At the trash blog, we write two different sorts of stories – those that Phil researchers, and those that I research. When I am in charge we have an interview set up, an address, a contact, a meeting time – we have a plan. When Phil is in charge… things go a little differently. Camelot II is one example.
Phil had read about a neighborhood somewhere in San Antonio called Camelot II that had a problem with illegal dumping. That was the extent of his knowledge. Phil’s plan? Stop at a gas station and ask. 32 gas stations later, we were warm on the trail.
Camelot II is just outside of San Antonio’s city limits; the neighborhood has no ordinances requiring property-owners to have garbage collection services. Newspaper articles as recently as March of this year depict mounds of garbage in the streets and decry rat infestations.
After hours of slogging through the muggy San Antonio heat we came upon Camelot II. Needless to say, I was no longer looking my perkiest, but not even frizzola hair and general dehydration will stop this trashblogger.
To well describe Camelot II you have to have an idea of what Camelot I is like. Camelot I is a simple but nice looking subdivision with its main streets, Merlin Avenue, Round Table Drive, and Sir Gareth Street (you think I am joking…), nicely kept. Camelot II is located nearby and may as well be Morgan Le Fey. However, the street names remain equally amusing; every street in Camelot II begins with Glen – Glen Point, Glen Mont, Glen Heather, Glen Glen… easy to get lost.
Driving around the Glens we couldn’t find any garbage. Everything seemed normal enough, though we noticed a ‘No Dumping’ sign or two. But as we penetrated deeper into the neighborhood we noticed these more and more; soon there were ‘No Dumping’ signs posted every 100 ft or so. Individuals had even hung signs on their fences and windows.
So, had everything been cleaned up since the newspaper articles?
We saw some ladies cooling themselves on their porch, casually hosting a garage sale. We decided to pull over and ask where the garbage had gone. The two women were sisters – Olivia and Christine. When we told them what we were looking for they were happy to tell us what they knew.
“Dumping? Oh yeah, there was dumping.” Though they confirmed that the problem had lessened a bit lately, some areas – particularly alley ways – were still constantly filled with garbage. They told us that it would shock us if we drove by. They had even had someone dump garbage on their front lawn and they were planning to move because of the issue.
We drove to the alley they had directed us to. Phil even bumped over a curb to get to it. And sure enough, there was a lot of garbage.
Olivia and Christine have weekly garbage service, available in Camelot II for $55 for 3 months of service. But not everyone buys this as it is not required. I wondered whether the alley garbage could have been coming from outside the neighborhood, but Olivia and Christine, and every newspaper article we could find on the subject, report that it is internal.
If it is residents who are dumping their own garbage in alleys just behind their own homes, what does this mean about how we understand ‘away’? How is putting garbage in an alley way different than keeping it in the backyard? Is it because there is a fence that makes it invisible? Is it that the alley is a public space, so the garbage no longer feels like a personal responsibility? Or it no longer makes one ‘dirty’ by association? For that matter, for how long is trash our personal responsibility? When does trash go from being personally ours, to anonymous and a public problem? Is it when the garbage truck lifts your can and adds it to the compactor with everyone else’s garbage on the block?
What makes something feel like ‘away’ to us – lack of visibility? lack of responsibility? lack of association?
Trash is an interesting commodity.