Monday, April 14, 2008

Last Column April 10, 2008

Collecting unwanted items better than finding them on roadside

Amy L. Cornell Community columnist |
April 10, 2008

I spent last Saturday at the Monroe County Fairgrounds volunteering for the Monroe County Solid Waste Management District’s bulky item drop off day. In addition to enjoying the sun and answering questions as people arrived with trucks and cars loaded down, I got an excellent education on what goes into our landfills besides household trash. The district encourages people to donate items to organizations that reuse and resell them, but also offers this means of getting rid of unwanted large items.

Of all the thousands of items I saw brought into the dump site on Saturday, what amazed me most was the quantity of mattresses. I tried to figure out if there was a sensible way to reuse or recycle mattresses and could not.

A friend who volunteered thought he might have been able to start a couple of laundromats and lawn mowing services with the number of washing machines and lawn cutting devices he saw tossed. Another friend said that what struck him was the number of grills and toilets being thrown away.

No matter what, it was a humbling experience to watch so many consumer items get thrown into the dump and know that scenes like this are replicated everywhere in the U.S. Big items that with a little repair work or reupholstering could be used by someone else are thrown away every day and in every city. I threw away a broken dehumidifier.

My husband, who is knowledgeable about solid waste management issues, told me that if the district did not offer this bulky item drop off day, these items would end up thrown out of trucks on the side of the road or piling up in people’s yards.

It is better for the county to offer a safe and effective means of disposal even if it means the sad reality of watching hundreds of dumpsters full of furniture and construction waste and appliances being hauled off to the landfill.

Many people with trucks full of items turned around when they saw the long line to get to the dumpsters. A few people were stopped at 4:05 p.m. when they shut the gate and would not accept any more items.

As I drove home down my familiar stretch of Ind. 45, I could not help but notice a huge mattress, discarded by the side of the road, that had not been there that morning.

A personal note

Because this is my last community column, I wanted to say a few words of thanks to Bob Zaltsberg and The Herald-Times for giving me this unique forum. Thanks also to the many members of this community who wrote me, commented on-line, met with me or stopped me on the street to talk about a column. This bi-weekly essay has afforded me a unique opportunity to participate in a conversation with neighbors and fellow citizens that has been invaluable.

Special notes of thanks to my circle of friends: Alice, John, Nicole, Dimitri, Kim, Keith, Ellie, Vance and Mary, all of whom let me take over many dinner conversations while mining for ideas for this article. They all offered valuable editing and community expertise.

Many thanks also go to Beth and fellow writers from Women Writing for (a) Change-Bloomington. I have also written much in the company of the incarcerated women of the Monroe County Corrections Center who may one day be telling their unique stories in this forum.

Thanks to my co-workers in the Department of Communication and Culture who encouraged me and to the teachers at University Elementary School who said kind words and invited me into their classrooms.

Above all, thanks to my parents, Richard and Janet, and my sister-in-law Anoopa who read this column without fail every two weeks, and my son, who will hopefully not rebel when he grows up and begins to understand that I have been writing about him.

Last, but never least, nothing ever went to the H-T without a conversation with Geoff, my husband and best friend in this crazy life.

You can reach Amy Cornell at

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