The original curbside pickup

September 2022

It’s that day of the week again. Time to take the trash out to the curb for pickup. Thinking about it, garbage collection can be a thankless job. It’s certainly not prestigious. Who wants to be outside in the winter cold or a downpour of rain collecting other people’s garbage anyway? Yet, somebody has to do it, right? It’s one of those jobs that you wouldn’t want to do yourself, but you’re glad somebody does. Try going for even one week without garbage pickup. We sure notice the trash pile up if we forget to take it out.

Before weekly curbside garbage pickup.
It’s hard to think of a time without weekly curbside garbage pickup. But there was. What did people do before weekly curbside pickup of the trash? For one, back then they didn’t have the throw-away society that we have today, so they had less rubbish to throw away. Still, they did generate some garbage. To get rid of it, they dug a hole in a remote corner of the back yard to toss their trash in. As the years went by, societies changed and the volume of waste they produced increased. This became a growing problem since many people couldn't dig a big enough hole or take their garbage to the dump. Others didn’t have a back yard to bury their waste in to begin with. So in 1943, the two Lakehead city councils instituted weekly house to house curbside pickup of waste that they would take to the dump.

A landfill site
The greatest volume of garbage generated is called solid waste which can refer to many things we throw away. These include everything from food waste to building materials. They are what we refer to as refuse and have the greatest environmental threat. If simply left to decay in a dump, refuse can become a serious threat to our health being a potential source of disease and an attraction to animals such as rats and bears. For those reasons, the garbage dump became to be seen as an unsatisfactory way to deal with our waste. The cities of Fort William and Port Arthur, like many Canadian cities, developed a landfill site in which to dispose of the refuse they collect. At a sanitary landfill, refuse is spread in a thin layer on the ground or in a trench. Then a layer of clean soil is spread over it. This process creates a mound consisting of alternating layers of refuse and soil.

>Recycling comes to town.
It was later observed that up to 50% of refuse is reusable. Recycling some of our unwanted materials, rather than simply throwing it all away, offered a solution to reduce the growing amount of refuse produced. So in the early 1970s, recycling came to town. The residents of Thunder Bay could now place their recyclables out at the curb for pickup right beside the regular trash.

But you don’t have to wait for the “garbage day” of the week for the City to come and pickup all of your unwanted stuff. There’s the DIY method, as well. The City of Thunder Bay provides two locations, one either end of the city, where you can sort out all your recyclable materials into bins any weekday. Or if you feel like a drive, the City’s Solid Waste and Recycling Facility (Landfill) on Mapleward Road will accept recyclables from anywhere in the District of Thunder Bay.

Recyclable materials include milk cartons, juice boxes • #1 and #2 plastics, glass bottles and jars (without the container lids), clean aluminum and steel cans, cardboard (eg. cereal boxes) and flattened corrugated cardboard boxes.

The landfill site accepts hazardous waste as well. They include; paint and hazardous coatings, solvents, antifreeze, pharmaceuticals, drain cleaner, spot remover, household cleansers, mercury thermometers, household batteries, spent fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent bulbs, oven cleaner, used motor oil, antifreeze, empty propane tanks, herbicides, pesticide, fertilizers and insecticides. The landfill handles compostable material such as leaf and yard waste, too. For more information visit the City of Thunder Bay’s website Garbage and Recycling page. Be sure to read their Green Guide.

It isn’t just trash anymore.
What we see as garbage today, has changed from years past. I’d say for the better. The 3Rs of waste management (reduce, reuse and recycle) will lead us to a cleaner and greener world that we all want and need. Reducing the amount of waste we generate will help our environment. Reusing things when we can will help us achieve that goal. As they say, someone's trash is someone else’s treasure. Recycling is a means of using the refuse itself as a resource. So, the next time you take your trash out to the curb for pickup, remember that it isn’t just trash anymore.

Brian G. Spare PhD is a local author, freelance copywriter who is a regular contributor to Bayview magazine. Watch for Brian’s upcoming memoir “The Boy Who Couldn’t Smile” to be published later this year. Contact him at

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