Friday, February 5, 2010

Talking Trash

It's trash day today, and I've been doing some major house cleaning lately, inspired by having too much time on my hands—and also the lurking fear that I may have to sell my house in order to survive the recession. But I've also recently started reading Garbage Land  by Elizabeth Royce (Back Bay Books, 2005), which chronicles the author's quest to follow her trash from her NYC porch to its final resting spots–dumps and landfills and incinerators around the country. According to Royce, Americans throw out per person 4.5 pounds of trash per day. Per person! Per day! Yikes!

So yesterday, as I prepared the trash for the san man, I examined my garbage pretty carefully. I did fill up the can, but most of it was light but bulky. I had thrown out the stuffing in Muzzy's old bed, which had gotten wadded down and was, quite frankly, pretty whiffy and unwashable. Otherwise, the trash content was normal, consisting of two empty soy milk containers, used tissues (cedar season is almost over!), and fines—a term that Royce and other sanitation students use to describe the wisps of hairs and lints and floss and other tiny items that settle on the bottom of the trash can. Oh, and dog poop. That's obviously not part of my fines. In fact, poop is how my weekly trash gets serious. Without having a scale to measure, I'd say that my household produces at least three pounds of poop a week—even with just one dog (Muzzy is a hearty producer). (Note: That poundage does not include the poop I scoop and throw away at city parks.) I seriously think if I did not have a dog, I would not even need weekly trash pick up—thanks to the City's recycling program and the compost pile in my backyard.

Dog waste is a topic that Royce does not cover in her book—because it's all about her, and she has a kid but no pets—but an online article I found this morning cites the U.S. Department of Agriculture statistic that "the average dog" in this country produces 274 pounds of waste per year. (That's three-quarters of a pound every day, or 5.4 pounds a week.) This number includes not only poop, as far as I could tell, but also the packaging for food, meds, and grooming products and toys. So I thought about that statistic. I rarely give my dogs baths, but both Roma and Muzzy needed a good bit of medicine this fall. Also, Muzzy does require balls and chew toys. She could easily go through two Nylabones a week, but since she may only chew the ends, the whole thing essentially ends up in the garbage can. I do my best to buy products that do not come excessively wrapped in plastic. And I make sure to recycle the cardboard, cellphane, and paper bits. Again, without having a scale, I'm assuming that I do better than the national average of waste, but that may be wishful thinking.

Still, what is a girl with a dog or two supposed to do? I can't tell the dogs not to poop. Another source I glanced at suggested that one way to keep dog poop out of the solid waste stream would be to flush it down the toilet. I am not even going to consider that option. Most sources suggested that really, the best thing for people, dogs, and the environment, is to bag and toss poop into proper trash receptacles. I do that; you do that; we all do that. So, I am not going to worry about this one any more today. Really, my dog's poop is much more easily disposed of than the old, sucky pressboard desk, a holdover from my post-grad school days, that shattered when I tried to move it yesterday. Now I have a ton of pressboard rubble, the pieces of which are too big for my trash can. I thought about dumping them in Dog Park dumpsters under cover of night, but that would be wrong, wrong, wrong. Wrong! Instead, Muzzy and I will wait patiently for Big Trash day. Then I'll put the junk on the curb, and all the neighborhood boy dogs can walk by and pee on it—which is another way to get dog waste to the dump.



  1. A girl can get a dog waste composter! You bury it in the back yard and let it work it's magic :)

  2. Check out the photo gallery at this page...can you imagine picking up THIS guy's poop?

  3. Are you kidding about your output? Many houses in my 'hood put out 2 of the largest-size tan garbage containers *every* week and they are overflowing.

    I've considered making poop composter too. There are some good DIY instructions that require nothing but an old trash can with a lid. But, most of my poo gets deposited/disposed of at the park.

    I loved that book so much. Really changed they way I think about many things. I always smile and wave at the san men now!


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