Today we find so many books, websites on making fancy things out of old household items. They show how to make decoration items, utility items, pet things and many more. In the process the perfectly usable items are cut into different shapes and sizes giving out plastic chips , paper/cloth cuttings and other scarp material which are so small to be picked up by any waste picker or recycling plant. They end up in our soil. That’s the tragedy that all the plastic haters and eco-artistes don’t take into account. We have rechristened down-cycling very conveniently as recycling .
Reusing means the old item is to be used for same purpose and not some other less important work. Our Grandparents knew real recycling and reusing without being taught environmental lessons.
In our childhood, younger siblings/cousins using books, clothes and shoes of older cousins was so common. Our previous generations did not know the word recycling, yet, they always used paper bags made of old newspapers, cotton bags made of old bed sheets, glass bottles instead of plastic ones. Old cloths, school bags. books and shoes were also passed on to younger kids in the family or to less privileged kids in the locality.
However, with time we have carefully designed our urban space in such a way that now privileged class is well separated from the underprivileged ones. We often live within a gated community, shop in malls and our kids go to private schools where no kid from lower economic strata of the society will not dare to step in. As a result, we only interact with people who are almost clones of us. Our clones do not need our used products to survive.
This separation led to a situation in which we have plenty of used clothes and shoes which are in good condition but we will not use them as they are out of fashion. I know people who simply put their used stuff in garbage bins as they don’t know what to do with them. At the same time, thousands others are out there who needs them desperately may be after a little refurbishing.
This separation is not limited between classes only but has now come inside the family too which was an epitome of recycling before. Even in a family its now considered as an insult to even ask if younger cousin will take the elder’s things. I remember when I offered my kids’ stuff like high chairs swings and tubs to her newly born cousin I was given an insulting glare.
Growing kids outgrow shoes and clothes very fast and these are perfect for use for longer time. Schools now change books every year even though they have the same basics. I studied with several year old passed on books cause at that time books used to be same with little changes here and there. Cheap toys, stationary and use&throw stuff also let us forget reusing.
Adding to all this is the busy urban life. Even if one wants to give away stuff connecting to places of requirements has become time consuming and difficult. None of the great social causes make it easy for people to donate stuff for the needy. One has to store stuff at home and then go to a place of donation spending time and fuel . Many find dumping the stuff at garbage bin a better option. Every such organization advertises collection drive but want to sit cosily in one place just like middle men in every other field.
It looks like as if both the system and individuals are against recycling.
While abroad I witnessed a great practice. All good items packed nicely were left close to garbage bin but not in it. Any needy person could pick from there. International students benefitted a lot from this practice. They would get item like small table chairs which they would again leave after they finish the course. Infact I left most of my household stuff there as it could not be shipped. Organizations like Salvation Army have stores of used stuff and anyone could leave good things outside the shop. They even collect from homes.
Back home I checked with the organizations of my city and none of them want to move an inch out of their comfort zone. They don’t collect from homes neither do they arrange a drive in different localities. Even the new on-call waste pickers take only limited items and that too not for reuse.
In this scenario does it make sense to keep on blaming plastics, waste segregation, fossil fuel or to establish a convenient connection for the reuse of scores of good items and reduce greenhouse gasses of manufacturing new products.