A Disposable Society?

Andy Rooney: Americans Generate Too Much Trash

A weekly commentary by CBS News Correspondent Andy Rooney. It originally aired on Aug. 4, 2002.

We're divided.

There are those of us who save things and those of us who throw things out. Everyone is clearly in one category or the other, and it's not good when they're married.

In the United States, there are more of us who throw things away than there are people who save things. We live in a throw-away society.

I think it may be generational. Young people are not so sentimentally attached to their junk as people my age are to ours. It comes so easy, it's not so hard for them to let it go.

How could anyone throw this out after all the years of good sitting it provided?

We throw away more furniture in this country than there is furniture in most countries.

Americans put their whole lives by the side of the road to be carted away Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Mechanical engineers have invented ingenious devices to help make disposal quick and easy.

Some things get thrown out more than others. Summer furniture gets thrown away - all kinds of kitchen equipment, dishwashers, stoves, hot water heaters. There are enough junked refrigerators to chill whole neighborhoods.

Gadgets that seemed like a good idea in the store go. Venetian blinds get the heave-ho.

There are mountains of used cardboard containers at the dump. Recycling is an unsubstantiated rumor.

If you don't think this scene is everywhere in America, I should tell you these pictures were taken in Grapevine, Texas.

When I see what's being tossed, I'm often more tempted to take than give.

I talked to some men who pick up what others throw out.

MAN: "They throw out awesome things..color TV's, you know, little refrigerators all..there are a lot of things we salvage that you can take but we don't have the means to take it."

ROONEY: "Do you ever feel bad about some of the stuff you have to throw away?"

MAN: "No."

ROONEY: "Don't you..."

MAN: "No."

ROONEY: "You just ground up a table..."

MAN: "Who are you..you're a.."

ROONEY: "Mike Wallace."

MAN: "Mike Wallace."

ROONEY: "You knew it..."

MAN: "I looked at you..how ya doin'?"

ROONEY: "Good to see you. So you don't feel bad about throwing away a good piece of furniture

MAN: "No, I've been doing it too many years..."

We're running out of places to dump things. We spent all that money getting to the moon, and we aren't doing anything with that. Maybe we could ship our junk up there. We can end up throwing away the whole Earth.

Written By Andy Rooney