Thursday. Rubbish day. What a fine opportunity to observe the human obsession with maintaining image.
In my district we have three bins. One is for organics, one is for rubbish; one is for recycling. The organics bin has a light green top, the rubbish bin has a red or, if it’s an older uniform colour model, a dark green top; the recycling bin has a yellow top. Organic waste is picked up weekly, rubbish is picked up weekly; recycling is picked up fortnightly.
Living alone and leading a reasonably conservative lifestyle the amount of weekly refuse that I generate, is minimal. On account of this my miniature rubbish bin is seldom full by Thursday, but given that I magnanimously share my miniature recycling bin with two parents and one kitten who live off the refuse collection run, this bin is usually ready to go by the designated fortnight. Also being a compulsive mulcher, I have no need for an organics bin.
It was this dearth of regular waste that, however unwittingly, caused me to fall into my ‘every other week’ rotation.
Each Thursday now I have a bin out, but never the bin that I had out the week before. This makes remembering which week it is relatively straightforward. Therefore, every second Wednesday night I pull out my recycling bin, glance down the street, see that once again I’m the first to do so; glance the other way, see that the primary school already has their yellow-top bins out, smile to myself, oddly relieved that I haven’t mistaken the weeks, aware that the school office girl rarely gets it wrong, then walk back up my driveway.
That’s Wednesday night, recycling week. Thursday comes and ordinarily, through some point in the day, I will venture out for an invigorating stroll around the block. It truly is a majestic sight to step out onto the main road and see the wash of red, green, and yellow tops lined up along the roadside.
The following week, Wednesday night I drag out my rubbish bin, perform the usual glances, first down the street to see once again, I am the first; then up the street, to see the school’s multitude of red-top and uniform coloured bins awaiting collection, smile to myself, and head back inside.
Thursday comes and expectedly, during some point of that day I find myself striding down my street through and around the line of green, dark green, and red-top bins. I emerge onto the main road and the sight is quite spectacular.
The houses in direct view of the end of my little street with the school at the top, are conforming with just red or green-top bins. A little way along the main road from the end of my street is evidence of the first uncertain refuse provider – a yellow-top bin can be seen. Drawn into this sense of uncertainty with all the independent thought process of a good little sock-puppet, the next house has also pulled out their yellow-top bin. Over the road, seemingly the neighbour is unsure about following the lead of the house across the road, lest they be seen as foolish by the neighbours on their own side of the road if it turns out to be not recycling week; although the one just down from them is going all in just in case.
Beginning sporadically, this frequency of yellow-top bins increases until practically every house is participating, where it then starts to thin out again as if somebody has decided they know better than these hit-and-miss recyclers, because they could have sworn they put out the recycling last week so heaven forbid they put it out again thereby running the risk of people judging them as recklessly irresponsible home owners with sieve-like memories who by implication aren’t good enough to uphold the strong history of refuse etiquette in the area or worse still, inspiring rumours of poor property and house upkeep along with generally slovenly behaviour with their shambolic recycling schedule clearly marking them as slothful hence unfit parents…
It’s all rubbish.
Article by Tim Walker
Edited by Oscar T Grouch
Photography by Yela Tubbin