Record amount of excess trash hauled away during Gastonia’s free week

Discarded items piled at the edge of a yard

What weighs as much as 195 cars? Or 74 adult elephants? Or 820 grand pianos?

The 369 tons of trash hauled away last week by City of Gastonia Solid Waste crews during the five days of Free Household Trash Week.

During the week of March 19, City residents put a record amount of unwanted furniture and other trash at the curb to be hauled away at no extra charge. That excess trash weighed 738,000 pounds.

What did residents throw away that added up to 369 tons? “Mostly old yard furniture or items you would find in your attic or outbuilding,” said DeeDee Gillis, division manager for City Solid Waste. She said the most unusual items left at the curb last week were pianos at several locations.

The total weight of the spring 2018 free trash pickup was 3 percent higher than the City’s previous record, which was set last fall. Although a 3 percent increase may not sound like much, it adds up to 22,000 additional pounds of trash or 11 more tons of junk hauled away at no charge.

Each spring and fall, the City offers one week of free excess trash pickup. Although most residents see it as a chance to get rid of unwanted stuff, Gillis noted that one person’s trash is another’s treasure. Some people drive up and down City streets during the free week. They pick through piles, hoping to grab some usable items or scrap metal before City crews haul away the discarded objects.

Not everything was free

Gillis also pointed out that free pickup doesn’t cover every unwanted item. “We had a couple hundred instances of paint cans with paint in them, not dried with kitty litter or sand,” she said. Paint cans containing wet paint are considered household hazardous waste and can’t be put with regular trash.

During the free week, the City still charges to haul away television sets, computers, appliances and tires, with or without rims. “Many people will be finding fees on their next utility invoice and may wonder why,” Gillis said. In its publicity about Free Household Trash Week, the City explains the fees for hauling away specific items. “We do everything possible to advertise that there is a charge for hauling away some items, even during our ‘free’ weeks,” Gillis said.

The City’s usual fee for hauling away excess household trash is $15 for up to 100 pounds and $25 for 100 pounds or more. It was waived last week for most items, but still applied to tires, electronics and appliances.

All 738,000 pounds of excess trash removed last week went to the Gaston County landfill in Dallas. Gastonia’s next free household trash pickup will be the week of Sept. 17, 2018.