2017-04-21 / Commentary

Re-inventing our useless stuff

It’s not a criticism; It’s an observation
Mike Cox

The folks who traditionally live in rural areas of America have been recycling for centuries. Any visitor far outside the city limits is likely to see cars sitting on someone’s property, overgrown with weeds; maybe kudzu protruding through the windshield.

Tractor parts, pieces of metal that might one day become useful, or stacks of poorly cut lumber waiting on that special project, are as numerous as mixed breed dogs and homemade lawn decorations.

While many native born southerners aren’t too supportive of government sponsored trash recycling programs, almost all are more than willing to drag unwanted items to the roadside so anyone who might still need that particular thing can take it home and recycle it themselves. Or maybe let it sit in their yard for a few months until repurposed.

I’ve dropped off old grills, electric chain saws with burned up motors, and various pieces/parts of things I couldn’t identify. The only thing I’ve been unable to make disappear was an old Sony television, one of those thick, heavy things that weighs several hundred pounds. I’ve seen many of those lying around the area, so I’m pretty sure no one left on Earth thinks old school television is coming back.

Since Christmas, I’ve noticed an abundance of something else scattered, unwanted along the county highways and farm roads of Richland County: mattresses. I’m assuming this isn’t so much a technology problem as a reluctance to reclaim something other people have used for all manner of activities. And with our nation up in arms over bedbugs, personal hygiene, and distrust of our fellow man, no amount of savings is worth the risk. For all we know, a Democrat could have slept on that mattress.

During my last leisurely drive through the countryside, I counted seven mattresses scattered around four different locations. And three rolls of used carpet. The ecologist in me wonders why we can’t develop technology to reclaim this material despite the roadblocks and yuck factor involved. Aren’t we making fuel from solid waste?

It’s time for my middle son Chad to visit for a few days. Once, in a time long ago, he and I would ride the roads and brainstorm ideas to make us rich, famous, and powerful. None of our ideas were ever personally pursued, but a couple are now being widely used by society. We just didn’t have the resources to take the idea to completion. If only.

I’m sure there are young people sitting in their mom’s basement, covered in Cheez Curl crumbs, and sporting a glazed over look only attainable by mixing Mountain Dew and Red Bull and staying awake for five days running, who are nearing the solution to recycling the used mattresses sitting by the side of America’s highways. They probably identified a cute, internet savvy nickname for their service long, long ago.

Going on that assumption, I’m going to save myself and my child, heartbreak and disappointment by moving on to a new issue rather than invest energy into something someone else has already solved. Last week, I tried to recycle an old blender and had no takers.

Maybe we can transform it into a perpetual power source.

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