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A trip to the tip   

Yesterday we took an excursion for a little retail therapy. Needed a few bits and bobs and a bit of inspiration for some furniture and art projects. But we didn’t head to the Canberra Centre, or even Bunnings. No Sir-ee. We went to the Mugga Lane tip.

In particular, we headed to The Green Shed. It’s a large, cavernous shed, bursting with what looks like junk. There’s an outside section – also overflowing – with what also looks like junk. Much of it out there is pretty grotty or broken, but it’s well organised into little sections – books, clothes, furniture, electrical, lawn mowers, tiles, plastics, metals etc etc. It’s really big, and there is a lot of stuff. And really – 99% of the population might agree it is actually junk – but it’s that small remaining percentage that view it otherwise that makes it all work, and allows you to find just what you’re looking for. Anyone for an outdoor spa setting?

Mr T headed straight for the building-type stuff and happily rummaged through until he found a couple of interesting metal pieces. Wasn’t sure what they were or what he wanted them for. He just liked them. A lot.

Then it was out to the yard, when we joyously picked up rusty old pieces of metal reo and some pieces that defied names, including a 6 kilo block with an interesting shape, and a hollow metal pipe. That’s to insert other pieces of metal into, to shape it. Not sure what they will all be used for exactly, but it could be good. It could be great. Some of it will go into a side table that is currently emerging from some old timber found at the back of our yard when we moved in 10 years ago. It might even look like some of the fabulous artistic stuff Robert Kippel does, one of Mr T’s heroes. He’s even got his work at the Art Gallery of NSW and the National Gallery of Australia (Robert, not Mr T). Now there’s an aspiration.

When we got to the front counter with our ‘treasures’, there were 11 people in the line in front of us waiting to buy stuff. Eleven! Someone had toys, another a great looking chest of drawers, there was a portable cot, a side table, and a fab little wine rack – all going to new homes and at bargain prices. I didn’t want any of that stuff, but they no doubt thought we were slightly stricken with our selected items of discarded rusted metal.

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What a brilliant concept. What a great place. It’s nothing like browsing through DJs with its shiny floors and dripping in chandeliers and all that, but it’s a shop all the same, and from what I can see, it seems to be run pretty well and organised. There are no prices. You just take your selection to the counter and the man there (well, I’ve never seen a woman) makes up a price. We were happy with ours – I guess you can complain a little if you’re not.

It’s been through some issues in the past, with arguments with lessors over leasing arrangements and staffing, but it’s survived, and is now contracted by the ACT Government to provide the city with an alternative to dumping stuff at the tip. I think we’re proud of it and what’s it’s achieving with waste management (not to mention source of treasures!). We should support it too. There’s even an offshoot shop and cafe in the city which sells some of the fancier finds.

I remember many years ago Richard Carlton of 60 minutes fame (I use that term loosely) did a daring expose on the ‘fat cats’ of Canberra. By that he apparently meant the privileged, wealthy bureaucrats and perhaps politicians who lived there (though the latter actually don’t live here – they simply fly in and out at will), leaching off the rest of the nation’s populace.

By way of example to demonstrate our city’s overt wealth, they filmed up and down Mugga Road in Red Hill, one of our most salubrious suburbs, and showed a number of the very large EMBASSIES (not houses of the ordinary folk, Dicko) and then highlighted our recycling facilities, this time in Mugga Lane, as the proof of the pudding. Apparently we Canberrans were so loaded, we had oodles of valuable rubbish to toss away, enough and of high enough quality that other people were actually willing to buy it! Imagine – recycling! Clearly recycling was still in its infancy and we, as a city, were well ahead of our times. I’m still annoyed at the tone of that 60 Minutes segment, 20 years or something later.

Because the point is, Mr Carlton, it’s a brilliant idea! Was way back then, and still is now. You throw out or donate what you don’t want, and someone else just might want it – or even get terribly excited about it (think Mr T). Landfill can be saved, and at the same time houses can be decorated, kids can play on new/old trikes, gardens can be invigorated, furniture and artworks can be created, and possibly new artistic careers will bloom. And as an added bonus, people get jobs out of it.

When we got home and unloaded the treasures, there was some immediate playing in the garage, and later that afternoon, some research was conducted into available welding courses.

This might be the beginning of something exciting. Watch this space.

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