Bin Day and Goodwill

So the sunshine is back again today. Decorating the ground with black echoes of plants and my dog!


Its bin day. I feel genuine pride that not only did I remember to put both bins out last night but that I also put them the right way round. Rubbish trucks here have one person who drives the truck. The loading of the rubbish (garbage) is done by a huge arm that extends from the top of the truck and picks up the bin carrying it up to the open roof and tipping it inside. However, as I learnt this only works if you put your bin out the right way round with the metal bar for the arm to fix onto facing out into the street. This feels counterintuitive as to put it in this position you must put the wheels and handle next to the curb. I struggle with this and have even had one lovely driver get out of the truck to put it in the right position!

Its extremely good the rubbish collection here. They take nearly everything. From old sofas to grass cuttings which you load into garden waste bags. For a while I wasn’t sure what the large brown paper sacks by the road were. Then when I worked it out it took ages to find somewhere to buy them. One of the most frustrating things about being an expat is the struggle to buy some things. Finding the right store, the right location in the store hampered by the fact that often the words are different here. When I finally asked my neighbor she told me I could buy them in HEB – the Texas supermarket chain. Once I was there I asked one of the assistants and also received a blank look till I remembered they call ‘gardens’ ‘yards’ here. I was then told I was looking for  ‘lawn-and-leaf kraft paper bags’ in the household section.  Sure enough after some searching I found them on  shelf near clingfilm (which they call Saran Wrap here!)

My favorite bin collection though is the six monthly one for large household items . People regularly put out serviceable items which are just taken by any passers by that want them. But the large household items takes good stuff and broken stuff. The kind of things that in the UK you would have to put into the boot of your car and take to the rubbish tip. What I love about it is the glimpse it gives you into peoples lives. The old toys, broken basket ball hoops, old video game consoles, that speak of children growing up. The broken garden furniture that shows signs of the Texas storms. Collapsing bookshelves that suggest decluttering or updating. More broken chairs and beds than you would believe. What do Texans do to their stuff? Endless tires – but then Texans love their vehicles. Then there are the just plain strange unidentifiable items, metal poles and wood joined together.

The Austin Texas website gives this helpful list of what it will collect!

Bulk Items Include:

  • Doors
  • Carpet
  • Furniture
  • Appliances (remove doors)
  • Passenger car tires (remove rims; limit eight tires per household)
  • Lawn mowers (remove gas/oil)
  • Railroad ties (cut in half)
  • Pallets
  • Rolled fencing
  • Nail-free lumber

They have also just started collecting clothing and toys which you place in a special green bin bag by the recycling bin. This would have been useful when we first moved here as the kids are always outgrowing their clothes and things. In the UK I was used to doing a trip to a charity shop every couple of months. When we moved here I kept looking for charity shops and never found them.

Then one day my son told me his friend said he could get good clothes in Goodwill. So I Googled it and we went, only to discover that Goodwill was exactly what I had been looking for a kind of giant charity shop with a drive through drop off  (you can drive through nearly anything here: library, pharmacy….). So Goodwill is now my two monthly trip. So I took my son yesterday and dropped three large bags of clothes and bought 2 Tshirts and a pair of jeans for my son. One T-shirt was 50% off as it was the ‘weekly color’ grey – the most unusual promotion I have ever come across! And apparently there are charity shops here but they call them thrift stores.

Its 1pm and the household bin has just been emptied outside (they came at 7 am for the recycling ) so I shall stop doing this and wheel the giant American Bins back down the drive!

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