, Gloucester, MA


February 22, 2013

Journal Pages: Simplicity of trash disposal returns

When I was a child, every household had in its backyard either a hole dug in the ground or a rusted oil drum with the top knocked off, in which to burn the family’s trash.

If someone’s older sibling got the OK to toss in a lighted match, the neighborhood kids gathered to cheer the wild conflagration as the reconfigured refuse danced into the air.

The grass around the site was always burned away, replaced by a skirt of ashes where any fallen hot curls were excitedly stamped into the ground during the elimination of most everything a household needed to get rid of, which wasn’t that much then, because we didn’t have the obscene volume of packaging that we do today.

The occasional larger item went to the dump in the trunk of your dad’s car, where eventually, a bulldozer would plow it under. That process didn’t have a name yet, since there was a lot of land and not so much “fill.” Nobody fretted about its future.

In the years that followed, though, the land began to complain of a great bellyache, resulting from the incessant dumping to ever-greater capacities; it begged a new awareness. The serious responsibility of waste management has become a major issue of our time.

I glanced around our house, chagrined at the growing number of things we needed to get rid of, items that no longer qualified for stuffing into those big purple bags for curbside pick-up by the city.

I have a knack for making such things invisible, or at least more palatably integrated into the decor of our home. It’s often accomplished by tossing a colorful scarf over them — enter, the jerry-rigging effect.

But as things pile up, literally and figuratively, they do begin to crowd you (or at least, crowd your husband). You can’t just “throw them in the trash” anymore; you must dispose of them responsibly, often involving a process of dragging them outside, one item weekly, each requiring a specific sticker of varying costs.

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