Everything Has Value

Every time I see a beverage can littered somewhere, I think of can collectors. Yes, the men who would go around collecting cans in a large cart or large bag to take to the cash-for-cans machine. Why don’t I ever see them anymore? Why are so many areas totally littered with cans? Is it because they no longer have any value? Is there too much other trash to wade through everywhere? Or is it just not convenient enough to be worthwhile?

When I was younger, my family used to save our cans and take them to a cash-for-cans machine at the supermarket. We saw it there regularly, and the big “CASH FOR CANS” sign made it obvious that cans had value.

An ugly version of the cash-for-cans machine

Unfortunately, I haven’t seen one of those machines in a long while. These days cans are just a nuisance and once they’ve served their purpose they all too often get tossed into a trash bin, on the ground, or even in the creek. 😦

How do we make it obvious again that things have value and shouldn’t just be thrown away? Should I start a business with these cash-for-can machines to drive awareness? Maybe those states that have a deposit fee are on to something?

Anyhow, my point is that everything has value. If something is laying on the ground, it can still have value. Even if most people can’t see it, those cans are valuable resources. The plastic bottles too. Even the polystyrene foam cups.

… Although even I don’t bother trying to find a recycling home for those. If it’s foam, I just throw it in the trash can. I may feel a twinge of disappointment, but that’s my limit at the moment.

But to close on a happier note, I’d like to share the story of one resource whose value I have done my best to honor. I have previously shared some examples of reusing old tshirts by means of tshirt yarn creations, but I’ve since learned to take it one step further.

Disassembling the seams

By practice disassembling tshirts to make tshirt yarn, I’ve discovered that there’s a way to undo the hem such that you can often salvage longer threads for reuse. And I now have several different colors in a baby food jar either for necessities or for embroidery practice.

Bonus thread!

Just this week I used some of my tshirt thread to hem up my most recent jeans acquisition. Sure, these little pieces of thread wouldn’t have maxed out the landfill but being able to find another purpose for them sure felt good.

Infinite Waste

In the past year and a half I’ve read a lot of books and blogs about throwing things away. In most of what I’ve read people say there is no “away”. But in real life I’ve learned that for just as many or even more people believe that “away” is anywhere that they’re not standing at the moment.

The other day I was waiting at he bus stop and since there was some litter surrounding the stop, I decided to pick up some of it and put it in the trash can that was right there at the stop. While doing this, another man at the stop asked me if I worked for the city. He was appalled that I would pick trash up without being paid for it.

“I don’t work for the city. They ain’t paying me nothing.”

“You must have clean hands.”

And he was especially offended when I picked up and threw away the lottery tickets that he had just thrown on the ground.

“You can’t pick up all the trash in the world. You’re fighting a losing battle.”

“Why don’t you go pick up that piece of trash?” (Of some trash on the divider a few lanes of traffic into the street)

This wasn’t part of a conversation. He was listening to his headphones but just occasionally making rude remarks loudly. I would have liked to point out a small hillside covered with wildflowers that was visible from the stop, but he probably wouldn’t have appreciated it anyway.

Some people don’t care about this world we live in.

And since we moved to our new home on a busy road, every day we’ve had to pick up litter from our yard. Yesterday there was a used condom on our sidewalk. It’s discouraging.

A couple of weeks ago, a large group of college students came by to clean up the creek area near our house. It looked beautiful that day, but a couple of days later it rained and the water rushing along the creek replenished the litter level from all the other areas that had not been cleaned.

Creek next to my house

I took this picture yesterday. Not all the litter is visible in the picture, but you can clearly see the beer can floating in the water and a snack cake box towards the top.

Unlike many, though, I can’t accept living in a world full of trash. These are valuable resources at their absolute worst use like this. I pick up at least some of the litter that I come across every day and recycle what I can, even if to some people this just means more empty ground to throw their litter on. Someone please tell me, what can I do to help us win?