November 2012

Giving garbage a second life

In Cochabamba a total of almost 500 tons of trash is being produced per day. Swisscontact, a development organization, states that as much as about 80% of it could be recycled. So let us take a look into our trash bags before taking them out. There are many things that can be reused before ultimately dumping them into the landfills.

By: Joanna Filejski
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Schleswig-Holstein – Germany

A shampoo bottle turned into a charger station
Photo: Joanna Filejski

Instead of throwing plastic bags away after getting the groceries out, they can be used as trash bags and therefore be used at least a second time. They are also useful when carrying messy things, as they will prevent any liquids or dirt from leaving the bag. Or they can be used when traveling. Toiletries get an extra cover and in case something spills your other belongings are being protected.

Although maybe not the most fashionable any more, old t-shirts (or other clothes) still do their job when worn to the gym or while painting. If, however, they have stains that cannot be washed out any more or holes that are impossible to cover, there is no need of throwing them in the trash. Old fabric works perfectly fine as a cleaning rag and this way can serve you a much longer time.

The problem with newspapers is, that it is out of date after just one day, which easily makes them rubbish, but there are still many ways to reuse them. Newspapers work great as a fire starter, but also make an original wrapping paper for gifts. In addition they have the capability to clean windows streakfree if used like a rag and when added to a drawer or at the bottom of a trashcan, newspapers can help reduce the smell.

Using a plastic bottle as a seal for plastic bags
Photo: Joanna Filejski

Dentists recommend using a toothbrush no longer than four months. However, this does not mean it has lost its ability to clean. It can be used on hard to get spots in the bathroom or kitchen such as around faucets or to scrub off dirt on potatoes, pumpkins, carrots and any other hard skinned vegetable. A toothbrush can reach into the smallest space which makes it perfect for cleaning keyboards, shoes, jewelry, bicycle chains and anything else, that can be thought of. Once it has served its duty for oral hygiene it can be used as an eyebrow brush or to exfoliate your face or lips.

Most of us need that little caffeine kick in the morning to get going. Those small jars storing coffee, marmalade, pickled food etc. can also be used to store pretty much anything else. A good reuse of a coffee jar is to fill it with spices or coca leaves as they fit just the right amount, but really there are no limitations. Anything that fits can be stored in it, so getting all those little things that get so easily lost in the kitchen because of the small packaging and putting them in empty coffee, marmalade or pickle jars rather than buying extra containers for them, can save a lot of time and look great when displayed on a kitchen shelf.

In a store a Tupperware box costs between 20 to 40 Bolivianos. Purchasing a package of butter a storage box is basically included. Once it is empty, all that has to be done is to wash the container with warm soapy water and your own storage box for leftover is ready to be used.

A toilet paper roll functioning as a cord organizer
Photo: Joanna Filejski

Why recycle if you can up-cycle?

There is a new trend appearing in the various ways to save our environment; it is called “up-cycling”. Wikipedia defines it as the “process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value”. It basically means the trash is not quite ready to be reused. A little time and creativity are needed to turn it into something new, original and give it back its value. Searching the internet there are thousands of ideas of how to turn old things into new living accessories or little everyday helpers. Here is a selection of the simple yet genius ones:

We all know that problem with the big mess of twisted cables underneath our computer, telephone or stereo. There is a simple way to solve it. By rolling the cord of one electronic device together and putting it through an empty toilet paper roll it will be kept tangle-free. Since the brownish color looks rather ugly a few strokes with a paintbrush can turn the dull toilet paper roll into a clever, eye-catching cable holder.

The obvious way to reuse plastic bottles is to refill them instead of always buying a new bottle. With the willingness to get a little crafty there are many other ways to reuse them. A bottle can work great as a drip irrigation system when one is going to travel and is not able to water the plants for a while. All that has to be done is to poke a hole in the cap, fill the bottle with water and bury it in the ground neck down. This way, the plant will be getting water constantly without being overwatered. Another way to reuse plastic bottles is to turn them into a seal for a plastic bag. Cutting off the top of the bottle, pushing the bag through it and folding the bag over the edges of the neck does the trick. Twist the cap back on and the air and water tight sealing is ready to be used.

As odd as it may sound, a shampoo bottle can also easily be up-cycled into something completely new. Just a few cuts with a Stanley knife make an empty shampoo bottle into a phone holder. Instead of having it hang down the wall while charging, it can lie in its own little container without bothering anyone.

In the summer everyone loves to eat popsicles. What we are left with in the end is the popsicle stick, which with a bit of creativity and some color can be turned into a nifty bookmark. The advantage of such a bookmark over a paper one is, that it is harder and heavier, which makes it easier to find the page in the book without damaging it.

There are a lot more easy ways to reuse what at first glance seems like trash, and by doing so brings many benefits. First it saves a lot of money since there are barely any changes that need to be done and the required tools can be found in most homes anyways. Secondly, by creating something yourself it is highly unlikely the same article can be found in any other household, which makes it unique. Thirdly (and most importantly) by reusing our trash we are helping to save our environment without putting much effort into it. So give your garbage a second life by reusing, recycling or up cycling what still has potential to serve you.

2 txt or not 2 txt?

One day in 1985 the German Friedhelm Hillebrand sat in his house writing random sentences on a piece of paper. He started counting the words and came to the conclusion that almost all of them were no longer than 160 characters long, meaning most information can be communicated within this number. This was the birth of the short messaging service (SMS). First this service was intended to improve business purposes, but since in the beginning the SMS was for free in contrast to expensive phone calls, teenagers discovered the text messages as a fast way of exchanging information. They started to have whole conversations over writing. Only then did companies realize they should charge for each SMS, which turned out to be very beneficial as a generated income for the calendar year 2014 is expected to be US$ 233 billion.

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