Hard Rubbish Day & other strange Australianisms – Shoeper Shoe Challenge #13 of 105


Ravel Black Ankle Boots

I’ve been living in Australia for eleven years now.  If you are Australian, don’t read beyond this sentence.


Psst, everyone else – listen up – Australians are seriously weird.

Let’s leave the national obsession with rubber sandals aka flip flops aka thongs to the one side.

Let’s not mention the fact that you cannot buy alcohol in the supermarkets.

Let’s forget that they shorten (or lengthen) every word that they possibly can and then add the letter ‘o’ at the end.

The really REALLY weird thing about Australians is the fact that they like sifting through other people’s rubbish and then taking bits of it home with them.

The Age reports Trevor Flood's arrest for uplifting a vacuum cleaner from a pile of rubbish

You will see mention in the above news report of Hard Rubbish Day aka Council Clean Up day.  This, for non-Australian people, effectively means leaving all your difficult, unfriendly and inconvenient bits of garbage  – Old fridges, mattresses, broken children’s toys, bits of tree limbs, buggered power tools – on the grassy bit outside your house which is called a ‘nature strip’. In this case nature is a misleading and deceptive euphemism for a bit of scabby grass with more than a few ants and some dog poo on it.

Twice a year Kogarah Council sticks a wee leaflet through our letter box that announces Council Clean Up Day.  Rubbish is designated by its Heap Status. Heap Statuses range from A to C with detailed instructions on how to dispose of your rubbish as follows:


Bundled vegetation prunings and tree loppings bundled in one metre lengths, with a maximum width of 15 centimetres (just under 6 inches). Please tie with natural string.


Metal and white goods fridges, stoves and washing machines. Please remove all doors.


General household waste including small items of furniture, mattresses, lounges etc.

Bearing in mind that it is not possible to sell everything on eBay (more’s the pity) and that council rubbish tips can charge you $20.00 to dispose of an old mattress, theoretically Hard Rubbish Day is a good idea.

For us it starts off quite well – we blindfold the children and put their books and toys rubbish out in bags and boxes in neat and tidy piles.

However, no sooner do we put our garbage out then someone turns up as if by magic and starts rifling energetically through it occasionally huckling it into the back of a white van and making off with it.  The quickest huckle ever was for an old Mountain Buggy(R)  pram that had finally given up under the strain of two children. It took 5 minutes from our garage to the nature strip to a waiting nearby white van.

It’s all a wee bit unseemly and embarrassing if not for the scavengers for me. What happens if I see someone picking up my throwaway items? Do I give them a cheery smile, shake their hands, thank them and tell them to enjoy my rubbish?  Worse, what happens if they rifle through my stuff and find absolutely nothing of interest to them. What if, heavens forfend, my rubbish is not good enough to steal. What do I do then?

Worse still than the embarrassment of putting out unstealable rubbish is the way that rubbish collectors rifle through tightly packed boxes, sometimes tipping them  over leaving your sub-standard, nobody-wants-me rubbish out in the rain feeling sorry for itself. This is usually when our half-deaf Russian neighbour yells at me that I am bringing down the tone of the neighbourhood.

Bearing in mind that I am posing for photographs in front of my own rubbish, he’s not that wrong.

Spot the Rubbish - Remnants of Recent Fossicking in the Suburbs

It’s all a bit unseemly really and reminds me of an old Scottish joke that describes the differences between the denizens of Glasgow and Edinburgh:

In Edinburgh, if you see a table and chairs on the pavement is a Continental cafe.

Rose Street Cafe, Edinburgh

In Glasgow, it’s a warrant sale.

Australian people – have you ever picked up anything interesting from a council clean up? Everyone else? Just smile and wave, smile and wave

26 thoughts on “Hard Rubbish Day & other strange Australianisms – Shoeper Shoe Challenge #13 of 105

  1. I got my microwave from the kerb. Works a treat 🙂

    Last time I moved house, I got rid of quite a lot of stuff by leaving on the sidewalk. To my surprise (and delight) it *all* went, even the crap that I thought nobody would take. I guess everyone just wanted a piece of my junk 😉

    • When you say ‘works a treat’ does that mean that it works or that it sort of works and entertains you by incinerating things at random? I should say that I have no luck whatsoever with microwaves.

      • My previous microwave was the one that incinerated things at random. It was a hand-me-down from my grandparents who no longer needed it after they moved into an aged-care facility. I’d broken up with my partner and was short both a microwave and cash, so I took it. It wasn’t so much old as old-school. It had a dial for setting the cooking time, which isn’t so bad for re-heating leftovers or defrosting a casserole, but sometimes you need to control it to something closer than +/- 1 minute, which is about as close as you could get it.

        A few months later, I found my current one on the nature strip – it works perfectly and has digital controls.

  2. as an Australian, al I can say is that our sandals were/are not made of rubber (when I was a kid). They were made of hard plastic as God intended. I never owned a pair.

    I recently picked up a nice guitar practice amp on the nature strip. Mosman people throw out nice stuff. Years ago, when out for an after dark walk, I picked up a beautifully hand made gypsy wagon, a lovingly made toy for some child decades before. I was gobsmacked at my luck. Determined to complete my walk, I put the wagon down so I could get it on the way back. Of course, it wasn’t there 30 minutes later. It no doubt ended up at some antique shop.

    Golden rule of scavenging…if you see it and you want it, then someone else will too, so scarper with it.

    (Please note the Britisms I have included for some imported readers so they will feel appreciated)

  3. Yes numerous times.
    Not to take home though, to use in short films. The stuff’s free, it usually doesn’t matter whether it works or not as long as it looks the part, and no guilt about throwing it out afterwards. A win all round

  4. I don’t think it’s weird at all! We have a similar thing in Germany, about one day every two months there is a “big” rubbish day where you leave stuff like furniture etc in front of your house and there are also people who come and take things they like before the city garbage truck comes to pick it up! I think it’s good that things not broken are reused 🙂 I sometimes chat with the people who look through ours too….

    • That would be helpful. An exchange with the person who is adopting one’s stuff. It’s like buying vintage clothes from a store or from someone who owned them. Some of the original mojo hangs about.

  5. When your sister was going through the renovations of her flat in Glasgow’s notorious East End, she would put things like old cookers, refrigerators, mattresses, etc. out on a Sunday night for the council to collect on Monday morning, which was the day for collecting such cast offs. By Monday daybreak, there would be nothing left. So it is not just Australians. Your Dad’s students in Edinburgh would furnish their bedsits from bins, and in Edinburgh some of the trash was very high-class. Mind you, same sister would also furnish her house with bits and bobs found on other streets. And so it goes.

  6. When we all got that cash to shop our way past the GFC, the streets in my suburb were filled with TVs and almost all had notes taped to them reading “this TV works and is free to a good home”. I’ve lived here for years and it’s the only time working TV sets – some of them quite new – haven’t been immediately snapped up.

    When we moved, we put out an old snowboard, a coffee table with a broken leg, a bowling ball and a leather jacket. All gone within an hour.

  7. Ha! I wanted to write a similar post about hard trash day… I thought the stick lengths they specified were hilarious. I agree with the 3R’s wholeheartedly (reduce, reuse, recycle)… There are very few things I’ve purchased brand new… I’m a fan of hand me downs.
    Oh, and we’d go to the rubbish dump every Saturday when I was a kid… I was really good at breathing without smelling. It’s a skill. Love your work xox

  8. Bogan is a word for dag (also a type of migratory moth) used in Victoria. Nowhere else to my knowledge. We prefer dag or slob, up here, north of the border.

    Sadly, most of those working TVs that are put out, get destryed by the metal recyclers who smash the neck off the picture tube to get the copper wire. I ghet REALLY steamed that all these perfectly good TVs have been cast off, inspired by marketing, federal government plans and lack of understanding. These TVs will give a far superior picture, with a set top box, compared to all LCD TVs. Just not as big. They use less power too.

    Where is the recycling scheme? Government is responsible for this waste, due to impending switching off the analogue TV system. The best in the world I might add.

    (climbs down from soap box)

    I used to joke how nice it was for people to provide lounge suites and a TV out on the nature strip, for weary pedestrians to enjoy.

  9. There is always loads of large random things put out on the sidewalk here in NYC. It was one of the things Chris and I had to get used to when we moved here from Southern California. Back home in SoCal we had to make a special trip to the city dump, and pay a fee to dispose of oversized items like couches, refrigerators, tv’s, etc. Here in NYC, it’s pretty much an every day sight. Entire apartments, emptied out onto the street, waiting for either garbage collection day, or random dumpster diver to dig right in. I don’t think I would EVER pick something up from the curb, too scary. I have kind of a thing, some people may call it a phobia, about other people’s trash…especially if I don’t know them and the degree of cleanliness they live in.

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