Last week, I half-jokingly suggested that an appropriate icon for our fair foothills would be a trash bin in honor of those blue, brown and black plastic demi- dumpsters littering the streets, driveways and front yards of our neighborhoods.
A recent email from a frustrated reader got me thinking about these waste wielding whales on wheels and what they’ve done to our community’s aesthetics. The e mail’s author has lived in the Crescenta Valley for 35 years and proudly raised a family here. And yet, the problem of huge bins littering the neighborhood day in and day out is serious enough that she’s considering moving elsewhere.
“It may sound strange that we are considering moving over a trash bin problem,” she writes, “but it is so annoying and makes our community look so dumpy…I don’t want to stay in an area where people don’t take pride in their neighborhood!” She recounts how out-of-town guests recently arrived on a Friday evening and, during conversation, commented that Saturday must be trash day in the neighborhood. My correspondent was initially confused because her trash day is Monday. She quickly realized her guests were talking about the multitudes of ever-present trash bins on her street. “I’m embarrassed to have guests again,” she writes. “How can I make (my neighbors) care?”
How indeed. Since last week’s column, I’ve received many more e-mails from equally frustrated (and a few quite angry) readers whose neighborhoods are suffering from a blight of big ubiquitous bins.
Although most trash bins are off my street within a day or so of being emptied, our block has its own problems with the corpulent cans. First, my home is one of several that share one long driveway. With even more residences located near our single driveway, and with each home using three or more of the XXXL bins – getting out of the driveway on trash day mornings often resembles an adventure show on the Discovery Channel.
Another problem is the ridiculous expanse of space taken up by the bins which, according to trash officials, are supposed to be placed no closer than two feet apart. Sure they are. Doing some quick math, I figure the cans from our immediate neighborhood alone should extend from here to somewhere just this side of Azusa. (Obviously, math was my worst subject.) Somehow, my neighbors and I are able to fit them all entirely on our block. Granted, on trash day you can’t park on our street or see any front yards, and the postal carrier needs the agility of a Cirque du Soleil acrobat to get the mail delivered – but our cans fit on the street.
I also wonder about the effect of having three trucks instead of one rumble down every street belching clouds of diesel smoke. Of course I understand that they each
pick up the contents a different colored bin. But in what parallel universe is this tripling of pollution and fuel consumption environmentally friendly? Speaking of pollution, the convoy of trash trucks that rumbles past our home every week also leaks a thick, goopy trail of oil and hydraulic fluid along the way – thank you very much. Before I put a lid on this topic, I must mention a related news story I read recently (L.A. Times, 10/7/09) about Pasadena’s plans to install 40 high tech, super duper, solar-powered trash bins at strategic locations around town. Seriously – solar powered? What, it’s too hard to lift the lid by yourself? The cost of this effort is was reported to be $146,500. That seems like an awful lot of taxpayer money thrown away on trash cans. But never fear; according to the article, Pasadena’s environmental programs manager with the Department of Public Works expects the sunloving cans to save $61,400 annually in reduced labor and fuel costs.
To which I can only say – what a load of garbage.
I’ll see you ’round town.
Jim Chase is a longtime resident and freelance writer.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.