Skip to main content

Recycling is a good thing, to a point.

As readers of my blog have noted, I've been making the rounds of the local auctions lately. Now I'm not complaining about getting a new door for $10 and a pair of usable car ramps for $3. But seeing restorable 58 Chevies going for barely scrap value and dimension lumber going for firewood prices has me riled a bit. Then I got into a few discussions about auction values of historic trucks over on the American Truck Historical Society's forum. Last night my temper reached a boil watching a documentary detailing the sordid story of the demolition of Coney Island by a developer who has since abandonned his condo fantasy for Coney Island and dumped the bare site of the now demolished landmark on New York City.

As virgin sources become rarer, the prices of basic metals are skyrocketing and will continue to do so. What does that mean.... Well, with even common scrap steel going for almost $200 a ton a classic streamlined locomotive will sell for over $20,000 at the scrap yard. There are maybe 200 of those classic streamlined locomotives left, and  at most 50 in operating condition. That's just the "garden variety" streamliners from EMD- The Alco's are so rare that the Smithstonian had to go to Mexico to find one, and there may only be one Baldwin "Sharknose" left, assuming the rumors it was scrapped were (as rumored) started by it's owners to protect it. Beyond the streamliners, Amtrak's early locomotives are rapidly disappearing, and the F40s that were the face of Amtrak through the 80s and 90s are threatened.

Trucks? Ever hear of a Marmon, Hendrickson, Brockway, Western Star cabover, or GMC General? They were all low production models, and today they're threatened with extinction as the scrappers gobble them up. There's lots of aluminum in big trucks, just an aluminum cab is worth a thousand dollars to the scrapper. Recently a couple truck collectors I know outbid the scrappers to buy two classic trucks for about $2500 each at an auction in Fargo. The trucks ran, and they even drove them home to the East Coast. But to the scrappers they had a $2000 bounty on their heads, even though they were operable historic vehicles that deserve a place of honor in a museum.

Historic cars and even motorcycles are threatened too- Fortunately those two '58 Chevies were bought by a collector who outbid the scrappers, but four german Opel engines fell to the scrap dealer for $10. If you've got a classic Opel Coupe (think 4/5ths scale Corvette) with engine problems, the parts you need are now probably melted down and on their way to a chinese sweatshop to return as the latest consumer junk.  Same with computers- I rescued a first generation iMac from a scrapper a couple years back... Reinstalled the OS and it works fine. Recycle the desktop PCs, but keep those cool looking Macs around even if they don't work!

Yup, the scrappers are after houses too- They can have those old single wide mobile homes, but Airstreams and anything resembling them deserve preservation. And Lustrons- these steel houses from the 40s will last forever, but of the 2500 built probably half have already been devoured by the scrappers. And even when historic restorable old homes are hauled to the landfill, we pay- for example, Minneapolis is paying about $20,000 a piece to tear down old houses. For that price, the house should at least be taken apart and recycled instead of hauling it straight to the landfill.

Literally, history is passing us by as it's hauled off to the landfill, smelter, or blast furnace.

How can we stop this theft of our history? If your neighbor has an old vehicle that you think is an eyesore, cut them some slack. Talk to them about your concerns before you call the authorities... A little shrubery can go along ways. Got a classic computer? Keep it running and updated as long as possible, then consider it modern art as it decorates your home or office. Does your city want to scrap the old caboose in the park or tear down some century old homes? Lobby for preservation, and use historic designation or whatever other strategy you can find to save them.

Once our history is hauled off to the landfill or scrapyard, it's gone forever. So tomorrow I'm headed over the other side of Aberdeen for an auction- there's a '63 Corvair, a '73 VW, a 250 Yamaha, and a Honda MB5 on the bill. I'd prefer a 2nd generation Corvair, the VW sounds like it's a " squareback" instead of a Beetle, and the Yammy could be a classic YDS two stroke or a lame 250 Virago... But I'll be happy if I'm outbid by new owners that give them good homes, and I'll be happy to outbid the scrapper for any of them!

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Scrapping Flint (5+ / 0-)

    Here in Flint, Michigan, a third of police calls involve people stripping siding from houses--some vacant, some not.  When General Motors closed down the Buick City plant, $400,000 worth of metal disappeared from it before it was properly secured.  We are on the epicenter of the dismantling of America.

    •  Here in SW MI (0+ / 0-)

      and all around the country, I imagine,

      farmers are losing wiring to their irrigation systems to copper thieves. Very hard to prevent. Once that happens a few times, their insurance goes through the roof. Are we going to have to re-design systems so you bring the wiring out and string it up every time you need to use something?

      Mark E. Miller // Kalamazoo Township Trustee // MI 6th District Democratic Chair

      by memiller on Sat Oct 08, 2011 at 08:10:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Machine tools as well (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    To be large and old is a death knell for a machine tool at auction.  A recent machine (of any size) will be purchased by a machine tool dealer.  A small old machine will be purchased by a hobbyist, who wants something that can fit thru the basement door.    If you are large and old, the people interested in you will be bidding by the pound.  

    I was talking to someone that does real old-fangled letterpress printing.  He said all the type went for scrap some time ago. (luckily he has both monotype and linotype machines and can cast his own).  The only thing that saved the presses was that they were still useful for die cutting.

    Despite this, for those of us that want to buy a lump of metal out of a scrapyard may be out of luck.  In my neck of the woods, land is worth too much to pile metal on it.   And when you do find a yard, (after a 50 mile drive) they don't want you scavenging.

    The yards that supplied a lot of the metal for Mista Ballista are now closed.  When their owners decided it was time to retire, the land was worth more than the business was.  We have to make a fair trek when we need more steel these days.

    This planet needs a lot more kids who think taking a lawnmower apart is more fun than playing a videogame.

    by rjnerd on Fri Oct 07, 2011 at 06:28:58 PM PDT

    •  Family typesetting shop sold all for scrap (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rjnerd, kurt

      a sin

      Local school got rid of woodworking and metal shop.

      Again for scrap.  Would've bought myself if I had the space.

      Worse - kids never get exposure to such things.  Kids today can't hold a hammer (see Bush in New Orleans?)   Metalworking? might as well be talking rocket Science....

  •  Laws ENCOURAGE this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    If you are into restoring old cars you have to confront local ordinances on having 'unlicensed' vehicles on your property.

    You have neighbors complaining about doing 'car repair work'

    And if you manage to restore a car you'll have loads of fun dealing with insurance and registration.  Pollution controls are another issue.

    If I rebuild a pre 1967 car but use a later engine or modify that engine I can have problems.

    Federal laws on pollution control affect states on this.  

    You also have well meaning - usually 'liberal' lawmakers proposing all kinds of laws regulating vehicles - 'encouraging' the junking of old cars, preventing modifications, and more.  

    The 'Hot Rod' culture in the US is a reflection of the old amateur engineer/shade tree mechanic ethos... lots of innovation and skill - AND a whole industry catering to these enthusiasts.

    You had some great old cars scrapped under 'junker' laws.

    A friend rescued a 67 Buick GS convertible about to be crushed.

    This is one of those areas where people end up supporting Republicans because of 'excess government regulation'.

    I know car geeks who have voted based  on this issue alone - and it wan't for the Democrat.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site