Chucking It Out There – the joy of an inorganic rubbish collection

23 Jan Chucking It Out There – the joy of an inorganic rubbish collection

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – cover date 23.1.23


Round my way, we have an annual “inorganic rubbish collection”. Not every town or city is lucky enough to get these, and I feel sorry for people who don’t experience this circus-has-come-to-town thrill.

When I first moved here, it was even flasher. Back then, each neighbourhood was designated one week a year when they could put all the things they didn’t want – a fridge, a lounge suite, a cathode ray TV – out near the road and, at some point, a truck would come and take it all away.

Take away what was left, that is. Because as the inorganic collection date moved around the city, so would people looking for interesting, useful, even re-sellable things amongst the piles on neighbourhood berms. It became a kind of Market Day, when everything was free so long as you could haul it off.

Shy shoppers would go for a stroll of an evening, casually poking through mounds with a curious toe, while more brazen hunters cruised the streets in utes and vans, gloved-up and not pretending to do anything but forage for bargains.

It’s not quite the same these days. Each household gets a short window to book a personal inorganic collection which may take up no more than a metre square tucked inside your gate. So it’s less social, less “on display”, and you miss out on that one glorious week when an entire neighbourhood looked like either a bazaar or a bombsite, depending on your view.

My cousin in Spain tells me a similar thing happens in his village all the time, but without the truck coming round. On a designated day you put out the armchair or the bed you no longer want and, whoever needs it, takes it. Though if it’s still there at dusk, it’s your responsibility to bring it back in.

Effectively, it’s a second-hand store without a middle-person involved and no money changing hands. And cute, apparently, to have dinner at your neighbour’s sometime and sit at the table you once had at your place.

Being offered a date for an inorganic pick-up was the motivation I needed to finally go through Dad’s shed. It’s nearly six years since he died, so it’s fair to say I haven’t rushed things.

Inside were tired brooms and garden stuff, plus two sets of drawers filled with what are now rusty nails, stiff paint brushes, bits of old rope and quite the selection of sandpapers.

To this, we added two bent scooters, four worn-out garden chairs, a 40-year-old food processor and some old containers we used to hold the smaller, rusty things. It was a mad scramble to keep it all together because foragers kept taking the containers, leaving scattered nails. One of the scooters was rescued which made the remaining one look even more broken and sad.

I felt the food processor needed an explanatory note – I wanted anyone looking to know we hadn’t been using it all this time, it had just been living in cupboard. Because I know you could look at a ragged couch on someone’s berm and think, Really? You were sitting on that till quite recently? Not what I’d pictured for you from here in the street.

I also found treasures which will stay. Dad’s hammer and plane and,best of all, his spirit level which he’d had since the 1940s. It still thrills me with its golden-green bubble like a cat’s eye, still showing what is straight and plumb, even after he’s gone.