Reuse Reflections

Written by Sacha Gee-Burns, Environmental Educator/Public Outreach Coordinator, Solid Waste District of La Porte County, IN.

This appeared in the Solid Waste District’s Summer 2020 edition of One Man’s Trash, a quarterly newsletter published in conjunction with Eco Partners, Inc.

For many of us, the warm weather motivates us to toss items that clutter our spaces and cause us stress. This is a wonderful concept, unless you are like me and see a potential project in every item. I could probably count on one hand the number of times I have thrown out something that was still useful.

There are plenty of options with everything. Years ago, the motor went out on my washing machine. While I gave the machine to a scrapper, I kept the inside drum and turned it into a planter. I lined it with garden fabric so the soil wouldn’t fall out through the drainage holes and then filled the bottom third with lightweight material, like foam plastic packing peanuts or crumbled-up newspaper. I have had countless people stop over and ask where I got my unique planter. When I tell them it is the tub from an old washing machine, they start realizing that everyday items can be turned into wondrous things, including planters.

The hierarchy of waste reduction goes like this: Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, and then Recycle. If we look at how much waste we create these days, it is easy to see that we need to rethink how we are doing things. As consumers, we need to take a hard look at which products are truly the better buy — not only for us, but for our environment.

I love when I find something that avoids plastic altogether, such as lotion bars. If we don’t have the plastic containers, we won’t be filling up our recycling toters as quickly before each pickup. If we don’t have the lotion bottle, we won’t have to spend time figuring out what else we can do with it or recycle it. By reducing the amount of materials we purchase and then discard, we can really reduce waste.

Flower pots are a bit tricky, because if they are a #6 plastic (the number inside the recycling triangle), they can’t be recycled through our curbside recycling program. However, you can take them to the garden center at Lowe’s and they will recycle them, even if you bought the original plants somewhere else. Often, schools or churches will take gardening items for their own gardens or a plant sale.

As you can probably tell, Reuse and Repurpose are my favorites. I love the challenge of figuring out how else I can make use of something. And, if I am at a loss, I do a simple internet search and find hundreds of ideas within seconds. Before you toss items in the trash, take a moment to see whether you can somehow repurpose them in your garden or in other areas of your life.

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