To the Dump

It’s a weekly (happy) chore to most New Englanders.

Californians are horrified at the thought.

When my man and I moved to Massachusetts after 16 years in sunny California, our realtor informed us that we could choose to either pay for a trash pick-up service or select to take our trash to the town’s dump, euphemistically called the “transfer station.”

“I don’t think we even have to think about that one,” I answered.

“Exactly. The transfer station is the best choice,” the realtor agreed.

“But I meant…” I began.

“You’re new in town. The dump is where you’ll meet your neighbors, hear all the town gossip, and meet the local politicians,” she interrupted.

My guy and I glanced at each other and simultaneously exclaimed, “we’ll take the trash service.”

But our decision shocked our new New England friends.

“Why would you pay to have your trash taken away?” was a frequent question, underlined with a not-so-subtle inference that we wasted money and showed a lack of moral fortitude.

“But how do you ‘transfer’ the trash to the dump?” I’d stammer while still a Yankee newbie.

The looks of disbelief (and yes, a bit of disappointment) taught me that I was a foreigner, in a foreign land.

“You throw your trash bags – separated into garbage, cans, glass, paper – into your car, of course.”

I bit my tongue instead of following through with “what if you own a small car (which I did) and have a lot of trash?”

Because you know what the answer would be, don’t you.


You just make more than one trip.

dump, transfer station, New England

On the way to the N.E. dump.

But there are two other reasons besides New England thriftiness that drives residents to the dump.

No, we won't let you take this to the dump!

No, we won’t let you take this to the dump!

One of them is that you can bring your 25-year-old bike, the electric can opener that never worked, and your 21-year-old son’s baby blanket and “dump” them into the garage-like shack at the transfer station.

Someone will be (anonymously) forever grateful.

Now that I’m back on the left coast, I admit to a twinge of remorse when I roll out the large brown trash bin to the curb, all clean and neat and easy.

So after trash day this week, I call a lovely New England friend and ask her how she’s handling her husband’s early retirement.

“Oh, it’s fabulous!” she declares. “He’s never home – he goes to the transfer station three times a day. He finds old junk in our basement to get rid of every week.

transfer station, New England, dump, old treasure

The boys meet at the transfer station.

I laugh, knowing he also meets his buddies there, including the former mayor, the reclusive billionaire, and their stockbroker.

“What could be more perfect?” I ask.

skies, antiques, transfer station“Welll,” she vacillates. “Not perfect. He comes home with new treasure every time, like an ancient pair of skies (‘maybe I’ll learn this year,’ he says) and a 1980s pair of sunglasses that reminds him of the kind he lost 30 years ago.”

“On the plus side, he’s out of the house,” I remind her.

“Oh, the dump has saved our marriage,” she agrees.

And that’s the third reason New Englanders go to the dump.

31 thoughts on “To the Dump

  1. The dump near our cottage has a dump store. It’s a spot set aside for stuff that’s too good to really throw away. Last time I was there, I saw one of the original Apple PCs with a sign “Still Works!”


  2. We have transfer stations here in VA, too. But they aren’t buddy hangouts. Not that I go that often…that’s a trip for my husband and the dog…but they are mostly just chain-link fenced recycling containers and huge dumpsters. No shacks, no place to hang out.
    But there is one feature that I was unaware of until my grandson clued me in. “Doing errands with Lady and Grandpa” ALWAYS includes a trip to the donut shop…even though the nearest one is NOWHERE near the transfer station. End result is the same…get rid of the trash, get the husband out of the house.


  3. Love this blog, I am afraid to invite any one to my house. My husband brings back “treasures” from the “Carlisle Mall” every week..I am afraid my company will spot their junk in my house….it’s a sickness!


  4. Maybe it’s the answer to re-kindling an old community spirit that has been lost in recent times? In Britain it’s the pub, France the pentanque ‘terrain, in MA the transfer station.


    • You know what? I think you’re absolutely right. For New Englanders, going to the dump is a wonderful way to be community spirited. And you should see their town meetings!! HUNDREDS show up, and they debate until past midnight. It’s very impressive. (However, I kinda like Britain’s place of community better….)


  5. Funny story. I lived in Maine for a while, and we did trips to the dump. But I would never take stuff OUT, just deposit. And a few tiimes I noticed a few four-legged critters I’d prefer not to cross paths with.


    • Ha ha – I kind of envision the wolves and the foxes gathering together around the ‘big hill’ of trash and whispering to each other, “whoa, look at what THAT guy just brought for us!”


  6. When we first moved to Cutchogue we had garbage service. First you had to buy these big yellow bags- $6.25 for three. You couldn’t put plastic, cans, glass or aluminum in the yellow bags! the garbage man was extremely particular and many times wouldn’t take the recyclables and would leave them. We were paying for this “service”. That ended quickly and now my man goes to the dump weekly. Look at all the money we saved


    • Yes, I admit, Californians are very sensitive and dare I say, obsessive, about their recycling. I actually had a employee of an office near mine go through my office trash after I dumped it (I thought into the proper containers) and then castigate me for putting my dried out tea bag into the recycling bin.(Who knew? I thought high-end tea bags were very recyclable….)
      And I love imagining your guy taking your trash to the dump – I think men get into this more than most woman, don’t you?


  7. When I first read this I thought it was a joke but after reading the other comments, it is just another good reason to live in the South. We have garbage trucks come by once a week and don’t care what you have in the can.


  8. Oh my, that would be a no brainer for me. My cottage business is Repurposeful Design. I would be in hog heaven at the transfer station! I wish we had something like that in Oklahoma. We have dumps, but they are very costly and we only go once a year or two. I do recycle or compost everything that I can and then burn the rest. I am very thrifty and refuse to pay for trash pickup!


  9. Oh I had forgotten all about the dump! As kids, we looked forward to our Saturday trips to the dump with my dad! We now have curbside trash service since moving to Northboro…but I have to tell you that we have Wayland friends who have pretty much furnished their house with wonderful finds from the dump! Good times!


  10. Here in Surrey England we have our rubbish collected and we pay for this through our local council tax. One week they collect general rubbish and separated food waste (two bins). The next week they collect recycling (which is sorted for us at the depot – cans, glass, plastic, paper, foil) and garden waste (two further bins). They also take used clothes and small unwanted electrical items. At the local supermarket we can drop off used batteries, printer ink, plastic carrier bags. But we still go to the dump to get rid of larger items. At our local dump there are great staff who will show you where to put stuff and help you empty your car boot.
    We moan a lot in England – but I can see we actually get a good deal for our taxes. I think I would like the community spirit thing though!


    • Wow, I’m impressed with the recycling that goes on in Surrey. Even a pick up for used clothes and electrical items! Here in my town (as in many others in bay area) we have a ‘thrift shop’ where people drop off nicely used items and people BUY the used items. The proceeds go to local non-profits and churches. Works well.


    • You know? You’re right! I’m halfway through writing a new novel about a long-married couple who run into some interesting obstacles. The dump just might be the place to put things in perspective for them. Thanks for the help!


  11. This is great, Pam! “The dump has saved our marriage”…this line is precious. (I would have been tempted to put it in the headline.) We, as you might imagine, must load our garbage bags into the car and transport to a dump truck waiting in town. My husband usually does the honors. He and Charley, the driver, talk about knee replacements and such.


  12. As a life-long New Englander who still remembers countless Saturday trips to the dump with my father as a child, this post made me smile. Now I know my mother was probably enjoying her “alone time” at home!


  13. I love trips to the dump here in the Seattle area. However, we aren’t allowed to bring things back. It is just an awesome feeling to get rid of the trash and smell the trash. Breath deep my friends; it won’t last forever!


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