City Dweller, Country Skills: Re-purposing our individual plastic waste

tools jar

Two problems consumers lament regarding plastic waste and environmental damage:

  • Excessive plastic packaging
  • Plastic waste ending up in the oceans where fish, birds, etc end up eating the plastic

I’ve been brainstorming for a couple years about a way for individuals to creatively recycle and re-purpose plastic packaging when we’re done with it.  I came up with a “wish list” – one household per neighborhood having a sturdy, quasi industrial-scale compactor at home which could be shared with neighbors.  Individuals could compact multiple waste items together into single rectangular shapes we could re-use.

  • A basket full of used paper could be shaped into compacted logs for burning in wood stoves to heat homes or used over the fire on camping trips.
  • Small bits of plastic could be compacted together into rectangular objects for various uses – making cutting boards for the kitchen, fashioning larger rectangle pieces to patch together a bench, etc.

Okay, I’ve come to accept that purchasing quasi-industrial compactors in many neighborhoods could be financially impractical, at least without widespread support.  Certainly not personally feasible for me at present.

So, for now I’m working on a smaller scale.  As shown in the photo above, I went to the hardware store and bought some home fix-it tools to experiment with small-scale compacting by hand.  Also, I’ve heard the news stories about small plastics ending up in the oceans where it gets swallowed by fish and birds; I’m doing my own small bit by saving used plastic lids in a container (while I phase away from buying them less often!) with the idea of using the full container for some functional purpose (door stop?  Or?).


In future blog posts, I’ll continue sharing my experience about “city dweller learning and sharing country skills” topics such as working with fabric and sending a homemade comforter to the woman in Ireland who now owns the home my family owned until a century ago. If you appreciate my post about re-purposing plastic packaging, please check back for future posts about learning “country skills” in the city.