Friday, September 24, 2010

The Many Uses of Garbage

Various collectors of garbage make their rounds here daily. One garbage truck comes anywhere between 1 and 3 A.M. to empty the dumpsters on our corner. (And of course the garbage men shout; that’s a universal given. I always wondered why, but obviously it’s because that’s the only way they can hear each other above the roar of the truck. Whoever first invents a quiet garbage truck will make a fortune.) They seem to come to our corner again in the late morning, so what’s going on? But we’re lucky; other routes have been left unattended lately; we don’t know why.

In between the dumpsters’ twice-daily emptying come other collectors. The Gypsies drive past in pickup trucks looking for anything obvious, such as a chair or small table sitting beside the dumpster.

During the day, Albanians come around with ingenious little trolleys they construct from prams or baby strollers. They remove the body, replacing it with a large, corrugated, cardboard carton, the kind in which perhaps a stove was originally shipped. These they strap onto the fame, with its wheels and handle, using bungee cords. Then they walk through the streets and literally paw through the dumpsters looking for anything useable or saleable. (So if we are disposing of anything anybody might use, such as old clothing, we put it in a plastic bag or two and place it carefully on the top of the heap.) Today I saw one Albanian woman who actually had a bathtub in her cart!

(How can you tell they’re Albanians? Their clothes, hairdos and complexions are different. The women often have a single, long braid hanging down their backs. Their heads are often covered with a bright kerchief tied in the back. Their clothes are even brighter and more colorful than American clothes, whereas Greeks wear more muted tones. Albanians’ skirts are about ankle-length and often do not in any way coordinate with their blouses.)

During the night, more discreetly, Greek poor people also rummage through the dumpsters.

Lastly, whenever humans aren’t there, the cats prowl the dumpsters, scrounging food scraps.

It’s re-cycling, Greek style. It works pretty well, on the whole.


orrologion said...

It's actually not all that uncommon in at least East Coast urban centers to do much the same. I won't admit to how much 'dumpster diving' we've done in New York, but, of course, Upper East trash is different (and it's not in dumpsters but set out on the street). A lot of times people will simply abandon furniture when they move out and the landlords have nothing they can do with it apart from set it out for the trash - the same is true of the elderly who pass away without making arrangements for their things.

Near Boston University, dumpster diving was called "Allston shopping". Allston was the student ghetto / real ghetto just off campus. Students especially would abandon furniture when they went home for the year or after graduation. It would be recycled into someone else's dorm room or first off campus apartment.