I’ve been thinking about garbage a lot lately. It all started with a ripped pillowcase. This pillowcase was old-ish. Like maybe 15 years old. Washed so much that it was the most comfortable one ever. When it started to rip from wear, I actually darned it. I am not a darn-something-that-rips person. Anyway, once I had darned it three times, it became a dust rag. But I’m still a little sad when I use it. It’s a little like my father refusing to get a new bathrobe even though his elbows were sticking out of the material. Then finally having to throw it away.
So what will be the fate of this pillowcase-cum-dust rag?
And that thought led me to ponder what becomes of all the garbage that the estimated 7.2 billion people in the world today generate. From the suburbs of New York City, garbage floated around the city on barges for years. Gross, gross, gross. This caused an outcry in 1987 when an infamous barge floated up and down the East coast of the US from NY to Florida, raising awareness of the huge and horrible issue of what to do with the garbage generated by the New York City area. Not to mention what to do with garbage everywhere.
Back in 2006, NY City was trying to figure out how to get rid of, and hopefully recycle, the more than 12,000 tons of garbage picked up everyday.
And THAT thought made me wonder when we turned into such a throw-away society. When my family lived a couple of hours north of New York City, we lived in a more rural area on 4 acres of wooded land surrounded by, well, more wooded land. We would play “potato toss,” a loosely defined game that would include throwing not only potatoes past their prime, but carrot tops, pepper tops, sweet potato peels etc. We would throw them way into the woods below our house where they could decompose and help the soil and give us a 2 minute fun activity. We recycled everything possible but still ended up with an inordinate amount of garbage.
What did our ancestors do? I doubt that there was trash collection along the frontier in Kentucky. The winter that the Pilgrims were trying to survive in 1620 didn’t include getting rid of magazines. What did they do?
I’m guessing that my pillow case would have been turned into a kerchief, or a piece of quilting, or the threads pulled apart at the seams to make cuffs for a shirt. Or maybe, when there was just a little bit of it that was still usable, a small piece of fabric for novice seamstresses to practice on and learn the skill that would help the family. And when every possible thing was consumed, composted, or finally turned to dust, the detritus of the household would be burned behind the house.
I’m making a personal vow to use as many things in our house until they are consumed in one form or another. But what to do with old CDs and VCR tapes…..
I guess I’ll be creating more garbage.