Saturday, April 10, 2004

County Opposes Recycling

Americans like to talk about how we're a classless society but the truth is, we're not. We do have very porous barriers between classes and we encourage mobility between classes (usually upward), but it's obvious to anyone that we have distinct groups and layers in America. Memphis too.

Friday's editorial on roadside rubbish betrays the class insularity of the Commercial Appeal editors. They slide into the wash from County Mayor AC Wharton's crusade quite nicely, and in doing so show that they really don't know how a large part of this community lives.

I live on a street here in Midtown that sees tenants get evicted from their apartments on a regular basis, maybe one a month. Every time it's the same thing. As soon as the landlord starts putting things out you'll see folks up and down the street start eyeing them. If word gets out that the stuff is up for grabs, that's just what happens. People begin to pick over and claim property.

If you're lucky, you can snag some good furniture in good shape. But there's always stuff you can use. Just look around your home right now and imagine it all on the sidewalk. I've managed to get a good bookcase, a nice chair that only needs reupholstering (The one with the blue towel on it for those who've been here.), some picture frames, those heavy plastic clothes hangers, tables, lamps, books galore, aquariums, pens, all kinds of stuff.

I won't touch clothes or kitchen things. But I've seen plenty who are willing to invest the time and elbow grease to clean and sanitise those things and reuse them. Which is the point. What's going on is recycling, plain and simple. To deny the poor and thrifty of Memphis an opportunity to do so is almost criminal and plainly elitist. What the Mayor and the CA sniff at as rubbish is home gold to a lot of others.

We had just this situation happen this week. Someone down the block had all their stuff put on the curb. By the end of the day, the furniture and pots'n'pans were gone. By the second day, most everything else was too. The problem is that things get spread around by scavengers or blown around by the weather. That's the problem. But the amount of true garbage by the end of the pickover was small compared to how it started.

The CA needs to look through the eyes of others. Having landlords cart all this stuff away ASAP will hurt a lot of poor who can make good use of the castoffs. It may offend the sensibilities of our City's well to do, but for the "on the edge" types like me, it can help tremendously.

Wharton knows that this happens on the first few days of the month. Work with the recycling program or the Department of Sanitation to send out sweeps in likely areas. Or have a hotline set up to report it, like we already are supposed to do with limbs and other debris.

But don't further oppress the poor.

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