Most people are pretty good about not making a mess. They take care of their property, throw out useless items in the various trash cans we all have, and take reasonable steps to keep their community attractive. There are a few who are inconsiderate pigs (is that porcine abuse?). We all recognize their trail of discards and filth. Mostly we are forced to clean up after them. I can only assume they are confident we will do it, so they don’t care.
One of the most disconcerting evidences of this problem is the amount of large items one sees wherever they can be left quietly and secretly. Couches in alleys, broken washing machines in vacant lots and mattresses left along the roadsides in rural areas are frequent reminders that not everyone cares for how our community appears.
I have always felt that both good and bad come from people being a bit lazy. If you think about it, most every invention in the patent office comes from somebody being lazy. Inventors are trying to find a faster, cheaper or easier way to do something. In the recent movie “Hidden Figures,” the women were referred to as “computers.” Because that’s what they did — they did computations. Millions of them. That’s where the name came from. But the computer was invented to eliminate just that kind of tedious work. By the end of the movie, the recently invented computer machines did the work.
But bad things come from laziness as well. Simply depositing discarded items in an alley or in the nearby vacant lot rather than taking it to the dump is the lazy response to a problem. I recently saw a possible way to reduce the mess.
While visiting my brother in another city, I observed a practice that we should adopt. That city scheduled large item curbside pick-up in alternate weeks between emptying the blue recycling can. City dump trucks with a claw on the end of a small crane picked up any large item at the curb and took it away. This had almost totally eliminated the presence of discarded mattresses, washing machines, sofas, dressers and other debris in unwanted areas and greatly improved the cleanliness of the city. At the beginning of the program the volume was pretty high as it caught up with the backlog of stored items, but after a little while it settled down to a manageable amount.
Interestingly, it also created a citywide scavenger hunt every morning in any neighborhood on the pick-up schedule. Anything out at the curb was fair game and free for all takers. Enterprising people helped themselves to anything they could use, recycle or repair. Starving college students could furnish an apartment with an old sofa, a table and a dresser with one broken drawer. Kids who wanted a bicycle could assemble one from parts of several discards. Lots of stuff disappeared before the city truck ever got there. People can be ingenious.
Reportedly, there were even missing spouses who were simply outside waiting for their carpool to work.
Presently we have a less successful system. Periodically the city schedules a large item drop-off at a few sites like the Kern County Fairgrounds parking lot. But those events are irregularly scheduled and they still require people to load them into a vehicle and bring the items to those places. It works for the community minded, but the laziness factor still comes into play for all the others. Perhaps if all one had to do was drag the stuff out to the curb every other week it would work for all but the most incorrigible.
Here’s my modest proposal — the city of Bakersfield and urban Kern County areas should institute a large item curb-side pick-up in the alternate weeks between recycling to reduce the problem of community trash.