does it?  Lots of questions that most of us don’t care anything about – until somebody else proposes an alternative solution that makes us uneasy.I’m just not sure we ought to be uneasy!

  3. hydroac Says:

    I heard somebody here?

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