Mason County News
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Recycling In the Great Depression
Wednesday, July 8, 2009 • Posted July 8, 2009

My grandfather would always (and still does) discuss what it was like growing up during the Great Depression in Texas. Growing up with TV, computers and without having to grow vegetables or slaughter pigs to put food on the table, I could never relate to his stories, but I sat and listened anyway. My brothers and I learned quickly to avoid mentioning FDR, agriculture, the economy or pretty much any time period before the 1970’s in a sentence, because it was almost certain that a Great Depression lecture was soon to follow. Until recently, I never saw much value in them but what he had to say about the changes in daily American life was quite educational. With no electricity in the country and little rain, he struggled to make his cattle business profitable while raising six children and serving in World War II.

Through the years he made success a possibility by doing a few things right and one of those was conserving his resources. He fixed tools, gates, barbed wire fence, and the truck from time to time because there wasn’t the money to buy new. He made sure that everyone conserved water so it wasn’t wasted because it wasn’t guaranteed that the well water would always be there. There was no recycling center back then and any leftover lumber, iron, chicken coop wire or old nails were reused. Glass or porcelain plates and cups were used, washed and then reused again. Disposable cups, plates or utensils hadn’t been created yet but I can tell you they wouldn’t have been used in my grandparent’s household because it was like disposing of your money . . . in the trashcan.

The phrase “reduce, reuse, and recycle” was foreign to him (and probably still is), but he put it into practice because it saved money and back then you just couldn’t afford to waste anything. What is considered trash to some is still valuable to others. The spare lumber, iron, and gates sitting around in my grandfather’s barn could be considered garbage, but they still hold value because they can be reused or can fulfill a new purpose. Today, we typically don’t have materials that can be reused in the average home. Everything from bottles to bags to paper towels has been designed for single use and then is thrown away. Or electronics like computers, televisions and cell phones are made to be obsolete in a matter of months, because the new upgrade comes out and you’re left with an old product. It is a waste of your money and a waste of natural resources that are already in decline.

Unlike rural Texans who lived through the Depression, we don’t have to milk cows, grow produce or butcher livestock; instead, we can just go to the grocery store. Unfortunately, afterwards we are left with cardboard boxes, plastic jugs, glass bottles and aluminum cans. All of those containers can be recycled right here in Mason; they don’t have to be wasted. It takes trees and oil and sand and mining for metals to create the containers that hold our food and drinks. Why throw those resources in the landfill when they can be recycled and reused? By recycling an aluminum can you save water, oil, gasoline, and aluminum. A can, when recycled, can be crushed, melted, formed into another can, and put back on the store shelves in just 60 days. There is no limit to the amount of times aluminum can be recycled and the same goes for glass. Glass can be recycled over a million times or it can sit in the landfill for a million years. Plastics, metals, glass, lumber, cardboard, paper, and other materials can all sit in the landfill for the next century or they can be recycled and reused, saving resources and money in the process . . . the decision is up to you.

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