My three-year-old son and I were up bright and early last Saturday, for a long-anticipated trip to the trash yard. It might seem like an odd place for a family outing, but each year thousands of children and their families look forward to heading to their local trash yard for fun, food and festivities as part of a series of open houses hosted by the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation. This year more than 3,000 kids and families attended the June 26 open house at the West Los Angeles District Yard, which hosts the largest of the events.
Crowds packed in for a chance to sit in the driver’s seat, honk the horn and even ride on garbage trucks and pull the levers to dump and crush trash as well as see exhibits, play games that teach kids about recycling, and encounter the roving do-good duo of Blue Robo and Mr. Recycle, two automated trash bins that light up, spin, talk and teach kids about their mission of “Zero Waste.” All kid attendees also received free yellow engineer hats to wear, and grown-ups could get free compost and tree sprigs to plant at home.
Lines began forming at the West Los Angeles yard on Stoner Avenue long before the gates opened at 9 am with eager kids waiting to get their turn at playing a truck operator, climbing aboard fork lifts and backhoes and getting up close and personal with other trash department vehicles and machines. While the occasional waft of rotting garbage was a reminder to attendees that they were standing in the middle of a trash depot, nobody seemed to mind. In fact, the event draws significant numbers of return attendees and continues to grow by word-of-mouth each year and has become so popular it has its own blog (http://bureauofsanitationopenhouses.blogspot.com/).
Though the open houses happens once a year, at our house the fascination with garbage trucks is weekly, and year-round, with every-Thursday chases down the alley behind our home to follow first the black-bin refuse truck, then the green-bin yard-waste truck and then finally the blue-bin recycling truck.
Even with a house-call once a week, my son can’t get enough of garbage trucks, so I was thrilled that Matchbox just launched a new toy, Stinky the Garbage Truck ($59.99, Toys R Us), a 18” replica garbage truck that pops up on its rear wheels and talks, with sassy sayings like, “I’m Stinky, are you?” So now my son can get his trash truck fix daily.
Garbage may be yucky, but I don’t mind a bit that my preschooler has an obsession with garbage trucks and dumping garbage. After all, it won’t be too long before he is old enough to help with chores, and my hope is that he will actually love to take out the trash, and he will do it without ever having to be asked!