It's the end of an era for a certain kind of diversity in Princeton. For as long as I can remember, Princeton's streets have been on the receiving end of an endless variety of stuff to be hauled away. Be it trash, recyclables, leaves or brush, each house would present at the curb its own motley assortment. Large or small, containerized or piled loose--it hasn't mattered. It has all gotten hauled away. Rare was the street that remained clean, even for a day.
And on Thursday, the hodgepodge of trash cans and plastic garbage bags that had for so long been the norm was replaced by order, standardization, uniformity. A truck comes along, plucks the container up, empties it and sets it back down again before heading to the next.
Can a town with an endless diversity of opinions, passionately held and frequently expressed, accept the conformity of the new rollcarts? One homeowner predicted rebellion, a grand uprising of discontent that would spill into the town council's chambers.
Ten years ago, I came to the conclusion that Princeton was allergic to such conformity. That's when the borough and township merged. At the time, each household in the township had to find its own trash collection service. Some chose corporate collectors like Waste Management; others chose some self-styled collector with a pickup truck. Trucks of varied size and descriptions drove hither and yon in the township, chasing trash.
But no. Though one hauler was chosen for the newly consolidated Princeton, the trash cans became a free for all.
Over time, homeowners gravitated towards the convenience of wheels and hinged lids, but these were all rollcart wannabees lifted manually into the truck.
Another surprise was that the town chose to distribute the 64 gallon size containers instead of the standard 96. The logic here is that a smaller container will encourage people to produce less waste.
We'll see how it all plays out. For those wishing to hold onto the good old days, there's still the county's yellow and green recycling buckets, which lack wheels and lids, and tip over in the wind, littering the streets with plastic. And we can still pile loose yardwaste and brush at the curb, to sit for weeks, bleaching in the sun.
Hopefully, Princeton will grow to like its new rollcarts, and apply their efficiency to the collection of recyclables and yardwaste as well. There can be comfort in conformity, while we pursue diversity in other ways.
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