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Trash Vigeland's Ride-Along

Tess' Trash Talk: Blog entry #5

Thursday's load to bear.

John Wilucz

My trash guy in Pasadena, John Wilucz.

John Wilucz

Wilucz estimated he picked up 700 to 1,000 trash bins during Thursday's ride-along.

John Wilucz

Scholl Canyon, my trash's destination. No Trash Challenge rubbish was harmed -- or tossed -- in the process... It was rubbish from before the Challenge started.

The name-calling continues unabated. First, Bag Lady. Now, in a play on the name my parents agonized over some 38 years ago:"Trash Vigeland"... courtesy of my Marketplace Money colleague Stephen Hoffman. He also thought "Mess Vigeland" was pretty funny. Ha, ha.

So one of the rules I set out for myself before the challenge started was that I didn't have to carry around our dog or cat poo. Health risk. But my friend Melissa Carter told me about something called a Doggie Dooley that could solve the pet waste problem. (It's not supposed to go in a regular composter, unless you have a massive pile that generates massive amounts of heat.)

Anybody ever used one of these? Would my roses like it? I'm also not sure, based on this Web site whether kitty litter can go in there. It would certainly solve the problem of putting animal waste in the landfill. Ewwwww.

Speaking of ewwwww... I followed my trash from curbside to landfill this morning. You'll hear more about this when our "Consumed" series airs in November. But I met up with the Pasadena Integrated Waste Management crew at their dispatch center early in the morning. Then hopped in the truck with "my" garbage guy, John Wilucz.

He estimated that during our 3-1/2 hour excursion, we picked up somewhere between 700 and 1,000 trash bins, including the one from my house. (It only had two days' worth of trash -- the two days between the last pickup and when I started the challenge.)

It's amazing how efficient the whole process is now. No more garbage guy (or gal) hopping out of the truck, lifting the can onto his shoulders and heaving it into the back of the truck. John hardly ever got out of the rig. There's just an arm that reaches out from the side of the truck, grabs the bin, and chucks it into the dumper.

And although it's not like we all stand at the curb and watch our trash go away, I do think it's symbolic of how we think -- or don't think -- about our garbage. It just goes away. It's a neat, mostly clean system. Takes five seconds for it to go bye-bye. And we never worry about it again.

Same with today's modern landfills. They're not eyesores anymore, so there's not much to complain about unless it's in your backyard. They've even found ways to manage the smell. In fact, the landfill I visited today -- Scholl Canyon, where my trash went -- frankly you'd never know it was there. It's waaay on top of a massive hill just off the freeway.

That kind of disappearing act has got to be factoring into why we all aren't talking more about our trash and where it goes... Why we don't all complain about the extra packaging that comes with our stuff... Why we don't think about the things we buy as the second-to-last stop in the consumption chain (the landfill being the last).

Who knew a ride-along in a garbage truck could be so enlightening?

About the author

Tess Vigeland is the host of Marketplace Money, where she takes a deep dive into why we do what we do with our money.

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