Recently, I was intrigued by a program on Television that was devoted to a group of students who delve into the bowels of a garbage dump as part of their curriculum.
According to the report; their purpose was; “To discover just how much usable litter is included in the average family’s discarded trash.”
Wearing boots, gloves and aprons, they retrieve bag after bag of garbage which they returned to their laboratory. Here they emptied the bags and inspect each item to determine if anything could be reclaimed and converted into useful products.
“FOOD.” One thing that was so amazing was the amount of edible food that was discarded in each of the retrieved bags. I do not remember exactly how much their estimate of the wasted foodstuffs was in this particular expedition: But it was astounding, when they concluded that the waste for this mission alone, could have fed a family of four, for at least a week.
“PAPER.” Among the reclaimed items were hundreds of pounds of newspapers that could have been recycled. A like amount of Plastic and Glass Containers were recovered as well as object s that could be detrimental to our environment. And this; was just a sampling of the “Tons upon Tons,” of disposed trash at this one site alone.
By the use of simple arithmetic, they arrived at the conclusion that if the total amount of usable ‘Refuse’ were reclaimed, it quite possibly could; “Raise the standard of living for a third-world country by some fifty percent.”
I vividly recall a time when there was very little waste in and around a neighborhood Farm-Household. Any discarded food was fed to hogs or chickens, which in turn supplied the major portion of meat for the family.
Newspapers were used to wrap items for storage. Plastics had yet to be invented; however, containers such as glass and metal were hoarded and reused as a means of storing and transporting other materials that were vital to the operation of a small farm.
Any and all produce that were; ‘Raised on this Farm, and not needed for immediate food’, was either “canned” in ‘Mason Jars’ or “dried” for use during the non-growing months. The Jars would be then cleaned, scalded and re-used during the next “canning” season.
Meat was cured by the method of “salting down” in the Smoke-House. Even clothing was either “Handed down” to a younger member, or patched; to extend the life of the garment. Shoes were “Half-soled” until they literally disintegrated.
Materials such as nails were pried from used lumber; straightened and reused. The lumber from one project was saved and used on a later building such as a chicken coop or hog pen. It finally, ended its life span as fuel for the Wash-Pot: In which clothes were boiled along with soap made from; “Ashes, Lye,” and “Renderings from a recent hog –killing.”
“Slab piles,” (unusable trimmings from Sawmills), were abundant and supplied most of the fuel for heat and cooking. This abandoned material was hauled to local farm-yards on ‘Wagons’ pulled by Mules.
When any implements became unsuitable for their intended purpose;, ‘they were adapted or converted, to another use around the farm. Some were even turned over to the children as toys.
The simple facts are that; very few families had any need for a Garbage Can. Anything that could be re-used WAS re-used. This left little, if anything; to dispose of.
I will admit that I am not as conservative today as when a family’s very existence depended on wasting nothing.
My thanks go to the students for calling to my attention that many of us are unappreciative of the fact that we could literally save our environment, not to mention many lives; by practicing frugality insofar as the “stuff” which we discard on a daily basis.
Perhaps even the ‘not-needed;’ Garbage Cans, could be converted into products that would make someone’s life a little better.
Example: “Ma:” “Pour that left-over Tea into that empty ‘Whisky Bottle;’ and I’ll take it to JUNIOR;” “He’s over thare, in that ten-acre Corn Field.” “He’s ‘mos-likely,’ getting ‘perty-much’ DRY, jus’-’bout now.” “Besides:” “He needs to let his MULE rest; Anyway:” Dj.