As frequent readers of this column know (Hi, Mom!) I have a healthy fear of change. Whether it’s the untimely closing of a beloved restaurant, or a new name for this very paper, I tend to long for the way things were.
So when I heard Shelton was making radical changes to its curbside trash pickup, I was instantly apprehensive.
Why fix what wasn’t broken, I wondered. Why throw out years of tradition and force us to learn new habits? And what about the garbage men? Would they lose their jobs? And perhaps most importantly, what was I supposed to do with all my old trashcans?
But as the days passed, something strange happened. I began to look forward to the arrival of my blue bin. And apparently so was everyone else. People were posting pictures of their new bins on Facebook. Neighbors gathered in the street to watch the 45-foot trailer rattle by as their bins were delivered. Coffee shops were abuzz with talk of trash. It was the most exciting thing to happen to Shelton since the arrival of Super Stop and Shop.
When mine finally arrived, I raced out to retrieve it and was shocked at the size of it. My wife had earlier expressed concern that the new bins might not be large enough to hold all of “our” empty wine bottles — but as I dragged it in from the curb, it was clear that if we ever managed to fill this thing, it would be time for a 12-step program.
Speaking of anonymous, it was a little disconcerting to see that the bin had a serial number that assigned to it my house. Not that I would ever intentionally throw away any illicit bags of grass clippings or coffee cans filled with used motor oil, but things happen.
You never know what could accidentally end up in the trash. Only now somebody would know. I envisioned an Arlo Guthrie moment where I’d get a phone call from the cops claiming that an envelope with my name on it was found under a pile of illegally discarded Styrofoam.
Luckily the bin came with a list of acceptable items printed right on it, along with a handy sheet that we taped above our kitchen recycling can, so I felt confident such “accidents” could be avoided. What couldn’t be avoided though, were the now thrice-daily trips to empty what was now our much too small kitchen recycling bin into the blue mothership.
And each time I lifted the big blue lid, I couldn’t help but think about what our elderly and infirmed citizens must be experiencing. It was one thing for me, a relatively fit 41- year- old, to lift the lid with one hand and dump the stuff in with the other. But for someone of lesser means, it would really be a struggle.
The lid alone is the size (and weight) of a 36-inch flat screen T.V., and sits atop a four-foot tall bin, meaning you must have a reach of at least 6 and 1⁄2 feet in order to fully lift the lid. I’d walk away each time with the disturbing — and disturbingly funny — image of an old lady’s legs kicking and dangling in the air after the lid came crashing down on her, her calls for help echoing through the cavernous confines of the bin.
Hopefully Grandma can extricate herself from the bin before the garbage truck arrives, for as we all should know, it’s automated. And last I checked, senior citizens were not on the recycling list. But back to that truck.
It’s automated, people! That means one driver and some sort of robotic arm that will lift and dump the contents of the can into the truck. But from what I observed during the first week of the new program, many of us do not get this. The bin clearly states which side should face the street (hint, it’s the side with the arrows that says “street side” and has a metal grab bar for automated lifting) Yet I saw bins facing every direction. Some were behind the regular garbage cans. Others were still in the driveway. I even saw one underneath a tree. How do these people expect a truck’s robot arm to get at their cans?
Not that I have sympathy for the truck. I’m going to miss my real garbage men. They busted their butts doing a dirty job for what I’m guessing was little pay. And while it was a thankless job, every Christmas, and sometimes during the year if my trash was especially heavy or bulky, I’d show my appreciation by leaving them cases of beer.
It’s funny, my mailman always gets candy and coffee, but for the garbage guys, it was always beer.
And while we’re on the subject of beer, someone else who will be negatively affected by all of this is the guy in the pickup truck — I call him Ray Cycle — who comes by to gather up my empty cans and bottles the night before trash pickup. I would actually separate the empty cans of corn and olive oil bottles from the beer and soda so that he wouldn’t have to sort through them. But now with everything going into the blue bin, he’s going to be missing out on quite a bit of money.
But supposedly this is saving us all money. Between the extra revenue brought in from single-stream recycling and only having to pay one guy per truck instead of three, the city should be seeing some extra green as we “Go Green” so I suppose that’s a good thing.
Just don’t try telling that to the laid off garbage men. Or Ray Cycle. Or the idiots who can’t figure out which side is the street side. Or the old lady trapped in the bin.
P.S. I’m not a rabble rouser, but, if the size of your bin truly is a problem, I’ve noticed several homes in Trumbull that have much smaller versions, so contact the powers that be to see if you can get one too.
Mike Wood is a life-long Shelton resident and author of the coming-of-age novel, Alchemy, available locally at Written Words and nationally at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.