Part IV: Taxes take care of trash

Fourth installment of why I love this country and why I love paying taxes: Garbage. Or more specifically waste management.
Do you ever wonder about that tidy white bag that you hefted out the back of your truck a few weeks back? Where is it now? Is the plastic encapsulating the load still intact, floating in an eddy of debris, or has it been shredded, it’s contents churned into mulch?
Chances are you haven’t thought about it much because you’ve created and tossed five or six new bags of garbage since then. It’s a funny phenomenon that we are so possessive of our stuff until the moment that we toss it in the garbage can … then it is no longer ours, it’s, well, garbage. And once it’s carried to the curb or flung onto the conveyor belt at the dump that stuff (that we once paid for, valued, consumed and coveted) is definitely not ours. It’s property of the universe, the great collective, everyone else, and more specifically, your local government waste management agency.
As a young art student in San Francisco, I had the privilege of maintaining a studio/residency at the city’s transfer station. I witnessed the flow of garbage produced by nearly a million people daily. It came, was bulldozed into mountains, sorted, shredded, packed into shipping containers and left. Every day.
The scale was mind-numbing, but the message was clear. We are lucky to live in a country that will deal with our garbage. We don’t have to bury it in our back yard (or our neighbors’), we don’t have to toss it in the ocean or the woods, we don’t have to build large tracts of slums on its rolling, fetid hillsides.
We can carry on with our lives, secure that when that object, package, container or rind has finished being useful, we can disassociate ourselves from it and gift it to … our country? Our neighbors? Our children?
Anyhow, it’s not ours. My taxes pay for that and I consider it money well spent.
Susannah Webster