I was standing in the middle of the street, out in front of what was then my new house, using my powers of deduction to note that I had a problem. The night before, I had moved two bins – trash and recycling – out from alongside my carport to the street. Now as I stood there, I could see my recycling bin. The trash bin? Gone.
I’d just moved into the house weeks earlier and immediately, suspicion fell on my new neighbors. I started creeping around to other side yards and carports, looking for my can’s familiar paint stain, wondering who the heck steals a garbage bin. I thought maybe someone just took mine by accident. But the paint stain was pretty obvious and anyway, then there’d just be another one somewhere in the street.
My trash detective work proved fruitless, so eventually I admitted defeat and called the city. The helpful guy on the other end of the line had one question: Did the bin go missing on trash pick-up day?
Yes, yes it did.
Apparently the city gets this all the time. The garbage truck’s claw scooper thingy sometimes picks up a bin, turns it upside down over the truck to let the trash out … and the entire bin falls into the back without anybody noticing. They sent me a brand new bin a couple days later, and I no longer have to wonder which of my neighbors might be an extremely unambitious thief.
At the end of the day, my trash mystery was a fairly low-level and easily solved one. In this month’s issue, we’ve got a bigger trash mystery – namely, why is Broward so bad at recycling, and what are we doing to get better at it? Jess Swanson’s story is fascinating, frustrating, complicated and worth the time for all of us who ever stand over a bag full of random plastic trash wondering if it’s recyclable or not. It’s impossible to break down this story’s many moving parts in a few lines, but in short: We’re not great at putting trash in the correct bins; the county’s not great at having a coherent, organized recycling plan; and the world in general hasn’t always been great at coming up with recycling strategies that don’t rely on shipping our trash to countries such as China, which no longer want it like they used to. Trash is tricky.
There’s some hopeful news too, in the form of new plans being put in motion now to improve Broward’s frankly embarrassing recycling stats. That’s imperative, because the time for stuffing trash in places like the county’s infamous Mount Trashmore is almost up.
It’s an important story, and one I hope you’ll spend some time with. My advice is: As concerned, active citizens, we need to know more than which bin to put our trash and recycling in; we need to know where it goes when it leaves our driveway.
My other advice is: If one of your bins goes missing next trash day, call the city before angrily knocking on your neighbor’s door.