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Just Thinking – Trash or Treasure

Ray Augenstein

Ray Augenstein

I was driving around Houghton Lake the other day, and I noticed that it must have been trash day, because of all the trash cans alongside the road. Some homes had just one can and some had piles of trash stacked beside the trash cans. I couldn’t help but notice that in the piles of trash there seem to be quite a variety of items thrown away. There are computer desks, monitors, old TV sets, and other various items.

I’m not one to go digging in somebodies trash, searching for treasure. But as I progress on my trip, I couldn’t help but notice there was a van setting slightly off the road, with an older man and a young boy digging through the trash. The boy excitedly was showing the older man his discovery of a discarded pop can. I began to think, Trash or Treasure?

I remember once, seeing a man with a pickup truck going through a pile of trash, when I lived in California while going to Bible College. Suddenly a woman came running out of the house screaming at him to quit stealing her trash. My question is, when does the owner’s rights of possession cease? Is it when the trash truck comes around, or when the owner sets it on the side of the road for pick up. Does the scavenger run down the trash truck to retrieve his discovered treasures, or follow the truck to the dump site?

Some people find it offensive that people will dig in their trash to find usable things.  My foster parents, who hailed from the hills of North Carolina, had no reservations about recovering usable things from the discards of other people.  My foster mother would go to the city dump, (We didn’t have landfills in the 1950’s) and search from one end to another gleaning things she would use. Once when their home burned down completely, they rebuilt and furnished the house, from furniture to dishes, with what they found in the city dump. No one turned their noses up at the feast presented on recycled dishes.

I have a friend who lived near Detroit, He was laid off from his job, so he would go to affluent parts of the city on trash day, two or three times a week, and glean various types of things thrown away. He would load up his suburban and return home. Where he would fix what he found and on the week end, they would set up a flea market on the corner near their home.

The variety of things they offered was diverse enough to guarantee a constant flow of customers. They earned enough to be able to pay their bills and put food on the table until my friend returned to work.

I think this is a great way to recycle. I don’t mind someone stopping at my trash site and taking something they can use or resell. Quite often we will place something out by the side of the road on days that the trash truck does not make its rounds, just for the purpose of someone taking it. The items I place there usually are usable or repairable, it’s just I don’t want to haul it to the Goodwill.  I went into a resale shop one day and seen a Chair, I was sure I had put on the side of the road. When I saw the price on it I was amazed, I didn’t realize that it was worth that much. Enjoy your Treasure, To me it was trash..

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