My Costly – and Depressing – Trip to the Dump
The ROMT family tries to live a reasonably frugal and environmentally-friendly lifestyle.
We have our own vegetable garden and berry plants to provide a small, but healthy, portion of our diet.
We try to encourage the ROMT children to be members of the clean plate club.
We’re certainly not conspicuous consumers, and try to purchase only things we need.
We donate what we can’t use anymore to family, friends, local charities, our church, or Goodwill.
We recently embraced solar energy.
And we recycle everything we can.
Even so, we still have a way of accumulating junk.
In June, I wrote about our attempt to monetize some of that junk by participating in our neighborhood’s annual garage sale.
Given our lack of success at the garage sale, it stands to reason we’ve accumulated some things that are worthless now, and likely to be worthless decades from now, regardless of what I might try to convince myself after watching an episode of American Pickers.
Some of our worthless junk can of course be recycled or thrown out with the trash.
But some of it just has to be taken to the dump.
I learned this the hard way last year, when I disposed of an old shop vacuum via our weekly waste collection.
The next week we received a bill for an additional $25 for disposing of the vacuum.
First of all, I did not realize our garbage man actually had to monitor our trash as it was being dumped into the garbage truck to make sure we weren’t disposing of something improperly.
Second, I have a newfound respect for what our garbage man does on a daily basis. In addition to having an oftentimes hot, frequently stinky, and always physically demanding job, he also needs to keep an eye on what everyone in town in actually disposing of.
Anyway, as I mentioned, we had accumulated a fair amount of stuff we couldn’t use anymore. Some of it we were able to recycle. Some of it we were able to donate. And some of it was small enough and harmless enough to go out with the normal trash.
Even so, we still had some things left that were filling up the garage.
Specifically, we had three old car seats, a busted sled, and a broken dehumidifier that couldn’t be recycled, donated, or thrown out in the trash.
So I packed them up, and headed off to the dump, I mean, drop-off center.
When I got there, I had to wait several minutes behind a line of cars filled with other residents of our town disposing of their trash. The volume of items being thrown into dumpsters and recycling bins was shocking. And I wasn’t the last car in line, even though the drop-off center was nearing closing time.
Finally, I was able to pull up to the office to let them know what I had for disposal.
Our bill for getting rid of the dehumidifier, car seats, and sled was $26!
The costs for disposal of household items were all online, so the price tag was not a shock to me. But as I was driving away from the dump, err, drop-off center, I started thinking about the variety of costs involved in accumulating so much disposable stuff.
Everything we paid to get rid of had been purchased by us new, at full retail price, during the past decade.
Now we were paying again to get rid of it.
And all we could do was hope it would now be disposed of properly, to avoid further costs associated with a negative impact on the environment. There were large amounts of plastic in everything we disposed of, along with chemical refrigerants in the dehumidifier. My assumption is these items will be disposed of in the most environmentally-friendly way possible, but I really have no way of knowing whether or not that will actually occur.
Which to me is just one more reason to seriously think about all of the potential costs involved before making any purchase.
In our case, I don’t think we would have changed much.
We needed car seats to transport our children when they were younger.
Our basement is damp, especially in the warmer months, and a dehumidifier is the most practical way to address that.
And the ROMT kids like to play in the snow.
I don’t know that we could have changed anything about the car seats. They were now expired, so we didn’t feel comfortable passing them along to someone else or donating them, not that any organizations in our area would accept donations of used car seats anyway.
In retrospect, if we had bought a higher quality dehumidifier years ago, maybe it would still be working. But I have found in recent years that many appliances appear to be manufactured in a way that makes them intentionally disposable. Repair costs are oftentimes almost as much as the item cost new, assuming you can find someone who actually knows how to repair it.
Maybe the kids didn’t really need that sled. But they sure had a lot of good times on it over the past several winters, until they hit that big rock with it in February.
See my problem?
I feel bad about what we have done.
But I don’t think I would change anything.
In the future, we will try to continue to be prudent in what we purchase.
But things will still wear out over time.
And our life circumstances will change.
And accidents will happen.
I will probably find myself back at the dump a year from now, paying more money to dispose of things I have already paid for once, and hoping that the subsequent impact on the Earth is minimized.
I’ll do my best to purchase only what we really need.
And to take care of what we have, and repair, reuse, and recycle what we can.
But I don’t know if it’s going to be enough.
Financial independence and early retirement remain our goals.
But I worry about what we are doing to the environment we hope to enjoy more of when we are retired.
What have readers done to be more environmentally-conscious, while still living in modern American society?