Do Earth Day Right: De-Trash America

April 21, 2007
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There is little point to arguing about some result of climate change that MIGHT take place and be truly measurable in the next 100 years-- or even ten.

But as we mark Earth Day, there certainly are some here-and-now things we can do to ease the burdens on the Old Orb. Take scrap vehicles, those junkyard bunnies whose scavenged parts, it should be noted, keep a lot of still serviceable old iron still running.

The problem is, too many of them are too remote from junkyards and scrappers, and thus they just sit there making the landscape ugly. Take the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, for instance. The value of the scrapped cars, trucks, farm implements, et al, makes it uneconomical to collect and transport them to scrappers in major urban areas like Milwaukee, Chicago or Detroit.

Or take the islands of the beautiful state of Hawaii. Everything on wheels that was ever shipped there appears to be still there. This makes it a small mecca for old car nuts like me, as I have written in the past for But along with mountains of discarded cans and bottles (because, unless it's changed in the last few years, Hawaii has no bottle-return law), the abandoned cane fields are also spotted with rusting old hulks of vehicles.

There is some salvation in distant sight, however. Here’s this, straight off the news release: The United States Council for Automotive Research (USCAR) “is evaluating a process that could potentially divert 250,000 tons of post-consumer shredder residue foams from landfills annually.”

The point is that every advance in recycling the last little bit of an “ELV” (end of life vehicle) makes it more likely its value for scrappers will rise and encourage collection. Plus, this process would relieve the bloating of landfills with old, un-bio-degradable foam from automotive trim. Bravo, USCAR, which by the way is composed of DaimlerChrysler, Ford and GM.

Leaving cars aside, every state ought to have a can-and-bottle- deposit-and-return law, and the containers covered should be expanded to include everything that our young-and-reckless hurl out car windows or litter around make-out parking places. That would be a start. Then we need to go to work on those who heave old appliances, tires, batteries, plastic bags and milk cartons, foam picnic boxes and the like into the nearest gulch or waterway, creating eyesores for everyone else, forever.

All this is here-and-now. We don’t have to argue about whether it is true or not. It’s obvious, and it's right in front of our eyes— everywhere, urban, suburban and rural. Earth Day ought to be the time we join hands to de-trash America. -- Mike Davis


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