What is it? Hint: It costs $200 at Bed, Bath & Beyond. (Photo courtesy Bed, Bath & Beyond catalogue.)

What is it? Hint: It costs $200 at Bed, Bath & Beyond. (Photo courtesy Bed, Bath & Beyond catalogue.)

During his ill-fated run for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, John Edwards’ campaign theme was “Two Americas.” If anything, the income inequality Edwards referred to has only gotten worse. Of course his personal scandals left him unable to run for dog catcher.

That expression got me wondering, was “Dog Catcher” ever an elective office? If so, I can just picture the debates. “Ladies and gentlemen, my opponent is soft on poodles.” But, I digress.

Edwards’ theory was that in America there are two levels of almost everything, including education, healthcare and criminal justice. One system is for the rich, and one is for the rest of us. Could that be true of trash cans? Before you assume I’ve finally “lost it,” indulge me with a little background.

In 1988, I wanted to bring city recycling bins to where I live, The Shores apartment buildings. (I must have been a toddler at the time.) But before I pat myself on the back as “Environmental Eddie,” I confess my idea was motivated, in part, by laziness.

You see, in the early days of recycling in Santa Monica one had to drive to a drop-off center. It was a pain, but also seemed like defeating the purpose of recycling, which is conserving resources. Since The Shores had a whopping 532 apartments, I naively thought maybe the City Council could be talked into leaving bins here.

I suppose it wasn’t that naive because I eventually succeeded, though it took 18 months. (I’ve since concluded that if you want to do anything with City Hall, patience is more than a virtue, it’s a requirement.)

Understandably, City Hall wanted to be assured that residents would use the bins and suggested I collect 100 petition signatures. Naturally, they also wanted the building owners to be on board.

At first, The Shores’ owners essentially laughed at my proposal. (Definitely not a good sign). Finally, however, I pointed out that whatever trash was taken out in recycling bins would be that much less from the regular trash bins and thus a cost savings. They suddenly stopped laughing.

Finally the day arrived for the “Grand Opening” of The Shores recycling. With balloons and other festive decorations, a truck arrived towing brand new recycling bins as The Shores’ owners and I looked on.

Apparently, the head of recycling had forgotten how to use a tape measure, so the bins couldn’t fit in the garage. The Shores’ owners looked critically at me as I busily tried to dig a hole to hide in.

It took six more months until new bins arrived, but the recycling program at The Shores has been a smashing success ever since. Over the years, probably hundreds of thousands of tons of recyclables have been hauled out of here. But occasionally tenants, however well-meaning, will attempt to recycle items that defy logic.

For example, it’s not uncommon to see pillows, an end table or a computer monitor crammed into the bins. So it was the other night when I was recycling newspapers and magazines for a disabled neighbor. I spied a large stainless-steel box still in the carton. There was no room for my neighbor’s recyclables, so I fished the box out and dumped in the magazines and newspapers into the bin.

Space-age looking, the box was so intriguing that I removed the carton. Even then as I stared at it I didn’t know what the hell it was. (At least it wasn’t ticking.)

The words “Simple Human” were printed on the side. On the Internet I discovered that it was in fact a 40-liter, $200 trash can with a sophisticated sensor that opened and closed the lid automatically. (What seemingly senseless and superfluous high-end consumer product will they market for the rich next?)

Speaking of the rich, here’s a rather sobering statistic: The world’s wealthiest 1 percent owns 46 percent of all global assets. Yikes!

Here at home, corporate profits and record stock exchange numbers prove that the rich thrive even during a recession. (Meanwhile Warren Buffet points out that his cleaning woman pays a higher percent of her income in taxes than he does. Go figure.)

So dear readers, the middle class is disappearing right before our eyes and skyrocketing tuition is making a college education for children of the elite. (Or those willing to graduate $150,000 in debt.) But don’t despair, thanks to the folks at Simple Human, if you have $200 you don’t ever have to touch your trash can again. Frankly, it makes me wonder how I’ve lived this long without it.

 

 

To see what a $200 trash can looks like, go to bedbathandbeyond.com and type “Simple Human.” To recycle your old electronics go to 2411 Delaware Ave., Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jack can be reached at facebook.com/jackneworth, twitter.com/jackneworth or via e-mail at jnsmdp@aol.com.

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