Let Inga Tell You: What to do when your trash bin gets trashed

Inga was pleasantly surprised to learn that you can get a new lid for your city trash bin for free — with some catches.
Inga was pleasantly surprised to learn that you can get a new lid for your beat-up city trash bin for free — with some catches.

I’m taking bets now: How many pickups will it take for the garbage collectors to splinter the brand-new lid of my city black trash bin?

I don’t want to skew the betting, but when we replaced the bin three years ago, it took them all of two weeks.

Those city-issued bins of all colors are no match for city trash trucks. I’m on my fourth black bin at this point. On my street, you’d be hard-put to find a black bin that isn’t duct-taped together.

Our garbage pickup vehicles are seemingly modeled after one of those really scary amusement park rides. Arms shoot out from the trash truck, grab the container and flip it upside down over the top of the truck, then hurl it back to the pavement at high velocity, inflicting whiplash on the receptacle’s lid.

I have this fantasy that the trash guys entertain themselves by seeing who can splinter the most bins in a given trash day. (“Good one, George! You got the wheels totally off that one!”)

In fairness, I’ll bet that job gets a little boring.

A few months ago, I included a photo with my column of the taped tops of both my black trash and blue recycling bins. Seriously, there was more tape than lid at that point, chunks of plastic lid having been strewn into the street pretty much weekly.

But when we’ve had rain in recent months, the bins ended up getting filled with water, despite my best efforts. So I finally decided that both bins would have to be replaced. Black city trash bins cost $70, plus $25 to deliver. Up to two recycling bins (64- and 96-gallon size) are free.

On the city Environmental Services Department FAQs, Question 4 asks: “Why do I have to pay for a trash container that the trash truck broke?” The non-answer basically comes down to, “Because we said so.” It is a seriously touchy subject among the San Diego citizenry.

If you go to the Environmental Services website, you will note that the black city-issued bins are considered to have a functional life of 10 years. Once you stop laughing, you can further read that should you (or they) determine that your bin has become unusable before that time, you can apply to have a new one provided at a pro-rated cost (determined by them), plus a $25 delivery charge unless you want to show up at Collection Services at 8353 Miramar Place to pick it up yourself. Fortunately, we had an accommodating neighbor with a truck when we replaced ours.

You can, of course, provide your own black bin, but it has to be a very specific model suitable for abuse by the city’s trucks. And if they break it or it gets stolen, it’s on you. Of course, even if their own can gets stolen, that’s on you, too.

But here’s a really hot tip, one that was totally news to me. If your black bin is less than 10 years old (see “functional life” above), you can get a new lid. For free! But like everything else related to city trash pickup, there’s a catch: You have to go pick it up at Collection Services at 8353 Miramar Place. And there’s a second catch: You have to have the nine-digit serial number prominently marked on your bin. No serial number, no lid. No negotiation.

They even show you, between deafening jet takeoffs at Miramar, how to remove the old lid and put on the new one using a tool that they have and you won’t. But a small flat-head screwdriver is a reasonable substitute.

I was even hoping to get a new lid for my small 35-gallon blue recycling bin. It’s the only size that fits in the space we have for it. Much to my disappointment, they not only don’t have lids for that size bin, the bins aren’t even made anymore. But the nice gentlemen informed me that you can buy reasonable facsimiles of the small blue bins at The Home Depot. OK, one out of two wasn’t bad.

Fortunately, we don’t live in Chula Vista, the site of an ill-timed (is there ever a good time?) Christmas trash strike that would rival anything I remember in New York. Watching the news every night, I could only watch in horror as this nightmare went on for week after rat-and-stench-afflicted week. So maybe having your bins destroyed is not as bad as not having them picked up at all.

But I’m terrified to think about what is going to happen when the city issues green bins for mandatory food waste composting later this year. Gaping holes in the lids of bins filled with raw food waste is a nightmare too horrible to imagine. Alas, start imagining.

Inga’s lighthearted looks at life appear regularly in the La Jolla Light. Reach her at ◆