The Age of Disposability

I intend to take my dysfunctional laptop (see my post called “Cha-Cha-Cha-Changes” for reference) to a place that recycles electronics. I am an avid recycler in any way I can be; our local library has a special dumpster for all things paper, and they make a few pennies per pound for what is deposited there. Our borough recycles glass, most plastics and aluminum cans. My bestie’s son works for a company that has a cardboard recycle bin, so he is kind enough to take my broken down boxes to work with him to recycle the cardboard.

And yet, the majority of our tangible products today have become disposable. Paper plates, paper towels, paper napkins, disposable hot and cold drinking cups and diapers are just a few items I can readily think of which are used once (and often for a limited time) then placed in the trash. And we think nothing of it!

Listen, I’m part of the group of people who uses – maybe sometimes abuses – disposable products. I certainly try to reuse what I can in addition to all of the items I recycle. But I do not want to go back to the days of hankies that were used, washed and ironed to be reused. Trust me, with my sinus and allergy issues, I believe I am successfully keeping the tissue brand I use in business! My old place here does not have a dishwasher, so yes, I am going to use a paper plate for meals like sandwiches.

I also do a bit of donating to our local thrift store when I have items in good condition that no longer serve me. I belong to a paperback swap site, and books that don’t get requested in a fair amount of time either go to the local library for their semi-annual book sale or also to the thrift shop to sell to someone else. I even have a dresser drawer with a few slightly stained tee-shirts and pants that I wear when I’m going to be doing some heavy cleaning, thus keeping my unstained clothes in good shape for regular wear.

I can remember the days that, when something broke, the man of the house would take it to his work bench and attempt to repair it. It could be the cord on a small appliance. Maybe it’s a table lamp that needs a new socket. The point is, that generation spent a few cents to fix an item rather than a few dollars to replace it.

Some time ago there was a big “stink” about the K-cup and how many of them were making their way to landfills. Guilty! What gets me is when people are making remarks about this while carrying a disposable coffee cup – with plastic, unrecyclable lid – from their favorite convenience store or coffee shop. (My mother would say, “That’s the pot calling the kettle black.”)

Now we’re all about plastic straws. A few places are going back to paper straws. They too are considered trash but will eventually break down in some future generation. And there is great ado about our oceans being full of trash. But… isn’t that because there are members of our society who are either too lazy to dispose of their trash appropriately – or maybe too self-centered. Whatever the reason, we are all facing the consequences of a few people’s thoughtless acts.

When I think about it, we do make a lot of trash. Not all of it is our fault, since stores usually package meat on a Styrofoam-type tray with plastic wrap. Cereal boxes may be recyclable (in some places, they are) but that plastic-type bag holding the cereal inside the box is not.

I obviously do not have a solution to this growing mountain of an issue. I don’t see myself being willing to give up most of the disposable items I use. And yes, I therefore shoulder some responsibility for the trash that is seemingly overtaking our world. Yet, on the other hand, I feel entitled to push others to recycle what they can and whenever they can. I’ve taken bags of aluminum cans from a business site that is not required to recycle home with me and put them in our recycling bins. I try to find a new use or a new home for items I no longer need for their original purpose. Because the library’s paper recycling center is close to me, I’m now picking up paper recyclables by the bag from my hairdresser, who previously wasn’t recycling them.

I’m doing what I can. And I’m asking you to do the same. It may require a little bit of time and attention, but knowing you’re doing your part to save Mother Earth is a worthy reward!