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Commentary: We threw our toaster out

We had this beautiful white toaster that did everything a toaster should do. It had all the bells, dials and buttons. It popped the toast up at just the right time and it was always perfect. Life was good. Then one day it just stopped working. That was it — kaput. I thought it was like new — I doubt if it was five years old. What do you do with an almost new toaster that stops toasting? I've never fixed a broker toaster. Is there a toaster repair person anywhere? There are probably many talented people who could fix that toaster, but who could make a living fixing tasters? So, we did the only thing we could do — it wasn't easy for me — we threw it away. Somebody going through the landfill will see that toaster and wonder how the heck somebody could throw away a brand-new appliance like that.

History is repeating itself. A couple months ago our not-very-old coffee maker stopped keeping the coffee hot. What do you do with a coffee maker that produces only luke-warm coffee? Are there any coffee maker repair people around? You know the answer — the talent is probably right around the corner, but things can't get repaired any more for a few coins in a tin cup. So we tossed it.

There once were shops where you took your TV for repair. Are there any now? In the Yellow Pages I see a shop listed for "television parts and service" but it's out of town somewhere on a highway. I hope he/she/they are making a fortune, but I doubt it. You can't even take a TV to a thrift store anymore — they won't take them. And if you haul one to the landfill, they charge you $5 to dispose of it.

Now computers are different. They can be rebooted, reprogrammed and repaired. But I had this laptop a few years ago that got all messed up and the advice I got from the computer guy was that the situation was hopeless and the only thing I could do was throw it away. Who am I to argue with a computer guru? So, it was thrown away.

What about smart phones? Don't even ask. Most cellphone users purchase a new phone every 18-20 months. Seventy percent of the old ones could be reused, but only 14-17 percent are recycled. Cell phones contain precious metals — silver, gold and copper. The amount dumped each year would have a value of $60 million — all lost. The phones also contain toxic materials: hexavalent chromium, arsenic, beryllium and cadmium. All contribute to a toxic environmental build up harmful to birds, animals and human beings.

We are in a throwaway society. Huge lots are full of banged up throw away cars and trucks still full of useful parts and materials. When the end of the world arrives, it may not be by nuclear holocaust, but by running out of space to discard all the things we throw away. Throw-away electric cars are likely to be the straw that breaks the camel's back.