The Dark Side of Trash Picking

By Tyler A Weaver

Not so long ago, I heard a hard knock on my door.

I open the door, and some dude is trying to look official and not pulling it off, even with the clipboard in his arm. He looked rather nervous, and for a second I even wonder if I scared him. Maybe he realized I knew his game before he played.

“Mr. Weaver, it looks like you owe the water department money. I’m from the Philadelphia Water Department, and I need to collect $198.50 from you…”

Of any bills I have to pay each month, an auto paid water bill of twenty odd dollars a month isn’t going to get missed. Then I laughed to myself and thought, I wonder if that’s why I get those ugly blue envelopes each month although I’ve had auto pay and opted to go paperless nearly 5 years ago.

I asked the guy for some identification, and he flashed me something, but it definitely wasn’t an ID. I think it was a Rite Aid card or something. He didn’t have a bill of mine either…and that’s because I shred them.

I laughed pleasantly at the guy on my porch and said, “From one trash picker to another, I respect your game, but you need to leave.”

He was about to reply, but he just turned around and hurriedly walked down the block.

Is this situation familiar to you? I’ve had a few people tell me in recent months that they’ve had false bill collectors showing up at the door demanding money. That’s a shame that somewhere out there people have coughed it up to these jerks.

Then I thought about how I go through waste, and how much I like hovering over blue bins on Sunday in my neighborhood just to see what my neighbors think is recycling, or if I think I can spot a disposal error due to a drunk putting their beer bottle in my garbage (Philadelphia trash fines for a future article!).

One thing I see somewhat often in the blue bin is shoes. I also see a lot of wood…like broken chair legs and stuff. Both are recyclable, but not for a curbside service, folks. It’s funny to think that if you just threw all your waste in the blue bin, you’d probably be correct most of the time. All we need is curbside composting here…

Anyway, I thought about how if I wanted to, I could do the same thing this crook is doing. Most people don’t seem to shred their paperwork. I’ve had dreams of becoming a spy for a large company and stealing the trash of their competitors. Do you think that job exists? Contract Garbage Spy? I would think so…and if not, I may have quite a business model! Ha.

Then my dumb thoughts drifted even further. My mission is to get everyone more in touch with their waste habits…and that definitely goes hand in hand with trash picking. What if everyone that read my stuff actually began trash picking and telling their friends about it? What would happen to our waste? How many would become debt collectors? Would someone start looking through business waste? Where does it end?

I don’t know. But remember to shred your paper before you put it out curbside. Or if you’re paranoid now that I’ve brought it up, shred it and put it in your compost pile/worm bin.

Ever wonder about waste? How about the design of effective waste receptacles, or how to make compost? If none of these interest you, then you should definitely check out to learn about waste from another perspective. It will humor you, make you think, and if I’m lucky, alter your habits a little bit.

Editor’s Note:

I like this. My mail sometimes piles up before I shred it, but I definitely shred the stuff that matters. Obviously not bulk mail like grocery store circulars, but lots of other stuff. That and every possible bill is on autopay and paperless. Makes life so much simpler.

My shredder is a crosscut shredder. The kids love using it, and of course I supervise. Not that it would be easy for them to get hurt. It only runs if it’s firmly on top of its bin, and the opening is nice and small. Even small fingers won’t go in. Still, it’s only for use under parental supervision, and the rest of the time it’s unplugged.

One reply

  1. Lisa says:

    Only shred important things. I figure people can easily type my address in to the phone and find a name to go with it. My in-laws shred anything with their address but I think this is a bit much. It’s not like I would ever give someone at my door money ha.

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