Boomer’s Journal: The ultimate recycler


A clever way of re-purposing an old mattress box-spring, used in the gardens of Caroline Petefish of Alexandria.


My mother recycled “tin foil” and bread bags like there was no tomorrow. I continue that recycling trait with pride. I just can’t help but get more than one use out of a sheet of tin foil, a.k.a. aluminum foil. The same thing goes for bread bags and baggies of almost every size. I just can’t help it. My mother did it out of necessity…and I paid attention. Those early lessons don’t die easily.

Recycling is not a new concept. The practice of recycling has been around for thousands of years. I had never heard of the word recycling until maybe about 25 years ago, and I didn’t realize we had been doing it since I was born. My parents had married during the Great Depression, and they threw nothing away. If something could somehow be reused…or repurposed or recycled…well, you reused it.

Awareness of re-using things was front-page news during World War II. It was your patriotic duty to participate. During the war, financial constraints and massive material shortage due to war efforts, made it necessary for our parents and grandparents to reuse goods and recycle materials. The war efforts demanded much or most of the resources, leaving little for the home front. Some items, such as metal, rubber…even certain food items, had to be rationed because they were needed overseas on the war front. It became necessary for most homes to recycle their waste, as recycling offered an extra source of materials.


Old tins become useful again.


With recycling, it’s the little things that add up and make a difference. Mother reused the same Mason jars every year as she canned pickles and tomatoes. We reused the same over-sized jar to refrigerate milk taken from the bulk tank, allowing the cream to rise to the top. We skimmed off that cream at the top and kept it in the same cream pitcher, over and over again. There was no such thing as a carton of anything in our refrigerator.

We didn’t have a garbage disposal. Instead, we had a slop-pail…and all of that went to the pigs down by the barn. They loved it. For those things that we just couldn’t find a way to recycle, like soup cans and mayonnaise jars, we took to our own recycling dump. We burned trash in the burn barrel.

We bought groceries at Nelson’s Store in Evansville and Wilbur, and Florence packaged those groceries in cardboard boxes, reused after they unpacked their goods on the shelves. Nothing was wasted, or at least, we tried not to. We really didn’t put much thought into it all. It just was a way of life.

I really wasn’t aware of any environmental movement in the ‘60s; however, I guess recycling would soon become a “trend.” By the ‘70s rising environmental consciousness took off, and recycling “drop-off” centers were beginning to be established. Twenty-five years ago, in 1990, the Lake Region Press in Alexandria reported that curbside pickup of recyclables began. We also had a universal symbol for recycling.

Today, recycling has taken on a whole new concept. A new word has popped up in the vocabulary…and repurposing of old things has taken off in a whole new direction. If you can think of ways to rescue an old item that was headed to the dump and repurpose it, well, you are really “with it.”


An old rake makes a great coffee cup holder.


We are dedicated recyclers in our household. I am thankful that my parents taught me this valuable lesson at an early age, and I’m thankful that I can consciously contribute to a better environment.

As for repurposing, I’m still reusing my sheets of tin foil until they disintegrate…or burn at the bottom of the oven.

#recycle #reduce #reuse

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