268 “Metal Urgent”

By Hetty Gray

# 268 “Metal-Urgent”

August 16, 2019

I take license with the standard metallurgy to pose a question to all of you despite your state of residence.

Harken back to World War II. American households from coast to coast began to donate metal toward the war effort. Vintage newsreels show housewives of all ages dragging everything from old beds to hubcaps… pots and pans to floor lamps… They carried their bounty to waiting trucks that plied the streets of towns and cities across the United States gathering precious metal for the war plants.

A treasure trove of metal reposes across this nation — spied among hills and valleys, backyards and vacant lots, alongside main roads and dirt roads. It sits. It rusts. It decays. Why aren’t those who push for environmental cleanup going after the metal before it loses its value to recycle?

Disregard what we once called “junk yards” or today’s popular “scrap yards.”
Businesses such as these have provided spare parts for us as far back as anyone can remember. Sometimes the inventory comes from wrecked vehicles or commercial demolition. Yet, I would hazard to guess that the smallest percentage of their worn wares comes from people bringing it in for its cash value.

Can you fathom the amount of metal that lies about around this country? It would boggle the mind to even begin to try to figure out the tonnage, but I would bet it is considerable —even shocking!

What if our service clubs, 4-H and youth groups volunteered to gather up the metal and take it to a central hub for shipment to companies ripe for raw materials? What if monetary return were enough to more than tempt people with the stuff on their property to haul it out for cash?

There will always be “collectors” (?) who amass junk vehicles and farm equipment and let it sit idle for years. I guess some folks just can’t part with things. Yet, it makes more sense to accrue a little income from unused items. True, the current values are low. You can expect a low price of around $200 for a 1.3 ton vehicle according to .

In truth, even farmers cannot expect a high value for idle, rusty old farm equipment. Yes, even with the booming world demand for scrap metal, farm machinery that commands high prices is of the old, heavy variety dating back at least a generation or two. The focus here is not “antique” farm
equipment. That’s another story entirely, centered on enthusiasts for things like oil pullers and steel wheeled harvesters.

I just wonder what would happen if we spurred those intent on cleaning up the environment to attack the problem of rusty clutter awash in America.
If the enthusiasm equaled the supply, you could envision stake truck after stake truck lumbering down the back roads and highways carrying their bounty to strategically located collection hubs.

Instead of going out for a leisurely drive only to have the landscape marred by piles of rusting “stuff,” why not anticipate seeing a cleaner view? It is disgusting to think that an entire group of farmers were deprived of making a living to save some little “snail darter” fish; yet, rusting hulks sink into the ground without so much as a second thought from those who clamor for a “cleaner America.”

Scrap yards and junkyards have fences. Open spaces that are cluttered with rusting hulks constitute a blighted landscape. Urban or rural, accumulating junk is unsightly and unworthy of a country steeped in pride and tradition. Metropolitan cities often sponsor clean up taken of Baltimore, Maryland? A lot of that trash it is plastic, but a lot is metal, too. Department of Corrections work details routinely clean up along highways, but those efforts pale in comparison with cleaning up the junk seen off our roads. Granted, rural areas would pose security and escape problems, but why not have corporations and foundations sponsor clean up crews staffed by unemployed men? Jobs equate to money. Money incentivizes upward mobility.

Trash as a step up? Yet, we do have a crisis, one that I dub “metal urgent.” The longer metal sits unused and in the open, the less value it has and the more unsightly it becomes. Face it: there is a lot of junk out there.

If we really attacked this problem, we might be very surprised at the result. Think about it.

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