Whose junk is this?

Posted 02.26.07

Spring cleaning makes a certain amount of sense, I guess, but in our climate, I hate to waste those early days of warmer weather clearing out winter cobwebs and clutter.

So I tackle this chore in February, the ideal month to sort clothing, books, magazines, and household items to donate to charities, and to melt down candle stubs in a large, lidded coffee can with a warped pillar candle in the middle, to use in case we have a blackout.

But what do we do with things that can't be recycled?

There are outlets which take empty ink cartridges and dead batteries as well as computer components, but what about the other items that shouldn't be littering our landfill?

I have a large carton full of these: clocks that no longer work, timers, radios, cheap calculators, flashlights, flawed computer disks, CDs and videotapes (none of which seem to last as long as they used to), and even small appliances.

Which brings me to the electric can openers.

I can't use a manual can opener because I have arthritis in both hands, so an electric opener that allows the can to sit on the counter is essential. I'm currently using the third one I have bought in the past year.

The first one quit after about six months, the cutting head losing its alignment. The second one stopped opening cans after I had used it for just two months. The mechanism that grabs the can broke.

Neither of these appliances were very expensive, and my inquiries to the manufacturers resulted in apologetic replies.

"Sorry, we no longer carry parts for that model."

The overflowing carton in my basement makes me angry. These items can't be recycled, and don't belong in our landfills because they will never bio-degrade.

Whose junk is this, anyway?

Like most of you, I suspect, I have three or four remote controls beside my recliner. One is for the TV, another for the VCR, a third for the DVD player, and a fourth for the stereo. The so-called "universal" remote operates some features of some of these, but not all the features of all of them. It's been relegated to the kitchen TV, because its buttons are larger than the ones that came with that set.

In frustration, I checked the backs of all these remotes. They were made in Mexico, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and China. No wonder they can't communicate with each other…

Why are so many of our consumer goods made in third-world countries? Do we really think that cheaper prices are worth having to replace these items so frequently?

North America has lost much of its manufacturing to third-world countries where labor is cheap. We then import finished goods which have a short shelf life, are incompatible (which means we need four machines to do what should be accomplished by one), and whose warranties aren't worth the paper they're printed on.

Whose junk is this, anyway?

Barbara Floria Graham is the author of the 20th anniversary edition of Five Fast Steps to Better Writing and Mewsings/Musings. Her website: www.SimonTeakettle.com

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Floria Graham/Log Cabin Chronicles/2.07