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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Folks threw out less trash 60 years ago

The figures change from source to source and country to country but one thing seems certain, there was less trash 60 years ago. I began googling the question of trash because London, Ontario, city council is debating whether or not to lower the waste collection day trash bag limit. It may drop from four to three.

Three bags still seems like a lot. Today was collection day and I only put out one bag and it wasn't full. When I was a young boy in the early '50s I cannot recall my mother ever putting out three cans of filled with trash on collection day. I don't think we even owned three of those big, old steel containers with heavy lids. And we never put out our waste out in a green, plastic bag. Never.

When I was born, the green, trash bag had not yet been invented. The creation of the bin bag or trash bag is often credited to Canadians Harry Wasylyk, Larry Hansen, who worked on the project together. Frank Plomp, working on his own, also developed a plastic trash bag but he was not as successful at marketing. Hansen had an in, he worked for Union Carbide in Lindsay, Ontario. Working with Hansen and Wasylyk, Union Carbide began manufacturing green Glad Garbage bags for the home in the '60s.

Without inexpensive green garbage bags what happened to trash in the dark ages of waste removal? The simple answer is the we didn't generate as much of it and so removal was not as big a problem. The solutions from the '50s may hold promise for folks today. Here are five things commonly done when I was a boy.

  • We bought durable goods and repaired them.
  • We bought beverages in refillable, or recyclable, containers.
  • We bought  items with minimal, or even no, packaging.
  • We composted yard waste and often simply ignored the grass clippings.
  • We reused more often than we do today.

Today, I still try to do all of the above but it is tough. We have become a bag it and toss it society. Heck, we even bag yard waste like the leaves that fall from our trees. We place 'em in huge paper bags beside the road to be trucked away. That's nuts. I just run my electric lawnmower over the leaves and mulch them with my lawn clippings. All just disappears.

Spare coffee carafes and more.
Today, when we buy small appliances like coffee makers, bread machines and the like and then the coffee pot breaks or the bread pan paddles cease to turn, we immediately toss the appliance into the garbage. That's nuts but have you ever tried to buy a replacement coffee pot or bread pan? It can be damn difficult. And that's nuts, too.

I've been known to break glass coffee carafes. When I found a source for replacement carafes, Rowland's Appliance Sales, I bought a couple of extra carafes. I'm confident that they will eventually see use.

Rowland's also sells replacement bread-maker pans for my now out of production WestBend machine. I've gone through two pans and I have one replacement pan still sitting in my basement. It's a good bread-maker. No sense parting with it over a broken paddle.

If you look closely at the picture on the right, you will see that the replacement carafes are sitting on a waffle maker. It was a gift. If I had my druthers, I'd simply make pancakes. But, I have a waffle maker and when the plastic knob broke, it was difficult to control the heat. I went online and found a replacement knob for sale.

You are getting the idea. We should all be repairing stuff rather than simply chucking broken stuff out and buying new. My computer monitor and keyboard are holdovers from a Dell computer I once owned. I now get my computers from a fellow who makes computers in his basement. He reuses the old computer cases and whatever else does not need to be replaced.

I'd post a picture of the lovely watch that my wife bought me some years ago but I can't. I took the watch to the nearby Young's Jewelers and it is away being fixed. I hope to keep that watch going indefinitely.

Refinished used table.
The table in our front hallway came from Goodwill Industries. I didn't buy it. My dad did. And he bought it some sixty years ago. Back then Goodwill took donated old furniture, like the table, refinished it and re-glued it and resold it in their shop. The operation created employment while keeping stuff, like the table, out of the dump.

Although Goodwill Industries no longer does furniture restoration, there are businesses that will do it for a fee. I've had both our sofas reupholstered by Finns Upholstery on Oxford St. E. And our dining room set, my parents bought it used many years ago, was refinished, reupholstered and re-glued. That set will soon be 100 years old.

We have to find ways to keep stuff out of the dump. We have to be creative. Tossing stuff out should be our last option.

The lamp shade is an old beer glass.

Forty years ago I bought two bedside lamps from a Nordel's Furniture, I believe that was the name, on Wellington Road near Baseline Road.

When I broke the glass lamp shade, I could not find a replacement. My wife determined that the base of the shade was the same diameter as that of some old beer glasses we had and rarely used. I took the glasses to London Glass and Mirror and had them cut to fit the lamp base. I got a couple of spare shades made and those aluminum base lamps should be in use for many, many years to come.

I'd go on but you get my point. Changing the three bag limit misses the point, although that's not to say it's a bad idea. But what really needs to change is our attitude. It is society that must be changed.

We need to learn to repair, reuse, recycle.

For instance, glass is almost infinitely recyclable. But, we make so many different types of glass. Take colour alone. There's a ridiculous number of colours. Why doesn't society settle on a set number of colours and on  set number of formulations for glass, and maybe we could up the percentage of glass that is recycled to something approaching 100 percent.

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