To Live with Respect in Creation – It’s Just Garbage…

It’s Just Garbage…

Garbage and recycling have changed at my house lately.  I live in an old neighborhood in Saskatoon, and until recently, I shared a massive (300 gallon) garbage bin with a few neighbors. The City took away the large bins, and gave us each smaller (but still huge) bins that we keep in our own yards.  My two little grocery bags of garbage per week look pretty lonely in my new bin.

At about the same time, our recycling provider changed.  We used to have two small bins and a bag in a cupboard in our kitchen.  Now we have a huge roll-out bin that we keep in our yard.

As a result, I have noticed several interesting changes in my attitude to recycling and garbage.

The first is: I have these two huge bins, and I feel a responsibility to fill them!  So much for promoting waste reduction.  While the weather was still warm (i.e. smelly garbage), and while we were doing renovations on our house (yes, construction/demolition waste in my residential bin), we were putting the garbage bin out nearly every week.  I have noticed that this tendency to want to fill the bin has slowed down as renovations finish and winter comes. My goal is to not put our garbage bin out for pickup for the rest of the winter.

The second is:  It is so easy to not sort recyclables.  Funny… I hadn’t previously found it hard to sort recyclables.  Our new recycling provider doesn’t require any sorting.  We have rearranged our kitchen so that we now have one bin in a small cupboard, instead of the recycling taking up a large cupboard.

I was talking to a friend about recycling the other day.  He was thinking that they might sign up for recycling now that each family has “only” 90 gallons of garbage capacity.  He says they already recycle newspaper and cardboard at the City drop-off locations.  I asked what else was in his bin, and he said “it’s just garbage”.  I asked what sort of garbage – paper, plastic, metal.  He said “no, just garbage”. As I throw my paper, plastic and metal together into one bin, will I start to see it all as “just garbage” instead of seeing the valuable resources that can be made into something new?  With these two huge bins sitting in my yard calling to be filled, will waste reduction fade from my priorities?

Another thing I’m noticing is that I do seem to need to put out my recycling bin often.  I think that a lot of us use recycling as a “get out of guilt free” card for generating waste.  The three Rs are Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  Reduce is first.  Recycle is the bottom of the list.  I obviously need to work more on the Reduce.  As well as a goal to not put out my garbage bin all winter, maybe I need to set a goal to put out my recycle bin less often.

So, with the changes in waste handling at my house will I use the “individual” bins as a reminder to limit my waste production – both garbage and recycling; or will I let the size of the bins “give me permission” to be more wasteful?  Will I accept single stream recycling as a simple way for me to handle valuable resources; or will I let it lull me into seeing it all as “just garbage”?

This article was originally printed as the editorial in the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council’s newsletter WasteWatch December 2011.

angie small

Angie manages energy conservation projects for the Saskatchewan Environmental Society, and is an active member of McClure United Church in Saskatoon. You can contact her at


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The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and all who live in it.  (Psalm 24:1)