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One Man’s Trash/Treasure…

Andy Rooney(Andy Rooney is taking the day off. In his absence, we are reprinting a classic column originally published in 1984.)

We waste more in the United States than the people of most other countries even have.

Driving through the streets of any major city on the day the trash collectors come--or are supposed to come--is an experience the citizens of a hundred less prosperous nations would find difficult to believe. On trash-collection days, you pass enough furniture being cast out to furnish a four-bedroom house. There are couches, chairs, parts of beds, refrigerators and air conditioners.

When demolition experts move in on a building to be razed, they have no mercy, no sentiment. They tear it down, break it up and throw it away. They don't much care what they're breaking up or throwing out. It costs more to sort out the materials and save them than they could get for the stuff.

This practice of throwing things out seems wrong to me. In New York, you often see huge dumpsters parked outside buildings that are being gutted. Many times, you see the dumpsters heaped high with doors, plumbing fixtures, mattresses and pieces of metal. The discarded items must have been worth thousands of dollars when they were first installed -- and it's costing someone thousands of dollars to cart the stuff away. I think that much of the refuse is towed and dumped somewhere outside of New York.

In many depressed big cities around the world, there are shanty towns constructed of materials the residents have salvaged from waste dumps. If they had our waste heaps and trash containers from which to choose their building materials, they'd have shanty palaces to live in.

The homeless people who wander the streets of our big cities often have old shopping carts laden with bits and pieces of junk they've rescued from piles of trash by the curb. I understand their need to pick up stuff. When I see something good being thrown out, I often have the urge to stop and throw it in the back of my car.

As I was leaving my office recently, I noticed a note pinned to a somewhat battered computer. It read, "Please throw out." I wondered who had written the note and why they were throwing out what looked like a perfectly good computer.

I thought that the person discarding the machine must have been an executive who didn't want to waste a lot of time. The person knew something that I didn't know. Maybe the machine was too old to be repaired; to get it back in use would have taken more time and money than it was worth. I suppose it was a computer that no one liked to use any longer and wanted no part of it. If it cost twice as much to upgrade the computer, I guess it would make sense to buy a new one. I think I probably would have tried to fix the thing. That's why I'm not a president of a successful company or even an efficient office manager. I just hate to see anything thrown away.

(Write to Andy Rooney at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207, or via email at aarooney5@yahoo.com)

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