Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How Do You Define Trash?

Trash. noun. Worthless or useless matter; rubbish. - The Pocket Webster School & Office Dictionary

One fine, sunny spring day in an apartment complex in suburban northern New Jersey, someone made the decision that all of this fit the definition of trash.

A Grundig radio, plus two speakers. My boyfriend loves this!

A brand new, never opened bottle of liquid dish detergent. My sweetheart took all of these.

A cheerful welcome post. It will greet people once again.

Lawn chairs. These were folded up in the corner behind the dumpster. I rescued them.

A perfect condition pink suitcase and a piece of exercise equipment. I salvaged the suitcase, which I plan to donate to a local thrift shop.

Pillows. You'd pay a fortune for these at a store like Pier One or other retailer. I'll donate these. These were on a couch, also destined for the landfill.

I posed this before, but will wonder aloud again: just because a minor repair is needed, does that make it trash?

Why can't we support more jobs in the repurposing market versus the retail market? Many things I find can be reupholstered, steam-cleaned, refinished, repainted, just plain repaired. There are craftsman who can do these things.

This just had a slight tear. This will provide comfortable seating for a Jersey shore goer this summer: me.

A computer chair. It had a slight tear, but otherwise was fine. But, massive sigh, I only came to reclaim this later in the day, and three of the wheels were missing. We took it, and hope to repair it.

TVs don't belong in the dumpster! According to Earth911.com:

"Electronic circuit boards, batteries and color cathode ray tubes (CRTs) can contain hazardous materials such as lead, mercury and hexavalent chromium. If improperly handled or disposed, these toxins can be released into the environment through landfill leachate or incinerator ash." Find out where to recycle your set.

It works!

We gave this tv to my sweetheart's friend, who is a hard-working man who holds down two jobs. He was just about to buy a television set.

In addition to the obvious environmental ramifications, this is simply throwing money out the window. It may be money they spent, but it's money someone else will also have to now spend to buy new things that they simply don't have to.

Someone was clearing out a garage, and instead of calling a charity like Goodwill, advertising on freecycle or even posting a notice in the laundry room for free items, the owners of this "stuff" took the easy way out.

When rescuing these items, we drew a few strange looks from my neighbors passing by, but I don't care. I think of the line in Mr. Wendal, an Arrested Development song about a homeless man, "Uncivilized we call him, but I just saw him eat off the food we waste." Food isn't the only thing we waste.

The above items "worthless," "useless," "rubbish"? Not in my book.


Elaine said...

THought-provoking as always. This is a wasteful society to put it mildly. Always something new to replace what we already have.

I am a big fan both of shopping at second hand stores and of giving away my crap (cough -- I mean wonderful stuff) to second hand stores. If somebody else can use it, I'm so happy to give it away!

That said, our garage is full of stuff that I think we need to get rid of, but my packrat husband insists might be used again.

Some day.

Catherine @ The Vegan Good Life said...

Thanks Elaine.

Oh, the rate at which people upgrade gadgets, TVs, etc., it's always the next shiny new object. I have a 10 year old TV set that works fine.

I love second-hand. While the economic benefits are great, I shop almost entirely thrift mostly for environmental reasons. I just don't want to contribute to the production of even more stuff.

Good luck with the garage!

Emily on the Southern Prairie said...

This is really impressive. Just wanted to stop by to say 'go you'! I used to subscribe to my local Freecycle listserve, but the email volume drove me crazy. The message is such a great one though -- keeping perfectly usable stuff out of landfills.

Catherine @ The Vegan Good Life said...

Thanks very much for the comment and encouragement, Emily. I don't do freecycle myself. Instead, I donate mostly to charitable thrift stores.

Oprah Winfrey did an environmental show last year and Lisa Ling was wandering around a landfill in disbelief at all of the things that were there that people could have been using.

MaddyG said...

Thanks Catherine, for another 'trashy' post! ; )
Seriously, I'll be moving at the end of June, and it's amazing the amount of clutter that accumulates in a basement or attic...ugh. I plan to do a yard sale, and donate whatever 'gently used junk' remains. I just refuse to throw stuff away.
I've lived in apartment complexes throughout college, and have always been completely SHOCKED by what ends up beside the dumpster. I haven't dumpster dived, but I think college-town apartment complexes would be a good place to do it because of all of the waste! Yikes, what does this say about young people and their disposable attitudes?!

Catherine @ The Vegan Good Life said...

This really seems to be a crisis. I talked to someone whose boyfriend got a huge flat screen tv someone discarded in the trash.

It's really a shame because college students are often saddled with debt and many have to pay for new items when it could have been passed on for free. Literally money thrown in the trash.

Maybe it's partly that the younger generation has never really known major 'lack' as others have (I think of Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation).

Yard sales are great! Good luck with the sale and the move.