Signs Of The Times Buried In Holiday Trash Heaps

Dec 27, 2012

Now that presents have been opened, it's time for another tradition of the holiday season: bags upon bags of trash. Jessica Robinson talked with one garbage collector in north Idaho about what he can tell from this year’s haul.

Vince Peterson is the operations manager of Shoshone County waste disposal. Photo by Jessica Robinson
Credit Photo by Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

Out at the transfer station in Shoshone County, Idaho, signs of the holidays are all around Vince Peterson.

Peterson: “Mostly the amount of cardboard, plastic. Wrapping paper goes wild.”

The EPA estimates Americans throw away roughly 5 million tons of trash between Thanksgiving and New Year's – a 25 percent increase over the rest of the year. Occasionally that includes items trashed unintentionally.

Peterson: “We have found wrapped Christmas presents and people will come back looking for them: ‘Oh, my train set, my kid's train set's gone!’”

Certain signs of the times also show up in the trash heaps. For example, a lot fewer real Christmas trees.

Peterson: “We find now everyone's going to those artificial trees.”

In fact, overall garbage collection is down from last year in Shoshone County. Peterson says it's not because of recycling. This county is home to one of the highest unemployment rates in Idaho.

Peterson: “You know you can really tell when the economy is good and everybody's making money, boy the garbage is – lots of it. It makes a big difference.”

Still, some people are in a spending mood. Peterson furnished his enter transfer station office with still-good discarded items.

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio