Bring back the reuse mindset of our ancestors

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

How can we bring back the reuse mindset of our ancestors, our grandparents and their parents?

glass_jars_reuse (2)The first step is education against the false mantra of recycling. It would appear that the majority, even in the green movement, have misunderstood the recycling message, aided and abetted by our governments (and we will not talk about whether governments are actually a good thing or not), to read “recycle, recycle, recycle” rather than the reuse that is in there also.

Recycling, commercial recycling, is expensive and also impacts on the environment detrimentally.

While reduction of packaging and thus packaging waste is one way of getting rid off the amount that is being produced there is a lot that will remain and reuse, repurposing and upcycling is far better than (commercial) recycling.

It is certainly true that even our ancestors has and created waste and humans have done so – and I am not referring here to human waste, if you know what I mean – and especially since products have been packaged in one way or another.

Our ancestors saw almost every bit of waste – at least those on the lower level – as a resource which to reuse and upcycle well before those words, especially the latter, were coined and became fashionable.

While the words may have become fashionable today few people, it would appear, at least in the developed world, though, seem to be doing it.

Everyone, well almost everyone, seems to have been brainwashed by the misinterpreted recycling mantra in such a way that all that they can think about is to toss those things into the recycling bin regardless of any reuse and upcycling possibilities, and the powers-that-be, from local to central government keep this going. “We need to recycle more” we are told. No one, almost, ever mentions reuse though despite the fact that reuse is much more important.

Instead of buying drinking glasses – which were expensive – our ancestors reused and repurposed glass jars from whatever that were suitable for this and the term “having a jar”, often heard in English working class areas, no doubt came about as a result of this practice of reusing glass jars for drinking glasses.

Shoe boxes were reused and repurposed for storage boxes for knickknacks and especially photographs, letters and documents. More often than not those boxes were given (nice) labels so they knew what was in this or that box. Some would even decorate the boxes with left-over wallpaper or such like.

In other instances glass jars were repurposed as storage containers for dry goods, such as beans, peas, rice and flour or for storing nails, screws and other small bits of hardware in the workshop, garage or garden shed and the ladies used them to store sewing supplies, especially the likes of buttons and such.

Bent nails, extracted from this or that, were straightened out and reused or stored for future use – yes, in those very same glass jars mentioned earlier – and the same goes for screws, nuts and bolts. Out ancestors would – literally – have a field day with the pallets that are tossed out by their thousands today and also with the other things that get thrown away at a daily basis.

They seem to have been able to see a potential reuse in and for almost anything and everything. We, in the main, do appear to have lost this ability, this knack, but we must regain and redevelop it. It is important to do so and to be reusing a repurposing as we will never be able to totally eliminate waste, especially not as regards to packaging waste.

We must revisit the time of our reusing and repurposing ancestors, by way of old “How-To” books and such and then apply what they did to the waste materials of today. While the packaging material world of our ancestors was tin cans, glass and crock jars, wood and cardboard and ours today has more plastic in it many of the ideas of old can still be used and adapted for today.

We must do it for the sake of our finances and especially for the Planet.

The more that we reuse and repurpose for our needs and wants the less money we have to spend on those things and also less waste has to burden the environment as waste and also products for which we substitute the items do not need to be manufactured.

In theory, without adding it all up, recycling sounds very a very good way out but it still needs an awful lot of energy and not just in the process of recycling. It is the collecting and then the transporting – often more than half-way across the globe – to processing that is often omitted from the figures banded about.

Reuse and repurpose more and starve your bins, including your recycling ones. Your wallet and the Planet will thank you.

© 2014