Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Big Item Trash Day in OP

Well, it's big item trash day in Overland Park, and it's time for some sightseeing that's both entertaining and sad. It's entertaining to see the sheer variety of stuff that is going into the trash system, and sad as well, because so much of it is going to simply take up landfill space and take resources out of circulation that are disappearing at a shocking rate.

Our trash systems make only the most trivial effort to separate out and sell the most obvious recyclables. Most of the raw materials and energy that have gone into these products is simply going into a landfill, including steel, iron, aluminum, copper, and the trace materials used in all manner of electronics and household appliances.

More bothersome is the loss of capital costs in the scrapping of so much of this stuff. Not only the capital of the machinery used to build it but the human capital expended to buy the stuff in the first place. Someone paid money, good money, for it and that money is gone. It's as if they had used the cash for toilet paper.

To be sure, a lot of this stuff is of no use to anyone. However, more and more in recent years, what is being thrown out is not only fixable: it's better than the stuff you can buy new in the stores.

Among the piles of disembowelled sofas, rusted refrigerators, crumpled pressboard bookcases and whatnot, I saw a surprising number of laundry appliances-washers and dryers-this last trash day. Usually, they are obviously a set-ranging in age from the turquoise and pink JFK/MM era units with their fluorescent-lit control centers to the nineties direct-drive top load Whirlpool Kenmore junkers with plastic tubs.

Having worked on appliances for awhile, this always amazes me. Junking a washer is certainly justified sometimes. However, unless it's had an internal fire or is seriously rusted, dryers live forever. About any Kenmore/Whirlpool, Maytag, GE, or Westinghouse dryer made since the mid to late 1960s uses the same internal parts, and a $25 kit replaces all of those that typically ever wear out. Electric heating elements are only a few dollars. Motors and timers are more serious, but Johnstone and other trade suppliers have excellent prices on these too.

The other sad thing about trashing dryers when their spouse washer dies-the suburban equivalent of suttee-is that having two dryers and one washer is about the right ratio anyway. Unless you care to spring for (and have the space ) a big industrial or laundromat Cissell or Huebsch dryer, you can wash a load in most washers in about half the time drying takes.

So if you see a classic old Maytag on Driveway Death Row, perhaps you could find a spot in your laundry room for it. It will thank you.


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