Talking trash (cans)

Talking trash (cans) October 20, 2017

We need to talk about lids, people. Lids for trash cans, lids for totes, bins, and containers of all kinds.

These things all come with lids. The lids are important. The lids are paid for. The lids are part of the thing you’re buying when you buy a trash can, or a tote, or a rubberized plastic storage container. These things all need lids.

But the thing is that many people who pay their hard-earned money for these things don’t take the lid. Many, many people.

When you buy a container, the lid comes with it. Take the lid, please.
When you buy a container, the lid comes with it. Take the lid, please.

Those are all leftover lids. The warehouse sends the Big Box a dozen trash cans and a dozen lids. We sell a dozen trash cans but maybe only eight of those customers take their lids. The same thing happens the following week, and the week after that, and the week after that. And then every few months when we get a chance we count cans and lids, notice that we have ridiculously more of the latter than of the former, and purge all the extra lids.

I appreciate that part of the problem here is one our side of the equation. Large capacity containers are awkward to merchandise conveniently and attractively. They take up a lot of space and so, to avoid having just one of each on the shelves, we nest them inside one another, and we can’t do that if we leave the lids on. So the lids are usually stacked nearby. In theory, this didn’t seem to be a complicating obstacle. In practice, it appears to be confusing.

My boss thinks that people don’t take the lids because they worry that lids cost extra. Let me clear that up: Lids do not cost extra.

When you buy the trash can, you’re also already buying the lid. It’s your lid. And now that you’ve taken your new trash can home, the store has no further use for that lid — it’s your lid, not theirs. It will sit around gathering dust and taking up space until it eventually winds up in a landfill, never having been used.

And that’s a shame, because lids are useful — they keep rain out of your trash can. They keep the wind from blowing loose bits of trash out of the bin and onto the street. They provide at least a modicum of challenge for the neighborhood raccoons.

The Big Box sells totes that cost more than the others because they have fancy lids: lids that snap, lids that lock, ingenious lids that snap and lock. These totes cost quite a bit more just because of their lids. Customers look at that higher price and think to themselves, “Yes, that extra $8 is worth it because that fancy lid is quite nice.”

And then they still leave the lid behind.

Those paid-for-but-untaken fancy lids also become useless when separated from the containers for which they were designed. They also wind up getting thrown out, taking up fancy space in the same landfill.

Point here being: Take your lid.

This odd lid-leaving phenomenon is good news for anyone who has lost their lid, or who owns a trash can or tote with a broken lid. Go back to the store you bought it from and ask if you can have a new lid to replace the old one. They’ll give it to you, for free. They’ll be happy to do so because, as you can see from that picture above, they have a lot of extras.

While we’re on the subject: That stack of extra lids on the right is all for 32-gallon trash cans. You do not want a 32-gallon trash can.

To understand why, look at the box of trash bags you use in your kitchen waste bin. That’s the biggest source of household trash — the can in the kitchen. This is usually a 13-gallon can. That’s why that box of bags says they’re the standard 13-gallon size. That size — 13 gallons — is what “kitchen trash bag” means.

Now, divide 32 by 13. See the problem here? The standard size for kitchen trash bags is 13 gallons and the customary size for the outdoor trash cans into which those bags will be deposited is 32 gallons. This is some sort of cruel practical joke. It means that after putting a couple of bags of kitchen trash in that can, it will look temptingly like you’ll be able to fit a third, but that third bag will not fit. Mathematically. The 32-gallon outdoor trash can will only hold 2.46 bags of trash from your kitchen.

(This is my theory as to why customers don’t take those lids. There’s no point in having a lid if you can’t close the thing because you’ve always got .54 bags of trash sticking up out of the top.)

In summary, it’s your lid, so take it with you. And tell your friends to take their lids, too.



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