When Garbage Confused the Hell Out of Us! (Canada Diaries)

By Piyushi Dhir

You’ve read our roller-coaster story of getting a Canadian Permanent Residence, almost losing it and then, finally arriving at our destination for good.

Anyway, once we did indeed get here and started assimilating into the Canadian culture, we faced a series of hilarious “adjustment-issues’. Well, they did not always elicit humour at the very moment when we were trying to come to terms with these ‘situations’, but in retrospect, some of them have been quite funny.

I want to share these moments with you because if you’ve ever moved from the ‘third-world’ to the ‘first-world’, you will relate to these. If you are soon to make such a move, you’ll enjoy knowing what to look forward to. And if you’re happily settled wherever you are, you’re just going to get a good laugh out of this read!

Sorting Garbage in Canada

Sorting Garbage in Canada

One of the first mind-boggling problems we faced on arrival into this country was garbage. They very day my son and I landed in Canada, my husband, in his excitement to meet us at the airport, forgot to put the garbage outside. You see, it was Thursday, and his oversight meant that we had to preserve our refuse for another week, because the garbage collection truck comes around only once a week.

The following Thursday, I ensured that hubby dear walked out of the driveway and placed our by-now-stinking bags on the curb like everyone else. I also stayed glued to the window to ensure that those bags were indeed going far away from us that day. Imagine my horror, when the garbage truck stopped by at every house, skipped ours and went on to the next neighbour.

Sub-zero temperatures notwithstanding, hubby dear was made to run behind the truck and speak to the driver to understand why our garbage had been entirely ignored. Shivering, he returned with the report that it was only green and blue garbage collection day; black bags would be picked up the following week. While he brought our sorry and smelly black bags right back inside, I stormed off to my laptop in a huff and decided to decode the mystery of Canada’s garbage.

I learned, within a quarter of an hour, that we had to sort all our garbage to begin with. Blue bags, with recyclable garbage, and green compostable bags, with organic kitchen garbage, would be picked up every Thursday. We would only be relieved of a maximum of four black garbage bags on alternate Thursdays. Then there was electronic garbage, yard garbage and a couple of other brackets.

Sorting Garbage in Many Coloured Dustbins

Sorting Garbage in Many Coloured Dustbins

Following my research, hubby dear was packed off to the nearest Walmart to pick up the rainbow variety of garbage bags that were required. He came back grumbling about the cost of the ‘de-compostable’ organic garbage bags, which were about ten times more expensive than ordinary black garbage bags. Multiple dustbins were created in the house and in the week that ensued, I kept annoying the husband with questions like, “Is tissue paper compostable?”, “Is this pamphlet recyclable?”, “Is the egg carton for the black or the blue bin?”

Finally, the third Thursday since my arrival dawned. To my intense relief, all colours of garbage bags were finally whisked off. Things have not always been easy since then. There have been mornings when we’ve woken up to our kitchen refuse being mauled by rodents outside. We’ve had to thaw our frozen strewn garbage with hot water, before gathering it back into the dustbin.

But if I’m ever inclined to complain, I carry myself back in time to my good old days in India, when people in our neighbourhood woke up in the morning, took a nice yawn and stretch and then flung out their garbage from the window right onto the street. The municipality workers, they were sure, would take care of the ensuing mess. If it was a Sunday, too bad, the garbage could lie around for a day and a half before it would be cleaned up.

Every morning, I weaved my way through these offending packages strewn across the neighbourhood, to reach an auto-rickshaw and make my way to work. I hated starting each morning with such an onslaught to my visual and olfactory senses. I tried not to even think of the hygiene-issues of such callous treatment of garbage. Dogs, cats and cows alike helped themselves to the packets, tearing them to shreds and spreading everyone’s personal refuse all across the streets.

Compared to that gory past, I could hardly complain if Canada is so particular and organized about their refuse. I’d take this any day. The funny thing though, is that my recent obsession over garbage sorting and disposal has extended to my toddler son. Not only does his limited vocabulary now include the words “garbage” and “dustbin”, he also loves to dispose off any and everything that comes his way into the many “duffins” (dustbins) placed around the house!

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About the Author

Piyushi Dhir is the author of 'In Search of Love', 'I'm Yours, The Next Time', 'Silent Promises' and 'Enmeshed Evermore'. She is a contributor in 'Nineteen Tales of COVID-19', a collection of short stories. A voracious reader, a keen traveler, a businesswoman and a mom, Piyushi currently resides in Canada. A nomad at heart, she loves to discover new places and capture the hues of life with her pen.