Confessions of a Paper Hoarder: Reusing Before Recycling
I’m passionate about diverting waste from landfill. I get excited about recycling and composting. As a like-minded friend once said, “I love garbage!” But what I find even more important and interesting is diverting useful stuff from ever entering the category of waste. It’s the classic three Rs– reduce, reuse, recycle– but that middle R often gets overlooked in favour of the other two. This is partly to do with our attitudes about reuse, and partly to do with a lack of opportunities to reuse in our waste management system. Let me give an example:
Imagine I have an old t-shirt I never wear anymore, and I want someone else to put it to better use. That’s easy! I’ll donate it to the Salvation Army, Big Brothers, or one of the many other organizations that facilitate the reuse of clothes. Now imagine I have a t-shirt that I have accidentally stained. I can’t get the stain out, so I don’t want to wear it. and no one else is going to want to wear it either, so the Salvation Army won’t take it. The stain is large, but it’s just on one part of the shirt. The material of the rest of the shirt is pretty, and the seams are strong. Someone could use this shirt to make something else useful and/or beautiful. But how do I find this person?
We have no system to allow us to connect with people who may want our old things to make new things. In our current system, we have to throw that t-shirt away unless we or someone we know personally can reuse it. My mother calls me a hoarder because I keep old packages, bus transfers, and magazines to reuse in cards and art projects, but really I’m just a reuser! I swear.
There are a few places I have found that do help us to reuse. The Urban Source is a business on Main St that sells all kinds of odds and ends that no one else had a use for, aimed at artists. The Strathcona Business Improvement Association runs a program called Resource Park, where member businesses bring excess materials for other businesses to reuse. Free Geek Vancouver runs a “computer hardware thrift store” and Quest Food Exchange ‘reuses’ the items that food producers and sellers (including SPUD!) are not able to sell by repackaging and reselling them to low-income families.
Let’s support these existing outlets for reuse and also support the creation of more institutions like this. In the meantime, I’ve got some old Kleenex boxes at my place– anyone want them?
Emma, SPUD Fundraising Program