Hot summer (garbage) days

First posted July 16, 2014

It was garbage day in my neighborhood and I thought something that I’ve thought every summer garbage day that I’ve lived in New York: This city is kind of gross.

Growing up in the suburbs, our garbage was always encased in those heavy-duty giant bins that we (well, my dad) rolled out to the curb on garbage day. Sometimes, if we had a lot of garbage that week, we might have a smaller plastic bin like the ones my landlord has. But as far as I remember, no one in the suburbs puts their trash out just in a bag.

Here in New York, though, I sometimes put trash out in just a bag, and so do a lot of other people. Mostly I do it if it’s late the night before trash day, or early on trash morning, if my landlord hasn’t put the can out. I don’t want to risk my trash sitting in the can for a week, and I don’t know that he’d want me to pull the can out myself. I fully admit that I am part of the problem.

The problem of course is this: On hot garbage days, the streets of New York stink. Stink as in hold my breath as I walk by because I really don’t want to smell your rotting food or whatever else you’ve thrown out that smells bad in the heat. And since we New Yorkers do a lot of walking, and garbage day is different all over the city, often from block to block, sometimes every day is garbage day.

But on the bright side, garbage isn’t the only thing people put on the side of the street. In Park Slope, at least, people often put out furniture they don’t want anymore, or books, or all the other stuff you might sell at a stoop sale, the NYC version of a tag sale. I’ve scored a beat-up but serviceable end table and a copy of Quiet by Susan Cain (highly recommended) by the side of the road.

How do you avoid stinky garbage days in your neighborhood? And have you found anything worth salvaging by the side of the road lately?


  1. Living in NYC made me think that all cities were gross. Then I spent some time in Tokyo, which made me think Tokyo was clean. Then I spent some time in London, which is also clean, and now I think only NYC is gross.

    I don't really get why, honestly.

  2. Ha! That's interesting — there must be a reason for it, maybe Tokyo and London just have better schedules and sanitation plans? I do remember in London being very frustrated that I couldn't find a place to throw out a banana peel while walking on the street, but their lack of street-side bins is the only thing I remember.

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