Fribble Garbage Cans of Gold

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By Ron W. McFarland (QtrMagnet)
December 1, 2000

[This classic Fribble originally ran on November 15, 1999.]

Postulate: The amount of garbage a household produces is directly correlated to the amount of money wasted by that household.

Now, if I remember my geometry right, once a postulate is formulated, one must then present evidence to prove it. My proof is offered in the form of the following observation:

In my neighborhood, each homeowner is required to purchase a big, black garbage container in order to use the municipal refuse disposal system. Each week, a large garbage truck rumbles by and, amid the hum of hydraulics, each container is robotically grasped, emptied, and returned to the curb. The cans cost $70 each and the weekly garbage service costs $5.40 per month for each container used.

All my neighbors have at least two garbage cans and some have three. Despite the fact that I have the largest family in our cul-de-sac, we seem to get along just fine with a single container. I've long been puzzled by this disparity, but last Christmas I finally figured it out. After the normal Christmas morning cleanup, I wheeled my partially filled container to the curb. Later, as I returned to the dumpster to dispose of one last bundle of trash, I discovered it to be completely full. Someone, having exhausted the volume of their own multiple containers, had crammed their excess refuse into mine!

Our household had enjoyed a typically modest, yet fulfilling, Christmas celebration. As I looked around at all the overflowing containers, it was clear that our neighbors had opened considerably more gifts than we had. The garbage in those overflowing containers was the result of spent money. The sacks and boxes that contained the presents were immediately junked; but inevitably, the actual gifts will be discarded. Like old elephants lumbering off to their final community graveyard, so the shiny, new things we buy today eventually make their way to a garbage heap. The more stuff purchased and brought into the home, the more volume eventually needed to take it away to the dump -- resulting in more "little annuities" paid to garbage handlers.

The investment opportunity lost due to the use of just one additional garbage can is over $17,000 (initial purchase and the monthly lease invested at 11% for 30 years). Add that $17,000 to the wasteful spending that creates the need for the extra garbage container (or two) in the first place, and the result is a bona fide fortune literally wasted away.

[Editor's note: One place money is never wasted: Foolanthropy 2000. The Fool community has selected five great organizations for this year's charity drive.]