‘Trash and treasure: Memories of digging for valuables at the local tip’

Aug 22, 2021
Julie writes of her childhood Saturdays spent looking for treasures at the local garbage dump. Source: Getty Images

It was early days, in our semi-small town where my sisters and I were growing. My eldest sister had started secondary school. She was the pretty one in the family, an early bloomer.

This was long ago, being raised in the early-1960s. It was before the construction of the large shopping complex, which invaded our little corner of the world. We would wake up on Saturday mornings, the day in the backyard yawning in front of us.

However, after lunch, my ever busily devoted-to-gardening parents would say, “We’re off to the tip!” Yes, excitement plus! Even the dog got day release from the backyard, overjoyed. The local council tip was free then, situated where there is now a scenic, beautifully landscaped golf course, state of the art.

We would pile in to the family wheels, fur friend too, and head off to where my sister met her array of pubescent beaus. We sorted through an interesting, diverse variety of hard rubbish, not a rubber glove in sight. Germies! We seem to have survived.

My dad would dump his stuff, my mum would bring home unforgettable treasures, other families’ rubbish. My sister would often come home with yet another new boyfriend, but not for long. They were only kids really.

In these modern days, teenagers meet at the shopping centres on Saturdays. Winding forward our clocks, the new local council tip cost heaps. All rubbish has to be sorted, allocated and approved. No more is there free ranging in the hard rubbish by suburbanites to seek treasures, like budding historians.

What would an archaeologist make of our current tip, in a 1,000 years’ time? Would the future of the human race pick up a fossilised smartphone or toilet brush? Would they wonder who made these implements, what is this strange material from which they are constructed?

We who are on earth today shall not even be fossils, but our heritage of plastic will be leaching into the underlying soil and water table, affecting places where vegetation will grow over the top of our tips. It is what it is, I guess, plastic. What can the world do today? Every community in the world today has a local tip, filling up right now with toxic wastes for the future ahead.

I suppose this will all matter in a 1,000 years’ time. Yes, it is all food, or rubbish, for thought, for all of us, the future fossils.

What things do you remember from your childhood? Are you worried about the environmental impact society is having on the future?

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