Friday, 25 November 2011

Old Fashioned Recycling

I always think of recycling as a modern thing. The idea that everything should return to the factory to be reinvented into something new, like pencil cases made from tyres or fleeces made from drinking cups, does seem quite 21st century to me. But after a conversation with someone at work today I was reminded that's completely wrong.

Many people remember collecting used bottles and taking them back to the shops to be reused, and getting a penny or a discount on the new drinks bottles they bought. During rationing absolutely everything was used in households, twice or thrice if possible! Scraps of food were saved up to make leftover meals, old clothes were used to patch less old ones and nothing went in the bin.

Since rationing finished society has embraced the consumer and one-use culture we now find ourselves in. It's second nature to put things in the bin, not even thinking where it goes or whether it could have been used again. Tin cans, glass bottles, one use clothing, left over food, it all goes straight into the rubbish bin and off to the land-fill site.  If we all had to store our rubbish ourselves in our own gardens I bet we'd all buy less, bin less and take more notice of the packaging on things.

The price of objects aides our throw away culture too. A price of £5 for a top makes it easy to throw away after one use, but does that price include repairing the damaged environment that the production of the top created? The carbon emissions to fly and drive it to the shop, the water and chemicals poured into rivers once it's been dyed and a fair wage for the people who actually made it. If companies began to pay the full cost of their produce, and (as I'm sure they would) passed the cost onto the consumers we'd buy items that latest, that could be used again and that we'd cherish. I'd much rather have a few items that I really value than hundreds that clutter my cupboards and life just because they're cheap and easy.

It's something that we can all work towards. It might not be a big thing, but reusing and recycling in our own homes will mean we're buying less and using less of the worlds all too scare resources. And we can always get better at it. I can make sure I don't throw paper receipts in the bin but shred and recycle them, every bit of leftover food can be reused and any real waste can be composted. What could you do to make your life a bit more valuable and a little less disposable?

we need to start seeing the whole value and price of everything

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