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Pocket Deposits May Soon Prove Valuable

Column by Anders Hove
Opinion Editor

"They might as well close the patent office; now everything has been invented." So said my grandmother when the neighbors purchased the town's first self-starting automobile. That was back in the 1930s.

I'm inclined to agree. Aside from the Dobsonian telescope mount, I can't think of a single thing worth having invented after 1930. I'm convinced that the real advances in productivity since the Great Depression have taken place not because of technological change, but due to more efficient use and allocation of known technologies and resources.

Leave it to a graduate student to prove my point. David Dotson, a master's degree candidate at New Mexico State University at Las Cruces, has this year discovered that a heretofore disused national resource has enormous potential as an agricultural fertilizer. The material in question is a fibrous fleece derived from the abrasion of linen and other fabrics.

In other words, lint.

The human race has been struggling with lint for years. It collects in the most ridiculous places. Lint collects on bodies, under beds, in sock drawers, on the carpet, and in the drain. Our keys are forever getting mired in fluff-filled pockets. Some people with Pocket Lint Syndrome appear to have a socially-unacceptable chronic itching problem. For this reason and others, most people deem lint a nuisance.

Some people have more of a lint problem of others. International Garment Processors (IGP), a company that stonewashes jeans, throws away 70 cubic yards of lint every week. And that's just a small part of America's daily lint production. Imagine how much cotton is going to waste every year due to lint disposal? Wouldn't it be better for the world if that matter could be used for something?

Now it appears it can. And mind you, lint is no ordinary fertilizer. In his experiments, graduate student Dotson spread lint over ground that would otherwise be sterile, and in some cases even toxic. The result was an astounding increase in grass growth.

Scientists and industrialists see this as evidence that industrial lint waste will now be put to good use aiding reclamation efforts. But imagine what will happen when lint recycling reaches the environmental home front. Suddenly, each morning, many will be confronted with a nagging question: You're not planning on throwing that belly-button lint away, are you?

And picture the lawns and gardens in your neighborhood spruced up with a nice layer of lint. Stonewash for vegetables, dryer lint for shrubs, shower-drain scum for general grass growing.

Some of us will undoubtedly recognize our own erstwhile fleece deposits. People will be seen scrutinizing their yards, looking for evidence that Levis decay faster than Wranglers, or proof that someone is overwashing their favorite L.L. Bean shirt.

Among households dominated by polyester and rayon, lint supplies will run low. Children will be sent running to neighbors' houses: "My mother asks, could you possibly spare a couple pounds of lint?" More charitable sorts may drop off excess lint at the local Salvation Army.

As you can see, we are about to enter a brave new world of futuristic living. All thanks to lint, a substance most of us have known about for years. It just goes to show that the best things in life aren't invented or earned, they just collect in your undergarments.