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Lynn Spruill: Disposable or recyclable?


Lynn Spruill



"There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."  


--William Shakespeare, Hamlet 




I dropped off a dozen cans of cat food to the Humane Society recently. I was checking on the work in an apartment to ready it for a new tenant when I found them.  


What tenants leave behind has been a source of amazement and outrage for me. Over the years while checking on the rental properties I manage I've seen an astounding quantity and variety of household items left at the curb. 


Recently, I saw an article in a local paper about some tenant who had left what were presumably pet snakes in the apartment. I can't comprehend snakes as pets, but if they are, why did you leave them behind?  


We had someone leave a cat in the apartment a year or so ago. It had food and water, but what if we hadn't checked on the apartment for a week. That could have been tragic. The tenant ended up coming back to get it a few days after we got in touch with her, but who knew.  


How do you not make the trip to the Humane Society to drop the unwanted litter off rather than leave them on the roadside to whatever fate awaits? How hard is it to take them somewhere they will at least be cared for and possibly end up with a home? We accept pets at our apartments, knowing that they do damage if not properly cared for or house trained, but pets tend to make better people of us all. We choose the trade off; unfortunately some people just can't be housebroken or civilized.  


We have had people leave flat screen TVs, stereo units, couches, full kitchen sets of dishes and cabinets full of canned goods, bedroom suites and all manner of unpredictable items. You would think in some cases they are running from the law based on the quality and quantity of "stuff" they simply leave behind.  


Throughout all this I wonder about those who have decided their stuff is of no value to anyone and should be discarded with so little thought to alternatives. Are we so "me" oriented that we just don't consider others might benefit? If I remember correctly, the Salvation Army will pick up donations from your house. There are no excuses for this. 


When did we become a society so comfortable with disposal? We have disposable razors, cell phones, dishes and diapers. Judging from divorce rate statistics we dispose of relationships with apparent ease as well. We dispose of children and pets when it suits us. We seem not to hesitate to layoff or terminate workers and shift the jobs to overseas as the immediate economy dictates.  


What was the catalyst that created in us a belief that it is OK to toss out our TV and buy another one rather than to haul it to our next "stay over" on the journey of life. When did we cease to value those things that have given us good service and can continue to do so for others? Is it market- driven consumerism propaganda that we need to get rid of the one we have for the newest bells and whistles? Is it planned obsolescence as the corporate success pattern?  


I have some apartments that have 30-year-old air conditioning units still cooling as they should. The new units we install are maybe good for 10-12 years before we have to replace them. The same has been true of kitchen appliances. They didn't quit working, they just quit looking good. Isn't that a caution to us baby boomers? 


Is it that we are so creative and inventive with technology that the advancements have fueled our expectation of all things electronic becoming obsolete every two years? Are we such a wealthy society that we can afford to get new stuff and toss the old? Are these our "keeping up with the Jones" standards of today? Who are the Jones anyway? They used to be your next door neighbors now they are most likely the reality TV family on A&E or TNT.  


Rampant consumerism keeps our economy churning and our landfills expanding. Perhaps that isn't all bad, but before you toss those cans of cat food, that chair or sofa you are tired of, that too- small microwave or the towels no longer the right color, consider who might need or benefit from recycling it.  


With apologies to Shakespeare's Hamlet (again), there are more things to recycle on earth than are dreamt of in our current philosophy.



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