My Neighbor Doesn’t Have Trash Service. Isn’t That Illegal?

Yes, landlords are required to maintain regular waste collection service at their rental properties, but homeowners aren’t.

Trash piles up in a Southeast Portland alley. (Blake Benard)

My neighbor is a recluse. He came out and said some vaguely racist stuff once, and I know he’s still there because his young daughter rides the school bus. However, he doesn’t have trash service. Isn’t that illegal? Even if it’s not, where does the trash go? —Nosy Neighbor

Come, come, Nosy, you don’t know he’s a recluse—there could be some perfectly innocent reason why you never see him. (The reason I’m rooting for is, “the little girl murdered him and dissolved his body with quicklime,” but I’ve probably been listening to too many true crime podcasts.)

Whatever sinister goings-on may be afoot next door, they don’t include trash violations. Yes, landlords are required to maintain regular waste collection service at their rental properties, but homeowners aren’t. As long as your neighbor (or what’s left of him) is keeping the place clear of trash, vermin and bad smells, how he gets rid of his garbage is his business.

The likeliest scenario for how he does this is also the most boring: Whether out of miserliness or spite, your neighbor is now hauling his trash himself. The Metro Central transfer station (aka the dump), for example, will take up to 300 pounds of garbage off your hands for $35.

Of course, your regular trash hauler will pick up 175 pounds of trash every other week—so over 350 pounds a month—for $45.* And, of course, haulers also throw in weekly compost and recycling pickup, so I’m not really seeing the advantage of your boy’s DIY method, but to each his own.

The rest of us do face some challenges, notably the inevitably overflowing can. This raises the question: Whatever happened to trash compactors? Sure, they were a stupid idea in the ‘70s (one review at the time asked, “Do you really need a $200 machine to turn 20 pounds of trash into 20 pounds of trash?”), but surely, in these times of biweekly trash pickup, they’re ripe for a comeback. Every trash day, we try to fit 80 gallons of trash into a 60-gallon can by hand, and I, for one, could use some technological assistance. I’ll bet you could too. Let’s revive the trash compactor, and finally bring the garbage business into the 20th century, where it belongs.

*The price for a 90-gallon can, the largest option for a house or smallplex.

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