Monday, August 13, 2012

Step 8 - Repurpose, Reuse & Recycle

We live in a culture of waste where goods are thrown away whenever they break, or no longer suit our needs. When this trash goes to this infamous "away," we tend to put it out of our heads, it is no longer our problem. But our planet is a closed system - meaning that everything that is created here stays here - so when it goes to "away" it is merely going to a landfill that will slowly poison the planet with its decay. This type of waste is completely antithetical to the natural process of life where there is no waste. Sadly, humans have altered that part of nature, and we are increasing our amount of waste on a daily basis. Americans make about 4 pounds of trash each on a daily basis - or almost 200 million tons of trash a year. These mounds of garbage take up massive amounts of space, release toxic chemicals into the air, water and soil, and

Before you toss something out, see if you can use it for something else or give it to someone. Old stained and ripped clothing can be made into rags. Glass jars that food comes in can be cleaned and used for storing food, or as drinking glasses for something fun and unique. Beat up old furniture can be refinished to something shiny and new. If you can't repurpose or reuse the old item, recycle it to someone else that can. Joining websites like helps pass along household items that we no longer need to someone else that does. If you don't want to fix your broken bureau, someone on Freecycle probably does. If you have no need for that old cell phone, someone out there does. 

Planned and Perceived Obsolescence keep us buying goods because they are either planned to break or we begin to feel that we need to update them because their are better options available. These are both marketing tools designed to keep us consuming goods to either keep up with Jones' or to ensure that we are an active member of our economic system. Neither of these are the result of constant purchasing and consuming of goods. All that really happens is we are left with empty pockets, houses full of junk, and landfills mounding up all over the planet. 

Landfills produce methane gas, which can be captured and turned into energy, but the process is expensive and communities are rarely willing or able to do it. Below is a map of Maine landfills that are active and inactive. Remember, though, that inactive or closed landfills are still landfills just sitting there with mounds of untended garbage. 

Even though some items that you dispose of in a landfill are considered biodegradable, they cannot biodegrade in a landfill because of the massiveness of them. In order for something to return back to the Earth it needs to be able to touch it - landfills are large mounds of garbage where 99% of the items within it never touch the soil. Before you toss your next pasta sauce jar or bag of torn clothing, think about how it can be reused either by your or by someone else. And for inspiration, visit the following website: