OPINION: Waste Management
Cyndi Mitchell | 5/23/08
It was interesting to watch as the employees from the town came around my neighborhood for the Spring Clean-Up, and picked up our junk — things we did not have any more use for, our detritus from everyday consumerism. I found it difficult to throw some of the stuff away, not only because I thought perhaps some one else might have a need for it, but mostly the thought of it going out to the beautiful countryside to a site that is nothing more than a big hole with all this junk thrown into it and covered over. How long does it take for old dryers or refrigerators or stoves to bio-degrade? Or do they ever? Of course my common environmental sense knows that answer. A big NEVER!

So, watching these guys work their butts off, picking up even branches and piles of pine needles that weren’t on the junk piles, to help us get rid of “things” that we deem unnecessary to our lives, was sad. What really bothered me was pine needles put into plastic trash bags — It seemed somehow sacrilegious. There’s got to be a better way to get rid of pine needles!

I was certainly grateful for all their hard work, but I was struck by how wasteful we are as a society. Some peoples’ piles were humongous. And I understand when a dryer breaks down you want to get a new one. But do people even try to get the broken down machines fixed first? I also understand the cost factor, if it’s cheaper to just buy a new one. I also know that certain equipment is meant to last for only a certain amount of time and is cheaper to just replace.

How or why do we allow this? Because it’s easier to let someone decide for us?

Consumerism isn’t bad in and of itself, but how we consume and what we do with what we consume determines the waste. Those big holes in the country filled with all our used crap are going to just sit there covered up for centuries. Most of it won’t bio-degrade, and a lot of it will develope certain chemicals from becoming rusted or the plastic items with chemicals that will leach into the soil, which may eventually leach into the water table. And guess where that goes? Organic components will bio-degrade and add mostly good composting to the soil.

But I watched as the men from the town picked up my little pile (proud to say, which means I’m either conscientious or a pack rat!) and throw into their truck two old styro-foam coolers, which were broken and no longer useful, and which I refuse to buy any more of, and four tires, that I had no idea what to do with. I cringed, thinking “should I keep those and make planters out of them?” Everyone knows about styro-foam, how it takes umpteen thousand years to break down, but what the hell do you do with it when you can no longer use it? Can we use it in roads? In building?

I know for a fact that we can use old tires in roads, in bike paths, in school tracks, etc., but are we industriously and ecologically minded enough to create that business here? We should be, and we could be, if the ‘powers that be’ could think outside the big dump hole!

Couldn’t we use all the metal from the old dryers, stoves, and refrigerators for something?

Or perhaps, even sell the metal to steel mills? It’s not so bad to dump organic material into those holes, it bio-degrades and from what I understand we could also use the methane produced from the decay of the organic materials to run machinery — more specifically, even cars! Imagine that?

All that being said, we don’t need to throw all the useless stuff into the dump. We could conceivably recycle just about everything that we have thrown out this Spring Clean-Up and we need to have some people who are forward thinking enough in the town government to work on implementing more programs to do just that.

Trouble is, I still cannot figure out what to do with that damnable styro-foam!

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