Last Saturday, I headed to town with a pickup-load CPUs, printers, monitors, old adding machines and various telephones. Connie Smith, executive director of the Sedalia Chamber of Commerce, partnered with the Center for Human Services to organize an effort to dispose of electronic devices through Surplus Exchange, an approved recycler.
The event was well-organized and I was on my way home before I could finish my cup of coffee in the truck. The brilliance of this effort was Connie’s foresight to restrict the items to only one category of trash. When I arrived I had two surprises; one, I was met by Connie herself, all bundled up against the very chilly air of the morning, and two, I was first in line.
I am sure everyone knows certain electronics such as computers cannot be disposed of at the city landfill. The reason is they contain certain heavy metals, mercury, lead, chromium, lithium and copper that are toxic to our environment. Many electronics also contain components that are potentially dangerous when exposed to humans.
So why do we allow such things to be manufactured that cannot be disposed of by normal means? Let’s face it — we live in a throwaway world. And it’s been going on for a long time. Years ago I was in the back seat of our family car returning from a vacation in Colorado. Even at that age I noticed all the cans alongside the road. Soon I had my brother counting cans with me. We counted until we got bored and quit.
A few years later, my high school English teacher gave the class an assignment to write a term paper, complete with reference cards and sources of information. I remembered the cans along the road and decided to use that as my subject. After several trips to the library and with a great deal of help from the librarian, I was astounded at what I uncovered. A half-century can blur one’s memory, but it seems like the figure of total cans manufactured for all purposes was more than one billion! All the austerity of the war effort and recycling that went on then had been forgotten. People were just tossing their empties out the window.
The saving grace was these cans were made of steel. In a few years they would rust away and melt back into the earth. Now, here comes the aluminum can; they don’t rust and disappear but remain where they were tossed forever or at least a lifetime.
In our progression into modern society, we now have plastic. Does the plastic bottle have a lifespan? Frankly I never saw anything wrong with glass as a container. Glass is made of sand and silica, natural elements that are plentiful — and don’t depend on petroleum. Glass can be used over and over. So what is the answer?
The Center for Human Services has been in the recycling business for years. They have been baling up cardboard and selling it at their location in Marshall. More recently, in cooperation with the city of Sedalia, CHS is operating a recycling center where almost all household throwaways can be recycled. I laud the city fathers for the red recycle bins. A special thanks to Thompson Hills Shopping Center to allow the space for these containers to be placed at the north edge of their parking lot. We can now unload our newspapers, magazines, cardboard, plastics, aluminum and steel cans for CHS to process. For these programs to be successful, it is now up to us to develop a mindset to recycle. What can we do to change our habits? Here are a few hints:
• Place six five-gallon buckets or cardboard boxes along the wall of your garage or carport to separate the various items.
• For apartment and trailer park dwellers, encourage your landlord to have separate containers (such as used in public venues) for cans, plastics and magazines.
• Ask for paper sacks, or better yet take your own bag to the grocery store.
• Before you throw anything in the trash can, ask yourself: Can this be recycled?
As individuals, there is not much we can do to put a stop to our throwaway society. But we can help if we develop a mindset to recycle. About 80 people did last Saturday. The next event is scheduled for Oct. 5 — mark your calendar!