Sandy Springs: Buried in our own garbage, bit by bit

One of the unfortunate proclivities that set us apart from the rest of the living things on the planet is that we humans are the only ones who routinely take much more than we need. If you need proof just look inside the trash and recycling containers sitting at the curbs around Sandy Springs. That’s rhetorical, in case anyone is planning a Dumpster dive.

Archaeologists get into an almighty dither when they find pieces of what was an old wine jug. Hundreds of years from now will their professional progeny get as excited when they find the shrink-wrap that came on our GPS unit? The Styrofoam coffee cup from the convenience store?

In the course of a day or two we all leave quite a bit of detritus in our wake. Only it’s getting more complicated to dispose of. I remember when we used to utter coarse maledictions over the amount of time it took the TV repairman to show up. Does anyone repair TVs anymore? Does anyone train to repair TVs? Not when sets can be kicked to the curb.

Back before we fretted over how long it took things to biodegrade, Sandy Springsteens used to take all unwanted stuff to the landfill at Morgan Falls. Among the everyday household trash one might also get rid of was that old hi-fi system that could no longer be repaired, half cans of unneeded paint thinner/household cleaning chemicals and other things that would give Al Gore a case of the vapors.

Getting rid of our flotsam back then was easy, but easy as not good. So in our brave newly green-aware world, throwing things away takes some planning. A couple of months ago Keep Sandy Springs Beautiful held an event where just about anything could be properly disposed of — the stuff we can/should no longer put into a Hefty bag. Batteries. Electronics. Printer ink cartridges.

But events like that don’t take into account the dross we want to get rid of but don’t want found by just anyone. There are companies that make good money removing the hard drive out of an outdated computer and grinding it to powder to keep its information from getting into the wrong hands.

In Roswell today some folks are hosting a document-shredding event so the identity-theft hooligans can’t pluck old bank and credit card statements from the Dumpster. By the way, the organizers placed a maximum limit of five boxes or 200 pounds of paper per vehicle because they knew someone might arrive with a packed 18-wheeler.

I think about those old days at the Morgan Falls landfill — now a public golf course — and I wonder, literally, what’s cooking down below. It’s a miracle Mother Nature hasn’t slapped a restraining order on us. Not to mention lawsuits for wrongful injury and nonsupport.

Today’s diggers find an ancient artifact and exclaim: “What must their lives have been like?” Five hundred years from now their archaeological heirs will pull our debris out and ask: “What were they thinking?” Good question.

Jim Osterman lives in Sandy Springs. Reach him at