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November 27, 2011

The vanishing garbage

Is it really garbage if it vanishes before the garbage truck gets there? More and more I’m noticing this happen. Could it be possible that more people are starting to have a reuse mentality? Or is the reason financial, saving money by reusing rather than spending money by buying new?

In the DIY forums, for a source for cheap glazing for solar heaters Habitat for Humanity ReStores are often pointed out. Along with new materials they also have much that is donated and used. Many cities too have programs for giving away or selling at a low price collected construction materials.

In my own case, I unwittingly participated in making a rear projection TV that had been left derelict by the side of a road slowly dwindle to just some electronics and a portion of the case.

Derelict rear projection TV with speakers and front panel gone.

Another example of excellent reuse I came across was presented in the TED talk in the video below. Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez founded Back to the Roots, a company that grows gourmet mushrooms on discarded coffee grounds. They started out collecting the coffee grounds from Peet’s Coffee shops, who would otherwise have had to pay to get rid of them.

But they then had the spent coffee grounds left over after harvesting the mushrooms. They quickly realised that there was a demand for this “waste” as a premium soil amendment product.

They’ve also put together and sell mushroom growing kits so that anyone can do this with their used coffee grounds.

The Back to the Roots better way
Back to the Roots waste reuse cycle - before and after.

Recently someone in my apartment building had thrown out a baby carriage, bicycle frame and other bits and pieces. This was at the curb two days before garbage collection day. The next morning I’d noticed that the baby carriage was gone. Later that day I happened to be near the window when I heard a noise out front. Looking down I saw that a van towing a trailer had pulled up and a man had thrown the bicycle frame onto the trailer and was now picking through the rest of the pile. He was collecting metal, presumably for selling to a scrap yard. It was clear from the contents of his trailer that he’d already been to a few other places. By the time the garbage truck arrived, little of the original pile was left.

So if you’re throwing something out that others may find a use for, consider putting it at the curb a few days early. Leave a sign on it saying “Free” and it may never make it to the landfill.

If you have any reuse suggestions or stories of garbage that is no longer garbage, leave a comment below. The more people that do this the better off we’ll all be.

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