One totally trashy column

Thursday, August 11, 2005

What did your mother do with her trash? I asked my Ozark-reared husband that question one day and he had a laughing fit. His mother didn't ever have any trash. He said she used everything but the squeal of the pig.

Commercial cans, which make a good portion of our trash today (to go to the recycling center), were unheard of. If there was a rare one purchased for some reason, the can would be used to store screws or small nails, as temporary flowerpots or for some other good use. The weekly Grit newspaper was read by several before it was consigned to the outhouse, used for kindling the fire in the winter, or for shelving paper.

Pieces of cloth left over from making a dress were saved to use in the next quilt. She didn't worry about color designs but used the cloth she had ready. Worn out overalls were used to make patches for other work clothes that still had some wear left in them.

Any leftover food at a meal found use as either pig or chicken feed, and even the used dishwater was carried outside to water the garden or add to the pig slop.

I need to burn my trash today and I have three large wastebaskets full of stuff even after taking out the plastic bottles, aluminum cans and container covers, newspapers, and boxes that will be recycled. When I look at what I am throwing away I hope there isn't a peephole in Heaven where my mother-in-law can look at what I waste.

First there are the sacks that come inside the boxes that keep our cereal or cookies fresh. Some of them also have additional coverings inside them so that only a portion of the contents must be opened at the same time.

Then there are the little pieces of wrapping around each slice of cheese that is in another sturdier plastic wrapper.

The little cups that hold Yogurt could be very helpful to use as drinking cups or for leftovers. But when you have more than a dozen already stacked in your sparse cabinet space it seems it is time to toss them out. The same goes for the margarine, cottage cheese and chip dip containers. You can only use so many. Sometimes the church asks for some of these temporary dishes to use in children's projects. When they do ask, they get such an outpouring that they have to call a halt. Even a large commercial-type kitchen doesn't have room for an unlimited supply of disposable containers.

Used tissues probably can be used in a compost pile but when a member of the family has a cold the tissues pile up too quickly for such use and it seems more hygienic to burn them, than to let them sit in a compost pile.

I know that used computer paper and junk mail can be recycled. But it is tedious to go through each piece to be sure that personal information is not being displayed for the world to see and possibly take advantage of. So I usually add such things to the burn pile. Sometimes I think what needs recycling is my energy level, so I cheat a little on the environment.

And speaking of the environment, I am not at all sure that it is good for the air for me to be burning these things at all. We use a metal barrel and have the barrel far from any building and away from any tall dry weeds. But it is getting awfully dry. Maybe I'd better not burn until it rains. But then what do I do with my trash?