Bin Wars


After buying our own place recently, I vowed I would make an effort to better get to know my neighbours. But people are … weird. Take the saga of our recycling bin, for example.

I notice we don’t have a yellow recycling ‘wheelie bin’ in the back lane behind our house. However, there’s one a few doors down that is suspiciously missing a second numeral. Could it be ours? Well, I have no proof, so I don’t go grabbing it and saying it’s mine, of course. I call the council, who send someone out to try and track down my missing bin.

Sure enough, they identify my bin as the one with the missing numeral, slap a sticker on it to identify it as such, and I think the problem is solved.

Only next collection day, my bin goes missing, and I get a note—sure, a pretty friendly one—in my postbox from the neighbours. “We noticed you took our bin, so we took it back” or words to that effect. The bin is now out of the lane and sequestered away in their back yard, out of reach of nasty neighbours like me. Oh well, confusion on the part of the council, I think. I go round and apologise for the mixup in person. Then I call the council again and this time they send me a new bin. That’ll be $81.50 thanks. Oh, and if you ever find a bin with this code number—it’s yours.

This morning, I notice the old bin is out in the lane. You guessed it, same code number. It was ours all along.

So, do I let the whole thing slide and, in effect, pay for my neighbour’s bin? Or do I go round there with the proof?

You think war, pestilence and famine are tough? Try getting on with your neighbours.

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jedimacfan
    Apr 07, 2006 @ 12:26:46

    It’s a trash bin or just the recycling bin? Recycling isn’t worth your time and it’s not good for the environment anyway (except for aluminum cans, apparently.) It costs more money and creates more pollution to recycle than it’s actually worth for most items. So, in a way, your neighbors are juust doing you a favor by helping save the planet.

  2. UniversalHead
    Apr 07, 2006 @ 12:47:39

    It’s a recycling bin. Haven’t heard that argument before …
    … Either way, I’m sure that’s what the neighbours had in mind!

  3. jedimacfan
    Apr 07, 2006 @ 13:14:08

    I highly recommend this show.

  4. anaglyph
    Apr 07, 2006 @ 14:53:19

    As much as I like Penn & Teller, I have to take exception with that view on recycling, for numerous reasons.
    Aluminium cans are not the only thing that are more resource intensive to make than to recycle. Glass is another one. Certain plastics are another. Rubber is another. There are many exceptions.
    That aside, they avoid the one absolutely crucial point about recycling – that it slows down the depletion of natural resources. It’s not just about whether you can fit it all in landfill (who really cares about that??!!), but about where it’s coming from in the first place. Plastic is a good example: plastic comes from petroleum bases. Petroleum comes from rapidly vanishing reserves. Paper is another example. It is expensive to recycle paper because in comparison it is cheap to chop down trees. At the moment. That’s because all the ‘expense’ of growing trees was committed before we humans got axes.
    The argument that it’s more expensive to recycle than to use up raw resources is spurious. It is such 19thC Industrialist thinking that I am gobsmacked to hear anyone advancing it seriously. Like most capitalist concepts it’s based on a highly dubious supposition; that cost can only be taken seriously if it’s economic cost. That money is the most important reason to do anything.
    Here in Australia recycling works. Sometimes it is expensive, yes, but certain industries, like the glassmaking industry, rely on recycling heavily. Almost all beer and wine bottles are made of recycled glass. And glass is very special in another way too – it can be recycled many times, not just once. Most aluminium, for example, is degraded on recycling and is unsuitable for food-grade use a second time.
    All that aside, another compelling reason for getting people to recycle is that it makes them think about their usage of materials.
    If you’re not recycling, you’re pretending we don’t have a problem. It’s a simple equation: there’s a limited amount of raw resource. There’s an expanding need to make and use stuff. We will hit the wall eventually.

  5. UniversalHead
    Apr 07, 2006 @ 15:27:14

    Thanks for that. I knew all that subliminally, but I didn’t have the facts at hand to answer properly.

  6. anaglyph
    Apr 07, 2006 @ 16:19:40

    As far as the bin situation goes, you have to also consider that maybe your neighbours really do think it’s their bin. I mean, I didn’t know that the bins had code numbers, so let’s suppose this happened:
    They originally had their own bin. One day someone knocked the number off the bin that the original owners of your house had. Then the bins were out and the neighbours accidentally took the one with the number knocked off (because, say, your original owners took theirs). Then they just kept on doing that because they assumed that the one with no number was theirs (and they always collected their bins first, maybe).
    They would have no reason at all to think they had the wrong bin…
    I only say this because almost exactly the same thing happened at my place. I kept going out and finding that bin #16 was there and bin #18 (mine) was gone. So I just kept taking #16 in, thinking that I’d eventually grab #18 back. Turns out that the guy next door was collecting his bin in the morning and is really short-sighted. He had put a sticker on his bin (actually my bin, and was just grabbing the one with the sticker each time. Because 16 and 18 look similar if you’re short sighted, he didn’t even look at the number…
    Eventually, we figured it out and it’s a funny story. Occasionally he still takes my bin.
    But maybe your neighbour just really thinks it’s their bin. And that you’re the weirdo.

  7. UniversalHead
    Apr 07, 2006 @ 17:06:45

    See? This is how world wars start.

  8. anaglyph
    Apr 07, 2006 @ 17:31:31


  9. steelbuddha
    Apr 08, 2006 @ 04:08:48

    Anaglyph, I second our host’s thanks. I had not done my research on the subject and am glad to have a little more perspective.

  10. Pil
    Apr 08, 2006 @ 11:31:44

    My head was clear and thought free on this fine Sydney autumn morning until I read your blog. Now I am caught up in your dilemma, trying to decide what would be the best thing for you to do. It is this kind of problem that ages us before our time.
    I still can’t decide what you should do – thankyou for burdening me on this (previously) carefree morning.

  11. UniversalHead
    Apr 08, 2006 @ 12:32:01

    Head clear, thought-free, Saturday morning, sun shining, beautiful outside – hmm, I think I’ll turn on the computer and surf the web!