Big garbage pick-up: one person's trash is another's treasure

·4 min read
Pete Morouney (left) and Alex Thomas cruise the town looking for hidden gems. This pile provided Pete with two hockey sticks and a ball. (Tori Weldon/CBC - image credit)
Pete Morouney (left) and Alex Thomas cruise the town looking for hidden gems. This pile provided Pete with two hockey sticks and a ball. (Tori Weldon/CBC - image credit)

A sure sign of spring in many communities around the province is heaping piles of junk set out at the curb. Those piles are then scrutinized by people slowly cruising the streets hoping to find a diamond in the rough.

Big garbage pick ups allow items like furniture, stoves and other things not normally taken by the garbage truck to be purged from your home.

In Sackville, Alex Thomas and Pete Morouney were out looking for treasures early Tuesday morning before Pete had to head to school.

Pete showed off a ball, two hockey sticks, a set of training wheels, a hose and a bicycle which the pair had strapped to the roof of Thomas' van.

A pile of junk sits outside a house in Sackville waiting to be taken to the landfill.
A pile of junk sits outside a house in Sackville waiting to be taken to the landfill.(Tori Weldon/CBC )

"I feel really good about it," said Pete, who wishes big garbage pickup happened every day.

But even at twice a year, Thomas said it's important not to bring too much stuff home.

"He can get like eight things or ten things, and he kind of needs to keep track of what he takes in because otherwise it kind of gets out of hand."

While it's fun to see what you can find for free, taking things out of the trash means one less item in the landfill.

"There is a bit of that sort of community yard sale vibe, but I think it also is pretty disgusting how much stuff collectively we're throwing out," said Thomas.

Last year, the two Sackville big garbage pickups collected 173 tons of waste. The year before it was 118 tons.

Dwayne Acton, town of Sackville engineer, said in 2018 the town picked up 127 tons of garbage, 118 tons in 2019 and 173 tons in 2020. He said the disposal company picks up and transports the waste as part of its contract, but the town pays Eco360 by weight.
Dwayne Acton, town of Sackville engineer, said in 2018 the town picked up 127 tons of garbage, 118 tons in 2019 and 173 tons in 2020. He said the disposal company picks up and transports the waste as part of its contract, but the town pays Eco360 by weight.(Tori Weldon/CBC)

According to Dwayne Acton, town of Sackville engineer, the most popular pick-up is in the one in the spring. He said it's timed to coincide with the end of the Mount Allison University school year as students are either leaving town, or moving into new apartments.

The university hosts an annual "dump and donate" program that offers students in residence the chance to donate things they no longer need to the Salvation Army in Dieppe, but off-campus students have fewer options.

"Obviously, not all our students have transportation and as well, often to rent a vehicle like a U-Haul, you have to to be 25 in order to not have to pay extra fees," said Charlie Burke, president of the student union.

She said in a typical year parents could come to help students move, but with border restrictions during the pandemic, getting help is harder and often complicated.

Charlie Burke, president of the Mount Allison Student Union said initiatives are in place to try to cut down on waste. She said a mass garage sale was held for the first time a few weeks ago for students and people in the community. Students take to social media to find buyers for the furniture they no longer need.
Charlie Burke, president of the Mount Allison Student Union said initiatives are in place to try to cut down on waste. She said a mass garage sale was held for the first time a few weeks ago for students and people in the community. Students take to social media to find buyers for the furniture they no longer need.(Tori Weldon/CBC)

"You can't have a whole crew of 20 people show up and help you move out of your apartment," said Burke.

So some things in good condition have to be put on the curb, in hopes they'll find a new home.

Thomas said Sackville has a reputation for being a good spot to visit this time of year.

"There's some good junk," said Thomas. "I know I have pals in Amherst who come here to cruise, and they're bummed this year because they can't cross the border."

The junk left curbside during large pick up is put in the truck by hand. Acton reminds people to make sure there aren't nails sticking out of boards, and the material isn't dangerous to move for the company employees.
The junk left curbside during large pick up is put in the truck by hand. Acton reminds people to make sure there aren't nails sticking out of boards, and the material isn't dangerous to move for the company employees.(Tori Weldon/CBC)

Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John no longer have annual big garbage pickups, and instead offer smaller scheduled bulk-waste programs, but in many smaller municipalities the tradition continues.