Where I grew up in rural North Carolina, families had to dispose of their own trash. My older sisters and I hated taking out the scraps after mealtimes. In the 1950s we didn’t use the terms “composting” or “biodegradable”; we just knew to return food to the earth. Our parents gave us strict instructions about where to dump the scraps (the woods) and where not to dump them (the yard). Our father burned paper garbage in a rusty oil drum. Larger items were hauled to the dump.

Eventually the county began picking up trash from residences in our area. I don’t recall how often the truck came, but I do remember that every night after supper my recently widowed father would ask my new stepmother if she wanted to walk outside with him to take out the trash. Delivering the garbage to the can after dinner provided a daily romantic rendezvous for the giddy newlyweds.