It’s crazy what some people throw away.
It’s hardly a secret that I’ve spent a lot of time combing through other people’s garbage. I can’t stop myself from excitedly telling everyone about my finds.
Sometimes it’s part of a clean up effort. Other times it’s roadside, in piles left out for council cleanup. In the latter case, I know there will be treasures amongst the discards.
And I do find the most useful things. Stools, bedside tables, laundry racks (two, matching, from separate junk piles), bookshelves, a drafting table, a hat, a mirror, tent pegs, plant pots, plants, etc. I’ve managed to furnish my apartment almost entirely with secondhand (and often free) pieces.
I once carried two long IKEA birch floating shelves about a kilometre from where they lay back to my place, then up three flights of stairs. They are not light. With the addition of two cinder blocks, they now form an ideal side table / bookshelf / plant display. IKEA hack indeed.
Why do I do this? It’s not that I can’t afford to buy new things. I am very much privileged, not poor.
I am a freegan because:
- Much of what is thrown away is simply not junk.
- I can’t bear the thought of useful things going to landfill.
We’re not only consumers, we’re landfillers.
We already know that as a society, we are hyper-consumers. Buying more than we can use or enjoy is already silly and wasteful. It’s just a whole extra layer of psychosis to be landfilling Things all the time only to replace them with more Things just like them.
Some of us have more than our fair share by luck, not virtue. When we don’t steward our goods into an appropriate recycling or reuse stream, we abuse the privilege.
The production inputs of a thing are not actually a sunk cost if they contribute to one fewer new thing being produced that didn’t need to exist.
If something is no longer useful to us, we need to make it available to others.
It’s why secondhand shops work – many people can use and will regularly pay for used goods. Me included. A significant amount of my wardrobe is from Vinnie’s, Salvo’s, or clothing swaps with friends. I’ve even been described as well-dressed on occasion! A small proportion of what I wear has been indefinitely borrowed from sisters 😉
I still buy some things new, in case you’re wondering. Toothbrushes, helmets, and a few other things are best in new condition. I just make secondhand my first choice in as many ways that I can, including clothing and homewares.
Closing the loop on Zero Waste.
When you are living with the intention of generating as little waste as possible, it becomes psychologically difficult to buy things that you don’t think will last, or don’t know how to reuse, recycle, or rot. Making use of what others are trashing is one way to close the loop and be the change that the circular economy requires.