Thursday, October 16, 2008


Okay. Here’s the deal. I live in a community known for its proximity to the landfill site used throughout the Ottawa region. It’s a huge eyesore, and some folks claim it stinks up the place. I have never smelled it from my house, but driving by the dump on hot, muggy days of Summer does result in car windows being put up in a hurry.

Everybody complains about the dump. And it’s only getting bigger. Sure, the folks who manage it are making efforts to pretty up the place—well thought out landscaping disguises it from the road and adjacent highway, and grass has been encouraged to grow on what is affectionately referred to as “Gull Mountain”, among other not-so-niceties. The management company is also known and recognized for supporting local events and fundraising efforts throughout the region. I think they’re doing an okay job NOT being the junk yard dog.

Nonetheless, as local residents, we don’t want the dump to grow, or to be stinky and full of unnecessary garbage.

So why… WHY do people insist on throwing perfectly good, usable, sell- or donate-able items to the curb on garbage day? Yes, early birds do drive through the neighbourhood looking for loot to throw in the back of their truck and sell at the flea market on Sunday. But for the most part, this stuff ends up on the top of Gull Mountain for all the world to see—and smell.

Today, in my very own respectable, intelligent neighbourhood, I drove by garbage piles containing a TV table, a dining room light fixture, computers, chairs, and landscaping bricks. Geez.

What about donating these items to Good Will? Neighbourhood Services? The Salvation Army? Or make a few bucks by selling it all on Ebay? Craig’s List? Kijiji?

On average, we—a family of four, with Jake still pissing through 4-5 disposable diapers a day—put out maybe HALF a garbage can of waste each week. It would be significantly less if we had a compost bin, or if our municipality participated in the Green Box program, which takes compostable items away, including disposable diapers. Our recycling amounts to much more—typically two large, overflowing boxes every week. Neighbours have commented on how little we have on our curb each week.

How do we do it? We try not to eat over-processed, over-packaged foods, or buy over-packaged merchandise. And we recycle every single crumb of accepted plastic, metal, paper and glass that we possibly can. Every. Single. Crumb.

Pretty simple.

What do you do to keep your household waste to a minimum?


  1. Funny -- if you leave "good stuff" on the curb, in our hood people will take it. Furniture and chairs are the first to go. (You put it out with a sign that says "Take me" -- and usually someone will. Including things we didn't thing were salvagable.) But we live in an older formerly working class neighbourhood -- I think it may be cultural.

    We compost. I love it, we do recycle an insane amount too. We've had more garbage of late with the renos. But usually, we get by with about three or four Loeb bags worth of garbage. Amazing how little we have.

  2. I'm terrible when it comes to waste, since we live in an apartment building. Everything that I can fit down the chute...goes straight down the chute.


  3. It is true we live in a throw away society. We all need to learn a better way to reduce waste.

    Even small appliances are rivited together so you can't fix them.

    The sad thing about Good Will is the majority ends up in the land fill site anyway.

    In the Spring, I dropped off several furniture items from my father's estate at the Good Will tractor trailer in the parking lot of Home Depot. I learned from the volunteer helping me that the majority of the items in the truck would eventually be sent to the dump. People who can't afford stuff still don't want old or tired looking stuff. Those who can afford to buy the stuff want more recent stuff.

    An alternative is to drop items off for the Women's Shelter. If you call them, they will give you a location to drop items off. The items are used to get women back on their feet and they are given away not sold.

  4. I'm always stunned when I see useable articles out with people's trash - there are so many options out there today to reduce, reuse and recycle. I suppose a lot of people don't know what all their choices are.

    We are environmental nuts. We compost and recycle everything, and I have a 1/2 bag of garbage a week rule - we usually manage to stick to it. I have used cloth diapers and cloth wipes for all three kids, we lend/sell/reuse all their toys and clothes and use all natural and non-toxic products, in recyclable packaging. I still wish there was more I could do, I'm always on the look out for new ideas.

    I second what the person above said about taking stuff to a women's shelter - I do that too and if you call them they can arrange a drop-off time (often their locations are secret).

  5. I am a garbage collector and must confess I am always amazed at a lot of the useable furniture and other things we find out on the route. Unfortunately, once we show up, we've got to throw it into the back of the truck with the rest of the garbage because of city rules (and that people will complain).

    Have had quite a few women on my route ask why something they put out couldn't be donated, but that's a question they shoudl really be asknig before they put it out with the garbage. Even though, they often stand there watching as we press the levers on the truck -- assume you've watched before too -- or ask us to pack it if we're not going to during the pick up.

    It's funny how many like to watch that, but won't admit it.