Our hot sultry days of summer are gone. But that doesn't mean our waste stops smelling after it has been sitting for a couple of days. Whew! What a stink that garbage can is at times. My recycling too.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to get up really early to meet some of our local drivers and haulers at The Dalles Disposal. What a funny, hard-working group of men! They have a TOUGH job -- hoisting containers of yard debris, garbage, and boxes into the back end of a truck for hours on end, in the heat and the rain and even the frigid snow of our Gorge winters. Thankyou, gents! I read a report recently that rated Waste Haulers as one of the most hazardous jobs. Imagine it -- you are out in the street, sometimes having to dodge cars, lifting heavy objects, working around compacting and moving machinery, dealing with sometimes hazardous materials that people put in their garbage (needles, chemicals, paint, glass, jagged metal objects). Yikes.
So, let's all focus on what we can do to make their jobs a little safer and a little less stinky.
1) Make sure you separate your recycling and garbage correctly. Keep glass in a separate bucket or box. Break down corrugated cardboard and put it next to or under your recycle bins. If recyclable items go in with your trash, the haulers are not going to separate them out. Its not safe for them.
2) Don't put soiled cardboard or paper in your recycling, for example a greasy, cheese stained pizza box. They should go in the trash. Soiled cardboard and paper are the worst offenders. They will have to be pulled out at the sorting facility to avoid contaminating a load of recycled paper. The recycling process for pulping paper cannot remove the contamination of whatever food has saturated the paper goods.
3) Sharps (needles) ONLY go in a specific sharps container. They cost less than $10 usually, and are available at most pharmacies, or The Dalles Disposal or Hood River Garbage. Filled sharps containers can be taken to the office at The Dalles Disposal or Hood River Garbage between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday. Don't cause your hauler the panic of being stuck by a needle in your trash or recycling, and the medical hassle they have to go if this occurs.
4) Get rid of as much stink as possible. In order to make life easier on us, the consumer, we have been told as of late that you don't have to rinse your recyclables. Just put them in your recycling bin. But, think about the odor that builds after several days in your recycling bin. Now multiply that times the hundreds of homes and businesses that your haulers service every week. That's a lot of stink to put up with! Want to make your recycling hauler happier? Go ahead and rinse all of your containers. Imagine the smell from recycling from hundreds and thousands of households, sitting for days, attracting flies and vermin. Yuck. So, give some love to your hard-working hauler, and go ahead and rinse, even though you don’t have to.
5) No hazardous materials in your garbage. I've heard horrid stories over the past couple of years about the dangers haulers face -- shotgun shells exploding in the truck as it is compacting a load, paint cans exploding and leaving paint all over the truck, the hauler, and the street; mini-propane tanks exploding; haulers inhaling fertilizer as they dump a garbage can that has a bag of fertilizer in the bottom. Risky business. Keep them safe. Take all of your hazardous materials to a hazardous waste collection event, held once a quarter in Hood River and The Dalles (November, February, May, and August), or once a year in outerlying communities.
6) Keep it light. Don't overload your can with heavy, soggy materials. Don't leave your can open to collect rain or water from your sprinklers. Your haulers are still lifting the cans into the backs of the garbage trucks, and usually on their own. We do not yet have automated trucks in the Gorge. So, be mindful of their backs and yours. Don't overload your can.
Next time you see your hauler, you might consider telling them, "Thank you!" Theirs is a dangerous, dirty, and often thankless job. So, let's show them a little love.