Garbage Statistics

Literally. We have a corner lot in the city, with plantings where a lot of people would have lawn, so lots of trash gets blown into our yard and stays for a while. One of the rites of spring is my own personal neighborhood cleanup. I started right after work, and here’s a little rundown of what I found.

  • Greatest decrease, prior year to current year: cigarette butts, down 30%
  • Greatest decrease in item size: cigarette butts, 97% smoked fully

Either the recession and increased taxes are making cigarettes less appealing, or the winter weather, coldest it’s been in several years, is keeping smokers inside.

  • Most frequent item: still cigarette butts (~30)
  • Greatest increase: Styrofoam cups, up 50%
  • Largest item, volume: FedEx envelope (1)

No clothes this year. That usually takes this category.

  • Greatest overall volume: advertising newspapers (4), all sopping wet
  • Greatest single dimension: unspooled cassette tape (4 feet)
  • Most personally disgusting: cigar mouth pieces (2)
  • Most generally disgusting: chewed gum with teeth prints (2)
  • Most obsessive: bus transfer, torn into pieces 1 cm. by 1.5 cm.
  • Saddest item: beads from a piece of kids jewelry with the shiny half worn off (2)
  • Item most likely to make it into a story: broken 2008 Mickey Mouse Christmas ornament (1)
  • Most impossible to gather: pieces of windshield glass from the car that hit the tree two feet inside our fence (100s)
  • Nicest surprise: temperature (79F)
  • Most welcome sight: active earthworms (2)
  • Smallest ratio: energy to ambition (1 hour:infinite)
  • Total volume: 1 medium shopping bag
  • Percent complete: 33%

Back at it this weekend. Then I can trim the lilacs and dispose of the brush pile and pull grass and rearrange the ferns and the hardy geraniums and…whew! Yeah, I’ll be at this a while.

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11 Responses to “Garbage Statistics”

  1. April 1st, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    Stacy says:

    Sounds fun!!

  2. April 1st, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    Stephanie Zvan says:

    You know, Stacy, there’s plenty left if you want to come help, er, get in on the fun. :)

  3. April 1st, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    As an archaeologist, I object to you picking up these items. You should just toss a current-year coin or two on the ground (we call that bookmarking) and spread the ash from the winder’s hearth on the surface, and leave it.

  4. April 1st, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Stephanie Zvan says:

    Honestly, Greg, that’s part of the reason I found an excuse to document it. I was thinking about all the things the trash told me as I removed it.

  5. April 1st, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    OK then. Well, now you have to put tiny little numbers on each item.

  6. April 2nd, 2010 at 6:28 am

    Stephanie Zvan says:

    Hey, know any students who want to come do that for credit? I can’t promise it will transfer.

  7. April 2nd, 2010 at 9:13 am

    peter says:

    We live on 70n acres, mostly left in “bush”, and we regularly have a clean up along the 600m fence line on mothers day (we still have snow on the ground).

    Our usual haul are diapers -one or two, 5 – 10 empty beer bottles, some empty garbage bags. The total amount hauled away has decreased over 15 years from about one filled grain bag (20 kg of grain)to about 1/4 grain bag.
    The absence of empty cigarette packs or the alum. foil rappers in the last 4 -5 years is glaring. There is also hardly any newsprint any more.
    Folks seem to behave more responsibly when it comes to throwing out garbage from the vehicles.
    We are living on a secondary road, 20 minutes from the next town one way and 3/4 hour the other way.

  8. April 2nd, 2010 at 9:13 am

    amy says:

    putting tiny numbers on them reduces your ability to test for important residues! how will we know if there was food on those cigar butts?

  9. April 3rd, 2010 at 5:58 am

    Adamo says:

    Hey Steph, just don’t trim the lilacs any more than you have to at this point. Trim them after they bloom. This saves next year’s blooms AND this year’s blooms. If they scrape the car or bite the neighbors as they pass, well, go ahead then.

    Are you the one who’s going to write the story with the Mickey Mouse ornament? I can’t wait! I want to know how it got there and why.

  10. April 10th, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Greg Laden says:

    Right. If you trim them before they bloom, you won’t get much of a bloom off that stem the next year (for up to three years, depending). BUT, if you prune to much later than the bloom, you get the same effect (circle of life and all that). So, the best procedure is to cut the blooms off and have that be your pruning. (The exception is when you want to really floor the plant and trim down to near the ground and start over again. Then you will get few blooms for a few years, but you have control over the plant.)

  11. April 29th, 2010 at 9:09 am

    JenW says:

    A good shop-vac should help with the glass. Though, we had a similar problem a few years back (car on fire, glass exploding outward) and still occasionally find a chunk or two. And then, there’re all the neighbors snickering as you vacuum your lawn.

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