Going back may be good

Ann Swanson

After being at the fair and seeing how much waste was generated by the vendors and the campers, it made me think. This was only one event in a small community. How about all of the mega-events that take place all year long? Take sporting events and large concerts. How much waste is generated at each and every event?

Can we do better? I think we can. Plastic, although a wonderful invention, is one of the culprits. It is said that our oceans are filled with plastic waste. Landfills are also filled with plastic waste. Plastic is not biodegradable. In fact, it does not decompose at all.

How about if we went back to glass and paper? When I mentioned that straws used to be made of paper the younger generation was surprised. After all, you only need to get the beverage out of the bottle or can. Paper worked.

I remember when they changed milk bottles to the waxed cartons. No one liked those waxed cartons. Everyone said the milk tasted funny. Now we have gone to plastic bottles. Does it affect the taste of the milk? It appears that it does not. That does not mean that there is no effect on the environment. Those plastic bottles are not being reused. When the milk came to us in glass bottles they went back to the dairy to be sterilized and refilled. There was no waste.

Pop bottles were the same. They, too, went back to be sterilized and refilled. Now we have aluminum cans and plastic bottles that need to be disposed of. Some states have upped the value of returning the bottles in the hopes of skipping the trip to the landfill. It may have helped, but it by no means has solved the problem. You see people dispose of those bottles even though there is a deposit for their return.

Then, there are the disposable diapers. In my day we used cloth ones that we washed and the child wore them again and again. Granted it used hot water to clean them, but there was no waste. After they no longer were serviceable as a diaper they became great dust cloths or paint rags.

We used to have a ragman who came to the house to collect old rags. Mr. O’Brocta came probably once a month. I am not sure what he did with them, but we could save our old rags and get rid of them.

I guess I have always been a recycler. I not only used our rags, I removed the buttons on clothes and used them to clean as well. I have quite a button collection. I used old buttons on many of the fashions that I created. I remember finding a jacket that had buttons everywhere. I used those buttons on some of my knitted garments. First, of course, I wore the jacket. Second-hand clothing is a big business these days. Not much of the clothes we wear are worn out these days. People either outgrow them or just simply stop wearing them. They can easily be recycled.

We have long patronized places like Goodwill and the Salvation Army stores. I always found serviceable things that I liked. Many of the things that I found ended up as gifts. I remember finding a whole canister set of John Deere items. My son and his family have enjoyed them.

Everyone owes it to the environment to reuse things. We are literally burying ourselves in the garbage. So many things these days are not able to be fixed. We simply use them and throw them away. They clutter the landfills and often pollute.

Things used to be made to last. I recall having a toaster repaired and a microwave. They were in service for a long time. My mother repaired a stand mixer, but when it went again I simply junked it. Now I have a stand mixer that will last. Granted it was not cheap, but if it stands the test of time it is worth it. I still have a toaster from my grandparents’ era that can still be used. Now that is something that was made to last!

I remember doing something that I called “Green Minutes” with one class of students. They were appalled at the amount of junk that was mentioned. They began to watch the water that they used. They also watched the garbage their family created. I had a book that had statistics on the amount of waste consumers generated. Each day I read from that book and we discussed how we could make a difference. Most of those students would be parents today. I am not sure how much of an impression all of this made on them but I am sure some of them remember.

One time I put some hand lotion in an old shampoo bottle that I recycled. When my husband came home from the barn and washed his hair he complained. He told me his hair must have been really dirty because when he washed it he did not get any suds. Guess what? He was using the hand lotion because it said shampoo. After that, I had to label anything that I changed the bottles on.

I reuse most of my plastic bags but eventually, they go out as garbage. They go to the landfill. We used to be able to burn things. That helped a lot with the cardboard and paper products. Today everything goes into the trash.

Then, there is the packaging itself. Everything is in see-through packages made of plastic. They are not easy to open either. I think manufacturers need to come into compliance on waste. We cannot continue on the path we are on. Maybe some enterprising youngster can come up with a product that disintegrates instead to just piling up. We need to be able to recycle more.

Pennsylvania is slow on the recycling end of things. I am sure they are not the only state that is.

Will someone please take this on as a cause?

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.

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