Thursday, February 05, 2015

Waste Not, Want Not

My apartment is in the rear of my building, overlooking a service area adjacent to the alley. There is a huge open-topped dumpster almost directly below my bedroom window, and whenever I look into it, as I did just now, my frustration level soars. 

They are renovating several units in the building, which necessitated the outsized dumpster to handle the debris. But when they began stripping the apartments—they completely gut each one—I was dismayed to see perfectly good kitchen cabinets and countertops, sinks, doors, and even gleaming white toilets just pitched into the dumpster. 

This is what is euphemistically known as a “senior citizens” complex. When a resident dies (and no, dear friend, they do not “pass away”: they die) everything...everything...not claimed by relatives is thrown out. If there are no relatives, the entire contents of the apartment is pitched with absolutely no regard of its potential use or value to others—and we won’t go near the subject of the loss of the deceased’s personality, memories, and dreams accumulated over a lifetime. Chairs, tables, desks, couches, books, bookshelves, televisions, clocks, pictures. Pitched. Just pitched. The waste is staggering, especially considering how many desperately poor people there are out there who have so very little and would be happy to have made use of them.

There are scavengers who roam Chicago's alleys in battered pick-up trucks, gathering whatever they can salvage and sell, but the dumpsters used here have 10-12-foot-high sides, making them next to impossible to see what is inside from street level, let alone get into without a ladder. Thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of reusable items utterly wasted. And the dumpster I observe with such dread is only one in a city of nearly 4 million people!

And yet when I asked the manager of my building how they could possibly so cavalierly dispose of so much reusable material I got excuses involving the possibility—no matter how remote—of bedbugs and the claim that the removed cabinets and doors not meeting standards, etc. 

What good does all this talk of recycling for the good of the planet do when things which so clearly can and should be recycled are not? I'm not talking cardboard boxes and aluminum cans, here, but furniture, utensils, appliances, decorative items—the things which give individuality to one's life—-which could be put to good use by so many people who have so little.

Yet even when I was clearing out my late friend Norm's condo, I ended up having to pay someone to come and haul away thousands of dollars worth of furnishings and decorative pieces, and I realized that there are logical, logistical obstacles between altruism and reality/practicality. (I even approached one of the alley scavengers and told them they could have anything of Norm's I was otherwise going to have to, in effect, throw away. I envisioned them selling it all to people who would be grateful to have it for pennies on the dollar, plus the scavengers would make money for their effort. I arranged to meet them at the condo at a certain time. They never showed up.)

I have never been able to just throw away anything I think might have value to someone else. I never order a full meal in a restaurant because I know I will not eat more than six bites of whatever it is I order. So on those rare occasions where I order more than an appetizer, I take the rest home and put it in the freezer, where it sits until I throw it away. And when I do, I feel guilty

I am constantly embarrassing my friends by leaning over to pick a penny off the sidewalk. I vastly prefer potted plants over cut flowers, which are beautiful for a very short time, then are thrown away. As with so very many other things, I honestly feel the world would be a better place if everyone followed my example, and sincerely cannot comprehend why they don't.

We are surely the most shamefully wasteful people in the history of the world. We're constantly being told that our profligate ways will one day come up and bite us in the ass. Well, don't look now, but....


Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).

1 comment:

Kage Alan said...

When we moved from the apartment to the house (and even when we were going through my former father-in-law's things), if there's something the family didn't want and was still in good shape, we donated it.

Friends kept suggesting the Salvation Army, which I refuse to support in any way. Instead, there's a battered woman's shelter with a store nearby and we gave (and still give) tons of items to them. We even still stop in the shop and pick things up from time to time.

You're right; waste not, want not. And if we can help a battered woman's shelter, we're all for it.