In recent months we've all been reminded that we have a responsibility of being good stewards to the ecology and that recycling is a good thing. How are we doing?
Better now than we had been, perhaps, but we still have a long way to go.
Glass and Plastics
We still spend a lot of money on things that just a few years ago we were throwing in the trash. Things like glass jars and plastic containers are huge.Now, I'm not one to try to put companies out of business but here's what I'm talking about.
We went through a phase where we were throwing away very serviceable glass jars, candle holders and vases. Back then, and still now, we purchase foods like sour cream and cottage cheese and toss them in the trash. But wait. Many of those glass and plastic containers are perfect for storing leftovers, spices and all manner of other items small and not so small (screws, rubber bands, loose coins, you name it). How do I know? Because glass jars just like the ones that were discarded in the 50s and 60s, Tupperware and similar plastic containers are big business today.
Now I'll grant you, the labels on many of these containers are downright ugly; and, removing them can be more than a little off-putting, Many of the labels are imprinted directly into the plastic. Yet, with a little effort and imagination the containers can be put to good use many times over before being tossed into the land fill. Elbow grease, soap and water and a little arts-and-crafts magic can actually make these discards quite attractive. Same goes for styrofoam egg cartons and such.
Many shoppers have turned to cloth bags for carting groceries home from the store. Some stores actually offer a couple pennies discount for each cloth bag you use. That's a good thing. But wait. What about those plastic shopping bags? They can be recycled, too. Why discard them altogether? Yes, we can return them to the store to be recycled; but, why do that when they can be work very well for storing old receipts and tax records, yarn, clothing and for lining household garbage cans, discard kitty litter and other nasty trash. Is it really necessary to buy new trash bags when we already have used plastic bags at our disposal?
Electronics and Household Appliances
Technology has added a level of urgency to the threat of overflowing land fills. Built in obsolescence is alive and well – and a huge concern. Tell a dealer you you need to have a machine that's more than 3 years old repaired. Invariably they'll look at you in disbelief and announce "That's a very old machine. I don't know if we can do anything for you." It's so much easier to sell you a new replacement.
Fortunately, some companies are starting to be much more proactive although to do our part, requires effort and money we normally would not expend. We still pay a little more to buy recycled paper and other earth-friendly commodities. We generally pay a bit more to return trade-ins and that does take some creative thinking when your aging body no longer can manhandle the bigger pieces..
I had a laser printer that died after 6-7 years. What's a conscientious earth-lover to do? Toss it in the trash? Put it in a recycle bin? I went on quite a campaign looking for a replacement that didn't require me to purchase an all-in-one with all the bells and whistles that I'd never use. I found it at my local Office Max and was pleasantly surprised, that they and HP offered a rebate for trade in on my dead machine. Problem solved!
My vacuum cleaner was a bit more challenging. I'd fallen on it and broken the dirt cup – long story, don't ask.Fortunately there were no broken bones – just the cup and the filter needed to be replaced. I searched the internet at great length, called several companies and the manufacturer, and had just about given up. It seems the model and its parts have been discontinued. I really dreaded buying a new machine when I knew the motor was just fine. Now, I've been told I'm a stubborn sort and, finally, just when I was ready to drag the vacuum out to the trash, company could get the replacement parts for me.
Old vs New
Now, I like "shiny, new" as much as the next guy. And, I do understand that manufacturing, buying and selling are what keeps the economy strong. But this, in my mind, is an issue of false economy. I'm no longer willing to discard something that works just to replace it because of age. Being just one generation removed from the Great Depression, I believe: "If it's not broke, don't fix it; and, if it can be fixed, don't throw it out."
It's all in a frame of mind. Old is not necessarily bad. Antiques are beautiful and – often – quite service-able. An old machine is just a collection of parts. Parts can be changed and the useful life of the machine can be extended many-fold IF someone will just make the parts and make them readily available. Throwing away a glass jar, a plastic container that needs to be cleaned or a machine that needs a gear replaced (for example) just to buy a new one doesn't make much sense – and certainly isn't earth-friendly. .
Granted, nothing lasts forever, but with a little effort, there's a great deal we can do to stop the waste, save some money and slow down the overflowing landfills that threaten our environment. We're making some progress. With a little thought and determination we can do a whole lot more..