Last Sunday was garbage amnesty day in my part of Moncton. Once a year, the municipal waste management company allows everybody to put anything they want by the curb, and it will be picked up. Seriously, anything – the only rule is that it can’t be toxic. So you get a curious phenomenon: great piles of stuff that are a fantastic example of the phrase, “one person’s trash is another one’s treasure.” On this one day every year, we get dozens of scavengers coming through our neighbourhood picking over these piles and taking at least half of the stuff away with them.
Anyway, as I was taking my daily constitutional Sunday, I noticed that there were a lot of PCs in people’s trash heaps. And not ancient ones from the 90s, but relatively modern looking computers. And they were mostly complete sets – keyboards, monitors, mice, and boxes. There must have been around a dozen of them in our subdivision of 185 homes (count ’em yourself in the Google Earth photo to the right). And I imagine that they mostly are still functional. Computers don’t simply stop working very often.
Think about it: there was more computing power sitting by the side of the road in one little subdivision last weekend than existed on the entire planet 35 years ago. Computing power that would have been worth millions of dollars even 20 years ago. And it was being thrown away. It got me to think about other things that we commonly dispose of today that would have been considered invaluable in the past. How about plastic drink containers? A light, watertight container would have been a real asset 100 years ago, and priceless 1000 years ago.
So what is valuable now that will be worthless in the future?