Reduce, reuse and recycle: an unusual perspective on a familiar mantra

October 10, 2010 § Leave a comment

Reduce, reuse and recycle is the three-pronged approach advocated by any body from local authorities desperate to reduce rising costs of land filling waste to advocates of a more sustainable future.

Having grown up in a municipality with one of the most draconian recycling policies in Europe, the third limb of this mantra is second nature to me. Add to this the thrifty tendencies learnt from a mother who grew up on rationing, and I am pretty experienced in the two other limbs too.

Much like generations gone by, I hate to see food go to waste and turn leftovers into meals in their own right. By strictly limiting what enters the house (and training Mr M to do the same), waste is further reduced as much as possible. As for the “Reuse” limb, virtually nothing is safe: jam jars and bottles (including the shapely Belvoir ones) find new uses in for preserves, flowers, nails, old coins and Mr M’s old shirts undergo two reincarnations, first as night shirts for me and then they live out their lives as dish clothes. In fact, the only limiting factor is my imagination (as well as of course sensible hygiene considerations). However, my instinct to reuse rather than waste has taken an unusual twist of late.

It all started about six weeks ago with some old blinds, a dying dishwasher and a new course. As admitted in The Sound of Steel I have recently taken up metal sculpture. I returned from my first lesson flushed with the success of my first tentative welds and intrigued and inspired by the content of scrap metal bin. It contained some remarkable items (or more usually half items) scavenged from all walks of life and from original items one could only guess at.

Once home I returned to the real world and knuckled down to tidying the bedrooms. Earlier that week John Lewis’ tradesmen put up curtain rails. Rather disappointingly they had not cleared up the debris of this job. As a result the window sills and floor were not only strewn with brick dust but more pleasingly also with metal blind fittings and redundant roller blinds*. On discovering the distinct metal fittings it occurred to me that these could be used to reinforce a practical design or to embellish a sculpture in a future welding class. Without hesitation I added another receptacle to our “recycling system”: one dedicated to scrap metals.

As I wandered around the house for the rest of the day I mused on what other household goods may end up in the same collection point. As the dishwasher is on its last legs, I have a sneaking suspicion that we shall not be asking the provider of a replacement unit to take away the old one but shall ask them to leave it in the garden for me to strip it down for valuable scrap metal. The draining grill alone would be a useful prize!

* Of course, I also found another use for the redundant roller blinds but stay tuned for a separate post on that.

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