It's that time of year again - at least in Auckland. On a warm wet weekend old vans, station wagons and four wheel drives are cruising at walking pace through the streets in the city's central 'burbs. They stop frequently and pick over the redundant effects of other people's lives. The faces behind the wheels are mostly brown, eager to find something they can recycle, use - perhaps sell in the markets.
That time of year is the inorganic rubbish collection and it once used to fascinate a different age group - kids rummaging among the rejects for ball bearing races, pram wheels with axles, or wooden boxes in good nick. If you were lucky and found all three then you were well on your way to building that childhood dream, the trolley.
In those days it was slim pickings because New Zealand was the ultimate DIY society. Things weren't thrown away easily - they were repaired, refurbished - some use was always found for them unless they were completely clapped out. On any walk through any suburban street in the past few days there were no kids prospecting. There were however competing teams of adults searching for something useful - and they had rich pickings. On the grass verges of suburbia were respectable pieces of furniture, (indoor and outdoor) chests of drawers, office chairs and desks, surfboards, rebounders, good toys and not-so-very-old TVs and computer screens among other things. Much of it was stuff we would have kept in the era of make-do. But not now. Today the inorganic collection is a reminder of just how much we've changed from the DIY to the Disposable Society.