Thursday, March 28, 2013

REuse versus REcycle

I always glean some little bit of insight when I talk with my parents. I don't know if they are even aware of that fact.

Like today, I was talking to my dad, and he said that the community where he lives has just started a recycling program - you know, the blue bins that go out by the road filled with paper, plastic and/or glass that someone picks up and then recycles. He likes the fact that they can recycle now, but it amuses him a bit, I think, because, as he was saying, when he was a kid, they didn't recycle, per se.

They didn't throw things away, either. The fact is that they were poor ... everyone was poor ... and things didn't get recycled in the sense that we recycle them today. Things were used until they simply could not be used anymore ... like the story, Joseph Had a Little Overcoat. Joseph's coat was too worn to wear as a coat, and so he turned it into a vest, and when the vest had a hole, he turned it into a scarf, and when the scarf was getting ragged, he made a tie, and when he could no longer wear the tie, he made his coat into a button.

I love that story, more for the attitude that things just shouldn't be thrown away, just tossed out because they no longer served the exact purpose for which they were orginally made, but rather, even some things, like an overcoat, that's a bit worn, has some value. I like the idea that things don't have to be thrown away.

And I like recycling, but it just feels better to reuse the thing, whatever it is, even if it can be recycled.

When we first started brewing, Deus Ex Machina and I purchased many dollars worth of those fancy-smancy Flip Top Bottles for storing our beer. At some point, we realized a couple of things: first, when one brews beer from a kit (like this one), it comes with bottle caps; second, a bottle capper is a one-time, fairly inexpensive purchase; third, the rubber gasket on the flip-top caps have to be replaced; and fourth, while it's true that one can get cash back for returning beer bottles (five cents per bottle), reusing them is both cheaper than buying new bottles, and a healthier environmental alternative.

I know. Someone has just scoffed, but it's true. REusing is better than recycling and even better than returning for cash. Anyone who has ever returned a beer bottle knows that the bottle is broken. The glass is crushed and melted to make new glass. The fact is that it takes a lot of energy to make the new glass, which means that it would be better to find a way to reuse the bottle as a bottle than to return it for the five cents.

I recently found this tutorial for making wine bottles into drinking glasses. I could use some drinking glasses because I have, maybe, two, and so, of course, I'm very intrigued by the process. One of the people who commented suggested that, instead of wasting energy to make the drinking glass, one should consider, instead, returning the bottle, taking the money, and buying glasses at the thrift store.

I think my dad, and Joseph, would both agree that making drinking glasses out of wine bottles makes more sense and is a lot more thrifty than taking the fifteen cents and buying a glass at the thrift store.

Deus Ex Machina and I reuse bottles for our home brew, but I could see me making some glasses out of the extras. We need some drinking glasses anyway ... my guests are getting tired of using canning jars.


  1. Do you remember how glass soda bottles used to go back to the bottling plant and be used over and over again?
    I remember being excited as a kid when I would ger one with an older logo. 8-)

  2. One community I lived in didn't exactly 'recycle' the glass either--they used the crushed glass to line the roads in the landfill, to provide traction for the big machines. In the end, the glass was 're-used' but not in the way people thought it was! Being buried in a landfill isn't exactly my idea of responsible recycling.

  3. Tired of mason jars?!? That's all we use because I manage to destroy all other types of drinking glasses. Maybe you should get new guests? :)

  4. We use mason jars for drinking, reuse our beer bottles for whatever fermented concoction he comes up with (maple wine and re-sugared yeast are brewing now), and purchase any "new" glassware from Goodwill, too. Guess I'm a full member of the proverbial choir today!

  5. We reuse glass peanut butter jars with metal screw tops like we do mason jars - they are perfect for storing single-serve leftovers and make taking lunch to work a breeze. They also have mouth openings the same size as mason jars, which makes filling them very easy, as canning funnels fit them perfectly (unlike spaghetti or jam jars).

    I know an elderly lady famous for her homemade wine. She reuses church wine bottles (the kind with screw tops) and seals them by dipping the closed screw tops in sealing wax. I always thought that was really cool.

    We do recycle beer bottles and soda bottle because we put the deposit returns in our savings account.

  6. I am a closet re-cycle hater....I think it is absolutely ridiculous that people think they can use whatever amount of stuff they want simply because they put it in the re-cycle bin. Don't buy it in the first place if you can help it...the amount of energy used to re-cycle completely negates the effort in my opinion. The best thing about the down economy is that hopefully people are buying less...

  7. Ha ha! and my dad used to save his Grolsch (a brand of beer) bottles that had those flip top lids for his homebrew.
    I don't think recycling is a pass to consume more. But what reaaaaalllly bugs me is when people only set out say newspapers for recycling on paper weeks. Really? That's the only paper you consume? What about junk mail? What about old homework sheets? What about cardboard packaging??? All that is ending up in the landfill due to ignorance.

  8. children's books are my favorite, and this book has been one of my favorite children's books glad to see it mentioned! :-)

  9. We do not have a recycle program here, but we use just about everything up. Papers are saved and use along with lint for fire starters, or writing notes on, we do not buy the newspaper. We raise our own meat, produce, etc. So do not have a lot of packaging, but I like many others am sure I could do a better job.