The laughable amount of thought that goes into our garbage
Earlier this week, in the course of binning for returnable beverage containers in the Fairview neighbourhood, I stopped to check a particular condo’s recycling blue bin set. The bins—for containers, glass and paper—were nestled together with the building’s dumpster, inside the enclosure of a cedar garbage gazebo.
A thoughtful little sign was posted in the gazebo over the dumpster, thanking people in advance “for not dropping the lid/bar”.
I laughed out loud at the sign as I imagined the chain of action and reaction behind its polite caution. It reminded me of the ridiculous amount of thought that goes into even the most mundane aspects of our urban garbage system.
Not to trash the efforts of experts and building managers
Consider the simple dumpster underneath the sign. This is just a big boxy steel garbage can with a hinged lid; set on four little wheel trucks and with about a 4-cubic-yard capacity. It was very likely manufactured in beautiful Red Deer, Alberta, where a majority of the dumpsters I see in Vancouver were made.
Steel dumpsters like this one have a tremendous noise-making potential; almost every move they make is accompanied by the clanging and screeching of metal-on-metal. And the dumpsters with steel lids are the absolute worst.
Steel lids can crash like thunder claps, especially when they’re dropped shut at 2 a.m. by inconsiderate people.
This steel dumpster was at least fitted with a plastic lid, which was designed specifically to mitigate the problem of noisy steel slamming on steel.
And in order to solve the additional problems caused particularly by illegal dumpers but also incidentally by overnight dumpster divers, the condo was keeping the lid padlocked.
Dumpster lids, however, can only be designed, it seems, to do one thing or another—keep people out or keep the noise down. The same plastic lid that is so quiet is also so flexible that when locked shut at one point the rest of it can easily be bent up enough to allow free access to the dumpster.
Solutions for every problem and Problems for every solution
The problem of slamming steel lids led to the substitution of plastic lids. The problem of illegal dumping led to padlocking the lids and the problem of securely locking the flexible plastic lids led to the addition of a rigid steel drop bar that locks across the entire length of the plastic lid.
Unfortunately…these steel bars can crash down on plastic lids like they’re hitting a bass drum, especially when they’re dropped on the lids at 2 a.m. by inconsiderate people.
The problem (ha ha) of the noisy falling steel bar led the management of this dumpster’s building to add two improvised, shock-absorbing duct-tape-and-foam-rubber collars around the bar and later, to put up the sign asking building residents to please not drop the lid or the locking bar.
You can see why I laugh?
As yet there is no sign from the management cautioning these same residents for the fact that, from time to time, they also forget to lock the lid of their dumpster. Click the image to enlarge it.