Dumpster diving

Trash collection in St. Louis consists of shared dumpsters in the alleys.  All alleys have two kinds of dumpsters, one for trash and one for yard waste.  The trash dumpsters are clearly marked, “No yard waste,” and the yard waste dumpsters are clearly marked, “Yard waste only.”  The city collects the yard waste for compost.  Since we rent, we have not started our own compost pile, so we use the yard waste bins for our vegetable and fruit scraps.

The problem?  Some people fail to comprehend that, “Yard waste only,” means, “Do not put your regular trash here.”  Or they comprehend it and are too lazy to walk 30 feet farther to the appropriate dumpster.

I can’t stand to see non-compostable matter in the yard waste dumpster because it means that either a) everything in the dumpster, including the yard waste, will be thrown away, or b) the contents of the dumpster will be composted, with trash mixed in to it.

The other day, I noticed some non-sanctioned items on the very bottom of the almost empty yard waste dumpster.  The dumpster with, “Yard waste only,” clearly printed on it.  I rolled up my sleeves, gritted my teeth, and dove in to correct the matter.

Immediately after, I looked out our front window and saw that someone had set a million polystyrene take-out containers on the top of our recycling bin.  Not only does our recycling program not accept polystyrene (or any #6 plastics), but the presence of forbidden materials in our bin can cause them to skip our weekly pick-up.  Can you hear my screams of frustration through the computer?

In conclusion, memo to my neighbors: 1)there is a reason the yard waste dumpster says, “Yard waste only,” and 2)please do not put your dirty non-recyclable trash in my recycling bin.  It may come as a shock, but I don’t want those containers, and I don’t particularly enjoy pulling stuff out of the dumpster.


  1. We applaud your efforts to lead an environmentally responsible lifestyle (e.g., recycling, vegetarianism, walking and cycling). The City of St. Louis actually has a large number of residents who share these ideals and are actively participating in a more sustainable community.

    We regret to inform you that, at this time, yard waste collected by the City of St. Louis Refuse Division from alley/curbside dumpsters/rollcarts is not composted. Technically, Missouri and Illinois laws have banned yard waste from landfills (it was taking up too much space). However, they both allow it to be composted and used as alternative daily cover in the landfill. At one time, ours was processed to be used for that purpose, but it has been found to be too contaminated for even that. We are working to educate residents to keep yard waste separated. Two recent measures include 1) changing yard waste dumpster color from a dark brown to a vivid green and 2) revising signage to “Green Waste” on yard waste dumpsters and “Trash Only” on trash dumpsters. Our goal is to eventually compost all of our yard waste (it’s about 13% of our waste stream). Note that any yard waste delivered by residents to the City of St. Louis Forestry Division (the Hall Street facility) is composted. Food waste is a different matter. It can be more challenging to compost. We hope eventually to compost our food waste (it’s about 13% of our waste stream).

    Best wishes for continued green living!

    Ms. Jill Hamilton
    Recycling Program Manager
    City of St. Louis Refuse Division
    E-Mail hamiltonj@stlouiscity.com
    Web http://stlouis.missouri.org/citygov/refuse
    Fax 314.352.5627
    Phone 314.353.8877
    4100 South First Street, St. Louis, Missouri 63118-3313

  2. chrisinstlouis@sbcglobal.net says:

    AMEN! Gald someone else gets irritated over the same stuff I do! My neighbors think I over react. I’m also sick of specific neighbors not using trash bags and just dumping their trash can into the dumpster – smelly food, chemicals and all. When the city picks up, the loose refuge blows down the alleyway. And while we’re on the subject, it should be illegal for people to dumpster dive in the blue recycle bins for aluminum cans and other metal. This is an eyesore and potential revenue for the city.

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