Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Loading Dock Vortex and The Thrift Store

Apartment and condo loading docks are like those mysterious ocean vortexes that, in the Pacific, accumulate Texas-sized regions of poison trash or, in the Atlantic, lost ships and flying saucers. Stuff naturally gathers as the flow of people move in and around.

In our building, the loading dock area includes our recycling and trash bins, so everything that leaves the building passes through, swirls around, and is concentrated in a small area, especially on a holiday weekend. By far the largest amount of stuff that accumulates is trash (as in the Pacific vortex), but into a secondary vortex, defined by the edge of the dock and the door, accrues possibly usable stuff: dishes, clothing, CDs, lamps, chairs. Our residents tend to be prosperous and, on the evidence, many cannot be bothered to ship every possession when they move, but are reluctant to trash them. If you wait long enough, you'll see clothing of every sort, and every small item from the IKEA catalog.

These items tend to sit for a day, then the staff tosses them in the trash dumpster. What else can they do? They have to keep the loading dock clean.

Into this vortex toddles Me. Several times a week, I volunteer at the Mercer Island Youth and Family Services Thrift Store (MITS.) Over time, I've become a conduit between the loading dock and the thrift store; it's trivially easy to toss any reusable item that is Lost in the Dock Vortex into my car and on into a second life at MITS.

This gives me a double reward. Having grown up poor, I don't like to trash anything that looks still useful, and the Thrift Store raises money applied to a very good purpose, so I feel good about that too.

If you live in a similar situation, I hope you can work out some variation on this Loading Dock/Thrift Store connection. It might be better if our community organized a systematic collection of usable items for a more local thrift store; are you the clever person who will take this idea and run with it to fame and glory? We have nothing to lose but our loading dock trash vortex!

In the spirit of this week's Change the World Wednesdays, I had hoped to Take a Trash Walk, but I caught that nasty bug that's going around and so not moving very far nor fast. About the extent of my operational range on foot is our loading dock, but even with that limitation, I was able to repurpose a box of clothing and a cloth bag (!) of cooking pans (!!) that would otherwise have been trashed. I hope that, with the coming of spring, I can encourage our delightful Sustainable Belltown to think about a few Trash Walks as a social activity!

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