Wasting Away!

Wasting Away!

These days, many people are finding it difficult to make ends meet and facing hard choices about what they can afford and what they have to let go.  In the richest societies on the planet, that should not even be so, but unfortunately it is.


The positive side is that people are finding innovative ways to turn junk or unwanted objects into something that can be used or sold.  Not only does this mop up some of the articles thrown into landfill, but it gives work to people who might not have any other prospects.  There must be little that is more humiliating than to have to beg for what would be available to all if resources were distributed more fairly.


Wasting food is completely bananas

I sometimes help a charity with sorting books for distribution to charities.  We use banana boxes, masses of them and the local supermarket keeps us well stocked.  Recently my colleagues came back with a van load, two of which were full of bananas that could not be sold because they were not perfect.  So they would have been put into the rubbish.  We all ate bananas until we didn’t want any more, but what a waste.


Ironically, a couple of weeks before, I had been lending a hand on Sharing Saturday which is run twice a year in Switzerland where I live.  Volunteers hand out carrier bags in supermarkets and shoppers buy goods to be distributed to charities to help them feed their clients.  Our imperfect bananas would probably have been a luxury for some, because, even in a rich country, there are people working flat out, sometimes with more than one job and still having trouble just surviving.


There is now a move in European countries to ensure that supermarkets give away their unsold food to charity, although for years people have been dumpster diving; rummaging and salvaging perfectly edible food thrown out as trash.  Someone even made a film on this in San Francisco and the food found was mind-boggling – a dozen organic chickens, packs of four dozen bread rolls for example.  Some of the more experienced ‘divers’ were feeding their families well on what they salvaged.


There is another innovative movement to put this waste to good use and it’s called the Junk Café.   Not only have several opened in the UK but also in Los Angeles, Warsaw and Zurich.  Diners pay what they can and if they have no money they help with the washing up.  One in Leeds in Northern England fed 10,000 people from 20 tonnes of unwanted food in less than a year.


Almost anything can be recycled

A recent newspaper article talked about those irritating people who repair things and how they are taking profits from companies who make stuff to be rapidly obsolete.  Some people just love DIY and in a neighbouring town there is a guy who advertises that he can repair anything.  Although this might not be strictly true, he can certainly give a new lease of life to some objects that people who aren’t handy themselves would otherwise have to throw away.


What else can we salvage?  Freecycle.org functions all round the world and members offer any unwanted items to people who might have a use for them.  This is fine, but is it really getting to the people who have probably no computer access but a great need for almost everything?


Maisie DeVore was 82 when the swimming pool she paid for opened in her small town.  She had spent the previous 30 years collecting cans for their aluminium value.  She made quilts, collected and sold scrap, went out berry and fruit picking to make jams and jellies for sale.  Everyone, including her children, told her she was completely mad and her dream would never materialise … but it did.  What an amazing lesson for the children for whom she wanted the pool to be built.


The secret of happiness

The happiest people seem to be those making something out of nothing, reusing or recycling someone else’s junk.  Most of them have little use for fancy lifestyles or superfluous ‘things’; everything they see has some value.  They firmly believe that one person’s junk is often another person’s treasure and their passion is to everyone’s advantage.

©Jili Hamilton 2016

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