by Annie Leonard
When I moved into the house in Dhaka where I lived in 1993, I noticed there was no wastebasket in my room. On my first trip to the market, I bought one – and soon discovered that throwing things “away” meant something different in the capital of Bangladesh than back home. What I threw into the trash quickly resurfaced in the community, put to another use. My blue flowered deodorant container turned up on a neighbor’s living room shelf as a vase for real flowers. A small boy stuck rods through my empty hair conditioner bottle and attached wheels, making a toy car he pulled around on a string.
The potential for reuse is everywhere. It’s like that folk tale many of us were read as kids. Joseph’s grandfather turns his favorite blanket into a jacket. Joseph wears it out, so Grandpa turns the jacket into a vest. The vest becomes a handkerchief. The handkerchief becomes a tie. The tie becomes a button. Finally the button is lost. Even Grandpa can’t make something from nothing – but the lesson about how Stuff can be repurposed and reused again and again is clear.