I've been re-reading a book I happened on several years ago: Sam Gosling's "Snoop". His premise is that you can tell a lot about people by the way their rooms or offices look. He describes three kinds of "clues" to consider. One kind of clue is what he calls "identity markers" (the poster on the outside of our dorm room door tells people something about the kind of person we want other people to think we are). Another set of clues comes from the fact that we organize our spaces to be comfortable or efficient for our own personal style or preferences.
And then, he points out, there's all that stuff that we don't intend to have around, but we do anyway. A good example of this is trash:
Stuff salvaged from trash cans is particularly useful [to "snoopologists"] for two reasons. First, as the items are discarded they are also dismissed from the owner's conscious consideration, so they do not receive the same kind of attention to managing impressions as the items still in place in pre-trash life. Second the contents of a trash can reflect behavior that really happened, not just the kinds of things we think we might do one day.
I was thinking about what my trash says about me (I figured snooping on myself is more ethically sound than snooping on my neighbors). This made me realize how complicated my trash life has become -- there are whole hosts of ways things leave my home.
By the back door, there is
- a "regular" trash can, carefully lidded to keep the dog out;
- a bag of plastic bags (for re-use as trash/dog poop bags);
- a cans-and-bottles recycling bin;
- a newspaper-recycling box; and
- a canvas bag with used office-paper (occasionally as this gets full, I haul it off to my office where I can actually recycle it).
In the garage, there is
- a hazardous waste box (CFLs and batteries, mostly);
- a books-to-donate box (these go to the library);
- a clothes-to-donate box (these go to our local thrift shop);
- a household-goods-to-donate box (thrift shop also; they like clothes and goods separate); and also
- a pile of corrugated cardboard, which I learned this summer I can recycle on campus (for the locals, the cardboard dumpster is between the basketball gym and the BOS/gov building).
And of course in the yard we've got
- compost piles for biodegradable stuff.
We don't pay garbage fees by the trash can here; we pay a flat rate. But if cost ever becomes a factor, we'd pay for about one garbage can a week (that's with about five people in the home). I'm fairly proud of that, although I wish we could generate even less trash. At any rate, I've read that the main reason people don't recycle is inconvenience; for me, having a (complicated?) system to make recycling a bit more convenient is important, and I'm even willing to go out of my way to avoid giving the garbage haulers more work.