Americans are known for their management skills: we manage companies, hospitals, schools and finances. But managing waste? That seems a bit too much, even for Americans. Nevertheless, I have learned that we are into managing waste and rubbish as well. For non-Americans, that is, most of the world, let me explain.
Every week the City of Waco, in which we live, picks up “garbage”, which is meant to be anything that is not “hazardous” or “recyclable”. The latter is done every fortnight and the former whenever they feel like it.
Today the City of Waco feels like it and so do Hewitt, Lacy Lakeview, Lorena and Woodway. We are to take our “hazardous waste” to the waste collection area on Schroder Drive in Hewitt, where it will be managed. Their flyer says that they will take up to 10 tires (off the rims), paint, oil, computers, expired medicines and whatever junk seems to fit into a lethal category.
The collection time will be from 7 am until 1:30 pm. We are told to “be prepared to wait” (there is a lot of waste in our part of Texas), so I go early—about 6:40. I don’t have much that is hazardous, only some old fluorescent light bulbs, but I want to get rid of them. I could smash them into pieces, but I understand the gases in them could cause me harm, so it is better to let the experts deal with my problem.
There is already a long line of cars 15 minutes before the gates are to open. I get in line behind a pick-up truck and in front of a car in which the man is well prepared—he has his coffee with him and I can see him sipping it from time to time. The long line of vehicles before me finally begins to move and wind around through the waste area like the poisonous snake we are. We enter one at a time but are directed into six or so precarious deposit lanes.
I look around the large expanse and see hundreds of dumpsters, garbage trucks and odd pieces of machinery. They are strewn and parked at weird angles and most of them also look somewhat menacing. Perhaps this is their final resting place.
A woman asks to see my driver’s license and proof that I am a tax paying citizen, so I show her my City of Waco receipt from my last bill. She wants to know how I found out about the site and I tell her “through the flyer the City of Waco sent out”. She is satisfied and directs me to follow behind the pick-up.
There are several prisoners helping out, resplendent in their orange and white striped jump suits. One is rolling tires from another truck between my car and the pick-up to another prisoner who throws them up into the back of a large open truck. It will be full in no time.
To my left and right I see all kinds of hazardous waste being deposited. Men come out with wheeled carts and unload the vehicles quickly. Computers go in a pile and old oil and paint cans go into another. It is an endless mountain of harmful rubbish. I pull the lever to open the trunk of my car and before I can get out, the men have already taken the long slender tubes and I am waved on.
It has never been so easy to manage my waste. When we lived in Duncanville I used to hide dead squirrels—properly prepared for the squirrel after life of course—in plastic bags and put old paint cans in with the other garbage. I can’t do that here at Village Circle in Waco. People watch and they know what I do—it is like living in a glass house. No stones are thrown, but certain precautions must be taken.
Where does all the waste go? I have heard that it goes to New Jersey for landfill to manage the Atlantic Ocean and keep it at bay. But that is pure rumor. My best guess is that it is sold to China as landfill for the islands they are building in the South China Sea. Or perhaps it is sent to Florida to fill in the sinkholes that keep appearing. I’ll bet even The Donald has his hand in our waste products (figuratively of course) so that he can filter out materials for the great Mexican wall he is going to build. However, he said Mexico was going to pay for that wall, so he may have to manage their waste as well.
On the way out I am handed a flyer on “How to prevent mosquitoes”, which seems a difficult thing to do, given evolution and millions of years. I think they mean “How to keep mosquitoes from breeding” in, as they say: uncovered boats, open trash bins, fountains and bird baths, clogged rain gutters, low areas, potted plant saucers, water bowls for pets, buckets and barrels, leaky hoses, wagons and other toys, neglected pools, ponds, tires, and rot holes in trees. I would add: discarded guns and cartridges, old pick-up trucks, beer cans, McDonald’s hamburger wrappers, and Coca Cola tins.
It will undoubtedly be a very successful household hazardous waste day for us in Waco. In Duncanville people simply tossed old refrigerators, mattresses, chairs, couches and the odd cat or dog along the side of the road. The prisoners would collect them sometime later and the city would manage them. And of course, in every state across America there are pieces of tires discarded from 18 wheelers. We need a large prison force just to clean up the roadsides.
But here in Waco environs it is different—we are proud of our city and don’t mess with Texas. We just take the mess to the hazardous waste site and let them manage it.