Friday, May 29, 2009

A distinctly Miami phenomenon

So I wish I had a picture for this topic, but I was too shy to run out and snap one (also I don't know how to say "can I take your picture for my blog" in Spanish). Living in the same house for 6 years in Miami has been great. I have been one of the lucky few students who has not have to move every year. This was great because Russell and I could set up our little section of the house etc. We also accumulated a lot of stuff. We found out how much stuff when we went to load the shipping container. A lot of this stuff was ours, we purchased it, or were gifted items. However, some stuff was abandoned by previous residents. See, the cost of living in Miami is similar to the GDP of some small countries, so Russell and I have been sharing our house with roommates for our entire duration here. Beginning with two nameless female students, followed by the lovely Kate and Deanna (more students), followed by two different Japanese post-docs, Nagamitsu and Yohei. Except for Yohei, each of these residents has abandoned items as they moved. Some of them we got rid of immediately, but some were fairly entrenched in corners of the household. This week as I am vacating the house, it was finally time to deal with these items.

If I were living in Washington, I would have rented a van, or begged use of a large vehicle from a friend or family member, and taken the items to the Goodwill or Salvation Army. Here that is less of an option. Rich people are apparently constantly donating the furniture they replace annually, so those charities are surprisingly choosy about what they accept (Note, I don't donate crappy stuff, but Salvation Army here requires say, a couch, to be less than a couple years old, and in MINT condition or they won't accept it). Miami has its own special recycling program for these items however.

Miami, each Friday, has what the city calls Large Trash Pickup. This literally constitutes a series of giant dump trucks, roaming the neighboorhoods, each one followed by another truck with a crane. This pair of trucks will pullup to each residence with a pile, and the crane will scoop up everything in a series of grabs, and place it in the truck. By a pile I mean a giant pile. Yard waste, furniture, old appliences, the trash that wouldn't fit in your bin. Basically anything short of chemicals or serious construction waste can go in that pile. This seems somewhat wasteful, and I've never lived in any other city that has it. I think the city does it because people here would put out furniture, yardwaste, etc, even if they weren't supposed to. Anyway, here's where the neat recycling part comes in. Particularly when you dispose of household items, these items often don't make it into the trash. See, beginning Thursday night, opportunistic foragers begin roaming the city. Teams of 2-3 men and women, urban scavengers, each in a pickup truck, roam the neighboorhoods, scavenging furniture, electronics, appliences and anything else they find useful. I think this is pretty neat in a post-apocalyptic kind of way, and you can get some pretty good stuff sometimes.

Last night Yohei and I put out old desks, a bed, and some leftover bookcases, and sure enough, the scavengers decended. Throughout the evening, and this morning I have watched through the blinds as truck after truck has rummaged the pile, by the time the waste pickup comes there won't be much left.

Independent recycling living off a cities largess. I'm glad to know people will get some more use out of our discarded items, even if I couldn't get them to a local charity. Pretty neat if you ask me.


Al said...

I wish they did that in Seattle! I'm currently brain-storming how I'm going to get the old red couch out of my old apartment & whether it's possible to get it into the new one--& if not how to get a new couch that doesn't smell. roaming the streets with some strong people & a pick-up truck sounds like a good way to me.

Lori W. said...

We used to leave stuff on the sidewalk in Virginia all the time, and it rarely lasted more than a few hours. A few times, in the time it took me to walk from the sidewalk, into the house, and come back with something else...whatever I'd just left would be gone.

Gotta love it.