It’s my favourite time of year. The time when all the local households take things they no longer need and put them out on the street. It’s a strange aspect of Australia culture, officially known as ‘hard rubbish’, but every council area I’ve lived in for the last twelve years has embraced it wholeheartedly. My current council is Darebin, and my current house is in a steadfastly upper middle class area, so the quality of the goods people discard is second to none.
So far this season I’ve come home with a knife block (wooden, knives not included), a large wooden frame drum (already pre-marked for my students in texta: ‘please do not sit or stand on the drum’) and a Breville 800 Espresso Machine. To be fair you have to accept some small issues with some of the items you bring home, ie the Breville makes a loud thumping noise when i turn it on, then promptly dumps its entire reservoir of water through the plate at the bottom rather than through the hole where the coffee is meant to come out, but half the joy is in bringing things home and seeing if you can figure out why the previous person discarded them. I now own a large, heavy, mug warming station, designed to look like a coffee machine, and biceps of steel from lugging the thing home, two kilometres down back streets. It doubles as the world’s most awkward metronome, thumping away consistently at 85 bpm any time you plug it in, and I wonder if I could take it out to the shed and run it through my speaker system, maybe use it to record the next album. For now it sits happily on a pile of towels in the living room while I spend a couple of hours on Youtube watching coffee machine disassembly tutorials. I tell myself I’ll unscrew it all tomorrow and remove the steam wand O-ring (part 127) to replace the PCB assembly unit, but we all know I’ll probably just practice drums instead.
There’s a prime time for hard rubbish. The council blocks the region into small areas. Each area has a week where you can deposit stuff to the street outside your house, and then there’s a two day period where trucks come past and compress a lifetime of bed frames and compost bins and tv screens into little plastic cubes to drop in to landfill. If you time it right you can pick up a variety of goods from hard rubbish, try them out for a week (how’s the feng shui of this particular set of dining chairs?) and if you’re not vibing it, or its broken, or you discover there’s a family of snails living in the back of the microwave you scored, then you can put it back out the front of your house for the council to collect. Of course sometimes you time it wrong and wind up with a matching set of suitcases, all with zipper problems, that you have to store under the bed for a year till hard rubbish time returns.
While I delight in hard rubbish time, I have a vague feeling my housemates despise it. Each year they’re trying to rid the house of things I’ve excitedly brought home the year before (does anyone actually use this trampoline? how many desks does each room in the house need? do we rding things, but it is a tough slog. I guess I feel like it’s the anti-capitalist dream. I get the joy of owning things, of consuming to my heart’s delight, but I haven’t supported any multi-national corporations, I haven’t spent any of my money, and I’ve saved something from landfill at the same time. I do sometimes wish people were less discerning with the things they discarded (ie, why is no-one putting out any vintage Gibsons, or fresh out of the oven lasagna, or buckets full of cold hard cash?), but if it was truly that easy then everyone would be out scoring a bargain, and if we were all living off the things other people discarded then Morrison’s oft-vaunted ‘economy’ would have to find a way to live without human interaction.
Instead we coddle the economy like a toddler, all cuddles and cash injections for the middle-class home owners, so they can buy that new kitchen that’ll spark joy (or just spark sparks, depending on who does the wiring I guess) and put the old marble bench tops out on the street for the next schmuck to pick up. And pick them up I will, casually walking this literal slab of marble twenty metres down the road before realising a) I’m half a kilometre from home and this thing weighs at least a third of my body weight and b) I don’t own a kitchen, why am I bringing home a marble bench top?
If you’ve read this far and happen to live close to Darebin (and feel like scoring yourself a new bed frame or swing set or leather bound encyclopaedia collection), have a squizz here for some more info: http://www.darebin.vic.gov.au/Darebin-Living/RubbishRecyclingandCleaning/Hard-Waste-and-Recycling-Collection#Hard-Waste-and-Recycling-Collections