May 27, 2011

Recycle, Reuse, Repair

This is today's column in the Warrick Courier.

Our family has one of those old, big, square televisions that wobbles on an inexpensive glass and particle board stand. Eons old, the television’s electric eye hasn’t worked for a long time. It isn’t sexy in the least and it dates us, the same as the 1980s blue and brown striped wallpaper does on the family room wall. (I’ve been meaning to replace that…)

My husband wants a new television – something sleek to hang on the wall that offers a picture so clear that one can see sweat drops falling off Peyton Manning’s face at the beginning of NFL season. I really don’t care that much. You don’t need high def. to watch Meet the Press; seeing an extreme close up of Newt Gingrich on Sunday mornings is actually not particularly appetizing before a late Sunday breakfast. So, I’ve balked. When the phone rings and we’re watching TV, we have to turn it off in order to hear the person talking. We have no volume control at all.

A visit to a local recycling day made both of us realize it was time to repair the television, not lust for another piece of electronic junk.

Last weekend as is our habit, we went to Tox-A-Way day at a local manufacturing plant. We are grateful that this company provides this service, and we always participate.

This Saturday morning found a line of cars and trucks winding back to the front gate; we waited nearly twenty minutes to get to the parking lots where dozens of energetic volunteers worked. When you crawled to the head of the line, you told avolunteer if you had hazardous materials, electronics, or both.

We dropped off two unopened cases of pool chemicals that had expired. We took down our “Poor White Trash” above ground pool this year; it hadn’t been touched in three years since our son went to college.

We also turned in an old cordless set with three handsets that just didn’t work anymore. I replaced it earlier in the year with a nearly identical set by the same manufacturer. It cost more than the original set and didn’t work nearly as well.
We also recycled a ten year old Dell computer that I purchased from a friend for $500 five years ago. That computer served two people well, and now it was time to be dissected for parts. Thar’s gold in them thar laptops.

The education in this trip was sitting behind lines of cars and trucks. Almost every vehicle had at least one old television in the back. For a while it was fun as we played “Identify the TV.”

There’s the one we bought when we got married, a floor model Motorola. Look, there’s a cabinet TV, remember when RCA made pieces of furniture with televisions and stereos in them? Remember when there was an RCA? Look at the old Zenith, just like my grandmother had in her trailer in Florida, the first television with a remote. Had some kind of Star Wars kind of name. Was it Space Command?

After ten minutes watching this spectacle, we began to think about what this meant. All of these televisions were going somewhere else. Since this was a recycle day, hopefully they would all be torn up for parts usable by other folks. But the breadth of this was stunning. Of course this is an anecdotal Saturday in a typical town in a typical state, but the greater point remains: how many of us are ditching our electronics just because there’s something better, something sexier?

Chief of sinners, though I be. I’m a phone fanatic, ever trying to find the right phone. In my closet I have at least four boxes with phones (some are broken, but not beyond repair). Both of us began to think about what this truly means for our future, if this is repeated in every little town across America. What’s happened to us as a society? We don’t need more. We need to use what we have and repair if it is broken.

We went through the line, and Monday morning I called the repair service that came out and got the television. Tomorrow they will bring it back. Our repairs cost $250 and I’ll bet when football season starts we’ll still be able to see the whites of Peyton’s eyes.© 2011 Amy McVay Abbott. Amy McVay Abbott is a southern Indiana writer who likes to hear from readers at