When we were in Italy and Austria this summer I was in awe of the recycling and multiple use of items. No waste for them (or so it seemed to me through my rose-colored sun glasses). Restaurant orders on the backs of old receipts. Bring your own bags/containers/baskets for purchased store items. Container gardens in all sorts of items- bins, boxes, baskets, old tires.
I really liked Florence's organized street trash cans. They had containers for specific items: organic matter, paper, glass, plastic. The containers were solar compactors. On trash day a truck with a large claw like arm, lifted the individual containers from the sidewalk and opened the bottom to dump the contents into separated trash compartments on the truck. It makes such sense. From the users standpoint, there didn't seem to be too much difficulty figuring out what went in what container. One can feel good about recycling. The city remained relatively clean because all items have a place to go. The trash that can be recycled is and that which can be composted, does.
In our hotel in Florence, there was all sorts of artwork. What was so interesting was that all of the artwork was from recycled material. Some of it was purely decorative and others were useful.
It makes me look at my space differently. It makes me think- how can I re-use what I am currently using?
Usually I am pretty good with the re-using of things. From old handkerchiefs becoming bathroom curtains to cracked mixing bowls becoming flower containers, I like to be able to use something in two, possibly three incarnations. Though, there are times when I am just ruthless and wasteful. I have been known to just "throw it out". When I am tired of having too many in my cupboard, or in having to move and pack up items, I get rid of it all. To the dump. I just don't want to "deal with figuring things out".
I think for me, it comes down to excess. When I have excessive amount of things it is easier to be cavalier and just toss. No wonder that Americans waste approximately 219 pounds of food waste/year. Who knows how much of our landfills are filled with plastic China made junk from the dollar store? Certainly we have plastic and trash floating in the oceans, and with wind and currents, converge into "islands". While there is debate over the actual size, all can agree that those items shouldn't be there in the first place. Click here for the facts from NOAA.
It seems when we don't have an excess of things, we tend to "use up" the items or reuse in another way and even discard it appropriately. We become more in tune with the items, "Can it be recycled or totally reused? If I cannot use it, maybe someone else can?" I know that I don't always dispose of things properly. You would certainly ascertain that if you looked at the contents of my trash can. But I do want to be creative in the way I use and reuse the items in my home. Not only does it give me a sense that I am being a good steward of the environment, but it is just plain fun to be creative. Whatever I have "created" doesn't have to be forever; some of those handkerchief valances have been replaced, but I was able to get a couple of years of extra enjoyment with them.
What about you? Have you ever thought about the trash you throw out? Do you have many trashcans out on trash day? Do you recycle? Can you recycle? Does your town, jurisdiction, county, village, province offer recycling centers? Before something goes to the trash heap, have you looked at it with new eyes? Can it be re-purposed?
Archeologists find many clues in the trash heaps of previous societies. I think societies will be judged by the way they leave their trash. How will we be known? Will our trash labels us as wasteful? As careless? Or will we be seen as organized and showing a good usage of what we have? Will we be considered civilized?