Saturday, January 24, 2009

Out of the blue and into the black, they give you this but you pay for that

a junk_img_2239

I took this photo a couple of weeks ago, waiting out the back of the recycling centre for my sister to offload a car full of stuff. We had been cleaning out the garage and had loaded two cars full of things that still worked or were potentially recyclable, things you don't want to throw in a skip or put in landfill. According to local government policy, each of the landfill sites in Canberra has a recycling centre. As you approach landfill there are signs encouraging you to stop at the recycling centre first to drop off.

I was able to offloaded only about half of the stuff in my car. The signs might be very welcoming but it's not as simple as dropping stuff off and being thanked for your donation. It was busy season - being Christmas break, I guess a lot of people take the opportunity to clean out the garage or renovate. There was an air of suspicion as I presented my wares - hand over a suitcase and it's "And what's in there?" as if I might have stashed dirty clothes or the old vegies from the bottom of the fridge in there.

This was still a lot better than our experience half an hour earlier at the other recycling centre, where they wouldn't even look at any of it. Just said, sorry, the shed is full. Although the car behind me with a trailer full of furniture was allowed to stop and drop. That was a frustrating day.

It can be really hard work, and sometimes disheartening, trying to dispose of things mindfully. Just as I realise I've gotten much better at parting with things and being more selectively sentimental, I find that's not all there is to it. I also need to think about it a little more when I acquire items in the first place. Sure it might be cheap but is it going to be in landfill in a couple of years? (Or in the garage waiting for the inevitable delayed clean out?) I realised I had been keeping things too long, things that might be useful, but I didn't use them. And the longer you keep them, the less likely that even charities or recycling centres will want them. A better, more up-to-date class of junk comes in every day.

I sat in my car staring into the 'Aussie Junk' yard, marvelling at the stacks of white moulded plastic garden chairs that can be bought so cheaply, and a few years later duly delivered to places like this when you upgrade to a nicer set. Those chairs will probably last forever. And most people would never think to get them second-hand. Why would you when they are a few dollars each new?

I'm more and more keen to try to buy more things second-hand. Although I need to tighten my belt now anyway, it's more the thought of avoiding being responsible for the unnecessary manufacture of more THINGS. Of course, furniture-wise, I mostly always did buy second-hand - that's because we acquired everything when we were poorer and never bothered to upgrade in our little rented house. A lot of it is pretty crappy and I'll be happy to replace it - gradually - with a better class of second-hand.

At least things seem to have slowed a bit at the recycling centre. They were much happier to see me today, and I was happy that there were no suspicious questions this time.

7 comments:

Bec said...

Have you seen this...
http://www.storyofstuff.com/
I think it's a great little animation and was really surprised that of the things we buy just how much, how quickly ends up in the landfill.

Donna Lee said...

I am trying to be more aware of what I buy and whether I need it or not. Partly as a result of the economy but also partly as result of not wanting to add to the landfill. It's time to clean out drawers and closets and most stuff I'll donate to the Goodwill. I've never really been a buyer so I'm hopeful I won't have to much useless stuff.

Karen said...

You must try freecycle. They are the organization that does just what you are looking for.

http://www.freecycle.org/

Janet McKinney said...

I agree about using freecycle. The group in canberra is quite active.

You place an "OFFER" posting on the freecycle group (Yahoo) stating what you have to offer. People who want your item will then email you in response, and you choose from the responses you get who you will invite to come an collect the item. Some people resond to the first person, others will wait a while to review a number of responses and make their choice - it is totally up to you.

You then make arrangements with your chosen respondent to come an dcollect the item.

I have found it a great way to find things you need - I collected a perfectly good desk this weekend for a community organisation i work with.

amy said...

I've Freecycled too, although if you're giving away a lot of stuff it can be kind of a headache, coordinating it all. And I still haven't found a home for my size small maternity clothes. Guess there aren't a lot of slim women getting pregnant out there. ;)

I've been meaning to drop stuff off to the Salvation Army for, oh, ages. And there is a collection bin for shoes at the town dump--we need to bring over the bags and bags of outgrown little boy shoes. Yikes, but they accumulate. They outgrow them so quickly!

Alwen said...

Like that film, "Mardi Gras: made in China". Often I find stuff depressing.

I'm a Freecycle moderator, and it's not free of its pains in the rear. But I volunteer my time because every old mattress that finds a new home via our list is one less in the drainage ditch!

Bells said...

I'm so glad to read this. We have bits and pieces we want to 'get rid of' but haven't because just throwing it in the tip seems wrong. I raised this issue with a bunch of girls I know recently and was met horror. They were unconcerned about anything like this and just said, 'well you just throw it in the bin right, to be collected by the garbage truck?'

Well, not exactly.

I love this idea, 'there is no such place as 'away' when you throw things out.'