In "Other People's Garbage" (3/5/2010), an "environmentally conscious" letter-writer named Refuse-nik complained about next-door neighbors who regularly dump their excess garbage into her partially empty trash bin on pickup day, without asking permission. I advised either letting it go or, if that wasn't possible, keeping her bin sealed with bungee cords until right before pickup. My answer inspired a flood of responses - more than I get for steamy columns about love or sex. Madison, where are your priorities?
Dear Tell All: Your advice to Refuse-nik to bungee her bin closed so the neighbor can't use it was way off base. You made the mistake of accepting the premise that the bin was "hers." It isn't hers. When Refuse-nik sells her house, the bin stays behind to facilitate garbage pickup for the next resident at that address.
The bottom line is that when the bin is placed in the terrace, everything about it is the city's. The bin is the city's, and it is sitting on city property waiting for a city official to empty it. The individual homeowner has no property interest in the bin whatsoever and no right to exclude anyone from using it.
That said, it might be polite to ask the neighbor if you can toss extra trash into their bin if you have some, even though the neighbor has no right to refuse.
Refuse-nik shouldn't have to be asked. She should gladly tell her neighbor to use the trash bin anytime, and be glad the neighbor felt comfortable enough to do so. That's how a person makes a friend instead of an enemy.
We live in a community in Madison, and that means reaching out to help your neighbors, even when their social habits are different from our own. You should have told Refuse-nik to get some community spirit and love her neighbor.
Yours, Mine and Ours
Dear Tell All: You missed the obvious answer for Refuse-nik: Any environmentally conscious household ought to know better than to put out a half-full container - keep it till next week when it's full. Saves you a trip and saves the truck from making an unnecessary stop.
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