In Austin we have three types of trash: trash, recycling, and compost. And then if I’m honest there’s a fourth and fifth variety: e-waste and a bag of old clothes and toys to donate. The big three live outside in the side yard and those last two live in piles in my garage until I can’t handle looking at them anymore.
The side yard has three enormous trash bins. The compost is always empty. The trash fills up, but we can atomic elbow that last bag in there. No problem. Our recycling… well, our recycling is always full and overflowing. You see, we’re bottlenecked by the city’s two week pick up cycle. When the bin fills up we create staging areas with paper bags to triage the excess recycling. The minute the city hauls off the previous load, we’ve filled up half of our capacity on our next two week cycle.
There’s piles of recycling TODOs all over my house, not in a hoarder way, but in a shabby chic, mid-century modern meets the reality of a pandemic way. French country. Chip n’ Jo.
The big issue is our recycle bin is DDoS’d by cardboard from Amazon. All those great ideas that came with boxes inside boxes. The swells of orders at birthdays and holidays. Those gifts become a hazard. Boxes on top of boxes because if you prematurely optimize and flatten them they get more slippery and you fall on them. It creates pressure and stress on the in-home recycling operation. Time and mental energy spent on sorting, squashing, grouping, cutting, and planning what can go out in the next week’s load.
I hear I can add capacity by calling the city and requesting a second recycling bin. That seems like a lot to always have a fourth enormous trashcan sitting around. I don’t need that much capacity. Or do I?
The city allows me to bundle my boxes as a strategy. If I cut up all the boxes into 2ft×2ft flat pieces and tie that up, I can set that next to the recycling and the city will pick it up. It’s a lot of work to prepare that and any threat of rain will leave you with a soggy mess.
I can add temporary capacity from gracious neighbors. I’d use their garbage cans and pay them back with confections, hoping I don’t burn through the goodwill. This is probably the simplest solution, but also a lot of work for trash.
To top it all off, there’s a rumor going around that none of the recycling ever gets recycled. They say it goes to the landfill because China quit buying our trash. I hate it, but kind of believe it.