Twenty-four hours to go. The countdown has begun. I just hope I can get through this day and then I can start afresh — with an empty wheelie bin.

Delaney, 6 months old, July 2010

Early last Thursday morning, David and I were both still dozing under the warm covers when we heard the garbage truck drive by. “Did you put the bin out?” I asked, and this prompted David to rise quickly, get dressed and take our bin out to the other side of the street where it would be emptied on the garbage truck’s return trip.

Except that the truck had already passed our house twice. We had been woken by its return trip, and now we were stuck with a week’s worth of rubbish.

Which normally isn’t a big deal. But David’s air compressor had committed suicide in a spectacular fashion — leaping from the top of the forklift as it was raised to roof-height — and David buried it in the wheelie bin.

So our wheelie bin was already full. Very full.

In the last week, I managed to squeeze two more bags of rubbish around the air compressor, but now I know we’re at the breaking point. The bins under the kitchen sink are overflowing to the point that the door doesn’t close properly any more.

I have pile of rubbish growing on the kitchen sink. I know it won’t fit in the bins, and I don’t have anywhere else to put it. But can I stand to leave it there for a whole extra day?

My desk’s waste-paper basket is also full. One week of rubbish that comes in the mail or off my desk — it all adds up! (We don’t even get junk mail!)

And there’s the toxic waste. Each time I change a nappy (and I have three girls who wear them at one point or the other during the day/night), I look at it and wonder where I am going to put it.

If I had just delayed Delaney’s introduction to solids, we may be able to get away with a tidy pile of buttermilk-pooey nappies off to one side. But, no, she’s sharing everything we eat now, and I happened to notice David feeding her a curry for breakfast yesterday. So when I deal with that inevitable outcome, it will have to be bagged and binned properly — outside the house.

In fact, I know that when all three younger girls wake up this morning, I will have a serious waste-management issue. I still haven’t formed an action plan.

Perhaps I could stockpile my bags around the corner of the house and hope no guest pop in. (But you know that my kids, or the dog, or the cat would surely start poking them and I would eventually have a horrible mess to clean up…)

Should I take my full bags of rubbish with me with the shops and shove them furtively into the public bins? Would I be able to pull off a lightning attack on a commercial company’s skip?

Do I dare throw some of my bags into my neighbour’s bin? Would they even notice if I did? (Hmmm, and I wonder if my friend still has a rubbish skip in her front yard, and if I could toss a bag over her fence and into it before driving off madly.)

Thinking about these issues, I wonder too if I should feel more guilty about the amount of rubbish we generate. We don’t have chooks anymore, and when we did, they ate a lot of our rubbish. In fact, between them and the dog, all food scraps were taken care of. Now, however, I throw away food that could produce wonderful, sunny eggs.

I also think (very briefly) about the environmental impact of all those disposable nappies. But my conscience has been soothed by updated research showing that disposable and reusable nappies have much the same impact on the environment over the life-cycle of the product.

Here in the city, we have a second wheelie bin that is used for recyclable rubbish only, and I love to recycle when I can. I purpose-built a third bin in our kitchen just for the recyclables, but it’s not much use when I’m trying to dispose of general household waste.

I know that when we move to New Zealand (still trying to stay positive here), it’s likely that we’ll be charged for every amount of refuse we take to the rubbish tip. That’s _instead_of paying for the privilege of having them collected at the end of our driveway. But at $3 per bag or $10 per wheelie bin load, I will have to carefully consider the amount of rubbish that our family generates.

There’s a British family who have managed to change their habits so completely that they only need to have their bin emptied once a year. They only have one child, and she’s out of nappies, and I suspect they’re hoarders but their story is inspiring nonetheless.

So, there’s a lot to think about in the next twenty-four hours. Plenty to distract me from the unpleasant smells and overflowing bins. I’ll be right — especially this time tomorrow.