Tuesday 10 April 2012

What a Waste

So there I was, continuing my assault on all the junk we seem to have accumulated since having children, when I had one of those moments.  By which I mean, one of those moments when you realise, all of a sudden, in a moment of clarity, that something is mightily wrong with this picture.

Children, as all parents know, seem to accumulate stuff like iron filings to a magnet, and they also seem to trash a lot of it.  OK, kids can be quite rough with their toys, no matter how much effort you put into trying to keep them calm.  And, certainly, toys are not build to last.  It seems no matter what you do, no sooner have they got their grubby mitts on their latest acquisition, than it's broken.

So, having made my peace with the need to throw some of this stuff away, I headed off to the tip.  As I said yesterday, we actually ditch very little stuff.  Apart from the usual recycling, we make a real effort to send old and unwanted clothes, toys and books to charity shops.  Given that we buy the bulk of said clothes, toys and books from charity shops in the first place, it feels like we're almost borrowing stuff rather than owning it, a grand circle of use and reuse, with various charities making money along the way.  How virtuous it all sounds.

But, amazingly at the tip, there were incredible things being thrown away, some of which looked to me like they were perfectly salvageable.  If I knew what to do with them.  Which, of course, I don't, possessing virtually no practical skills whatsoever in the mysterious domain of make do and mend...  And then I thought (here's that "moment" I mentioned at the beginning) well, if I don't have a clue what to do with all this stuff, and it looks so usable, probably everyone else here is looking at me, and thinking exactly the same - "why is that man throwing away that perfectly usable x, y and z?"

Then I started thinking, should I have tried putting it on freecycle, even though it was broken and / or mouldy?  Is there some magical place, like Bagpuss' shop window, where broken and discarded things can be brought back to life and reused?  I thought, the UK must surely have enough washing machines, cookers, bicycles, whatever to last the next hundred years, but half of them are probably broken for the want of someone who knows what they're doing to fix them.  Even if we could only fix some of them, surely (same line of thinking) we have enough washing machine parts, if they were all stripped down, to make up enough washing machines (or cookers, or bicycles) to last us the next hundred years?  What about cars?  We should almost never have to import any consumer white goods ever again, if we knew, properly, how to make things, mend things and reuse them.  And do this as a matter of course.


  1. How do you find out how to do stuff with stuff, when you're rubbish with rubbish? Check out the The Remakery in (Transition) Brixton


    Very cool.

    All the best,


  2. There are people collecting broken appliances via
    and amalgamating the working parts. One of them took my vintage washing machine, after it had a fatal accident. He said that he needed something to do in the evening whilst his girlfriend watched Latvian TV!

  3. one problem of today is (unlike than many of our foreign friends!) a lot of younger English people (I quite deliberately say English as the situation is slightly better in the Celtic countries of the UK) no longer get involved in electronics (as opposed to just using computers) as a hobby - otherwise they would hoard a lot of "broken" brown/white goods for components.

    Although much audio and IT equipment is now highly miniaturised and difficult (though not impossible!) to salvage parts from, larger items such as white goods are more easily repaired or repurposed.

    This kind of hobby however remains popular amongst the older generations particularly in the London suburbs and EA, and is slowly making a resurgence amo1ngst some younger people though its no way as common in England as it was in the 70s and 80s... even those who are into technology treat much of it as a throwaway item (for instance even entire sound systems which are sacrificed at some unlicensed music events as they know coppers will confiscate them (which of course means the cops suspect the youths of having lots of laundered drugs money to spend and investigate these events and those involved accordingly). that said this may have been ingrained into those below 30 by the relative affluence of previous years and lack of durability of toys mentioned in the post...

    There was in Ipswich a shop selling second hand washing machines and the like, I think some East European chaps ran it..


  4. You can now donate your items at your local recycling centre, check out the details here: