Drive Through Country

There is a lot to be said for country life - much of what I have to say about it is chronicled here. The open spaces, the room between one's self and one's neighbors offers a sense of separation, of privacy that cannot be easily found in the city. The connection with nature is enhanced by this solitude.

As wonderful as this is, that sense of solitude clearly can mean something else to people who are passing through it rather than living in it. For some it presents an emptiness that must be endured in order to move from one actual destination to another - drive through country, if you will. For others it reflects an area where one can do things unobserved, undetected.

Infamously, the empty areas of the Midwest can hide meth houses and similar objectionable sites. But while the media presents this sort of thing as if it's rampant, actual sightings of these are relatively rare. What is more common is the use of our countryside as a dumping ground for things one is, apparently, unsure of how to otherwise throw away.

This isn't a new phenomenon - I can recall variations on this theme going back to childhood. But the thing I see more recently, and which is a bit more striking than a bag of beer cans, for example, is this:

TV in the Ditch

Another TV in the Ditch

These pictures reflect two different, large CRT televisions sitting in the ditch, just a couple of miles apart:

TV's on Henkel Road

This road isn't unpopulated - there are several houses within relatively close proximity of both of them. But it has the distinction of being just off of a fairly major thoroughfare - US RT 52 - which one suspects offers just enough access, and just enough privacy, that one feels one can dump them without being noticed.

And dump is the operative term here. Anyone who has ever had to pick up and move a large CRT television knows these now-outdated devices are anything but light. This is a factor, as much as anything else, in why they've been replaced flat screen TV's. All of which is to say: these didn't just fall off of someone's truck. They aren't sitting, smashed, at the side of the road. They are out in the ditch. One of the two - in the second picture - is so far into the ditch that it's nearly to the field. It is also accompanied by a second, unwanted item that appears to be a microwave.

I'd like to say that this was striking enough to take a picture of because I've never seen such a thing before. Unfortunately, that's not the case - I've seen this same sight multiple times over the time that we've been out here - large, tube televisions tossed in the ditch. I suspect this occurs in part because disposal of old TV's is becoming more and more challenging. It also comes to mind because we have our own departed TV to dispose of.

The state of Illinois does maintain a list of electronic devices and materials that must be recycled rather than sent to a landfill, as well as a list of organizations and business that will recycle electronic devices and materials. This looks pretty hopeful when you see that Wal-Mart is at the top of the list - after all, they are everywhere. However, the big-box giant's website indicates that they only accept smartphones and tablets, along with a short list of other devices, none of which are televisions.

Staples offers a laudably longer list, but limits its program to items that could be considered office equipment, such as monitors and printers. Goodwill will accept a number of electronic items, but any mention of televisions is carefully absent from their site. The Salvation Army is listed as a recycler as well, but specifics about this are either not listed, or well hidden, on their site. A regional site - Stockpiled Electronics Recycling appears on a search with a Facebook page as their business site (folks, Facebook should never be your primary business site... but I digress), but it was posted in 2013, and the number to call is a scam line to sell you a Caribbean cruise.

So it's extremely challenging to find a home for that old TV. With all of those negatives, I did find this positive:

Best Buy will recycle a lot of electronics for free, and will recycle your television for a $25 fee. Best Buy is not a company I particularly love, and stores are few and far between in this region, with the nearest examples requiring an hour or so in the car or truck. Still, the company deserves kudos for stepping up here where others will not, and driving a bit to allow for proper disposal is far better than being a waste of human biomass who dumps his TV in the ditch.