Back in the sixties (and probably long before), before blue boxes and black boxes and green bins, I remember one day every spring was always Big Garbage Day. That may not have been its official name, but it's how I remember it being referred to around our place. It was the one day every spring that you could put out furniture, appliances and anything else that didn't fit in a garbage bin or bag.

The "day" part was a misnomer too. While there may have been a specific day designated for the stuff to be put out there, it was, to the best of my recollection, often a few weeks before it was actually picked up. A veritable paradise for kids going to and from school (in those days, of course, we all walked, at least to elementary school) who could explore other people's junk and play around in the piles of old furniture.

Modern-day "helicopter parents" would of course be shocked and appalled. What sort of nasty diseases could their kids pick up from all those flea-bitten, moth-eaten old couches and armchairs? How many kids suffocated after climbing into discarded refrigerators or freezer before you were required to remove the door? And wouldn't our children all get tetanus from stepping on rusty nails?

But maybe that was just the beginning of separating our garbage just like we do today, only nowadays it's all so much more complicated. And nowadays, despite ever more containers of ever more hues, there seem to be ever more items that you CAN'T put out for curb side pickup even once or twice a year.
Just about everyone in the world, it seems!

I guess most people would agree that it's thoroughly reprehensible to steal copper wire in order to sell it to a scrap dealer. Or to rob tombs for corpses' dental work and any valuables that may have been buried with them. But it seems everywhere I look these days, there are ads urging us to trade in our "leftover" or unwanted gold and silver jewelry in exchange for cold hard cash. It's not just sleazy pawn shops, either. Even reputable jewellers like Birks are jumping on that bandwagon. Am I alone in feeling a tad uneasy about this trend? Isn't it a kind of preying on society's most vulnerable, sort of like the usurious rates charged by payday loan companies?

It's billed as being a "green" and thrifty thing to do, repurposing old metal. But is it really? After all, if the metal gets melted down, that's using energy too. And surely you also have to consider whether you're putting your precious metals to a higher or lower purpose in life?

When you buy a fine piece of gold or silver jewelry - even if it's 18- or higher-karat gold or high-grade sterling silver, there's usually still comparatively little of the precious metal in the piece. The vast majority of the price you pay is for the care, creativity and craftsmanship that went into it. Trading it in for the value of the metal brings to mind famous starving artists who painted over their already-artified canvasses because they couldn't afford to buy new ones - what a loss for our culture and civilization!

Or am I just being hopelessly sentimental about the whole thing?



October 2017



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