Straightening Bent Nails

I am sure that I am not alone in taking credit for starting the recycling movement. It didn’t start out of a save the Earth movement, it came out of let’s be practical and my family members were the royals of practicality. My dad was a tinkerer; he would go to the dump and find some throwaway, like, say, an old shelf, and turn it something functional, like a pretty lamp or a birdhouse. He was creative, with quite the imagination, and could literally make something out of nothing.

My mother also had an inclination toward re-use. I recall her washing and clothesline drying plastic bags that had originally held loaves of bread. They would surely be good for something! She taught me to cover my schoolbooks with paper sacks so as to offer year-round protection. She never wasted a scrap of wrapping paper, many times getting three or four years of use for our Christmas presents, and eight or ten years out of re-used ribbons. My dad taught me how to straighten bent nails, and if I had nothing else pressing, I could spend an afternoon pounding out bent nails. I often nipped my fingers with the hammer, but a little nip was nothing compared to having to buy new five-cents-per-pound nails. I would sort them by length and girth into baby food jars that my dad had rescued from, you got it, the dump.

With my aunt, it was rubber bands. The newspaper carriers bound their deliveries with rubber bands, and my aunt saved them until she had a few hundred and bestowed them on the newspaper carrier as his tip. It was almost money, after all, since he wouldn’t have to buy new ones. She also kept her eye out for string. She tied it into a ball and keep it handy for those things that needed to be bound together. (Never buy a ball of string when you have perfectly good recycled string. And I am not the only one who thinks so…have you seen the ball of string exhibit in Missouri or the twine ball in Kansas?) I recently heard of a lady who gets this! She was diligent about her string saving, and apparently the ball grew quite large. But some pieces of string were too short to attach to the ball, you know the ones…two, three inches long, clipped from when you had to tie up a package. For those string remnants, she kept a special box, and labeled it: Strings Too Short to Use. Talk about someone who should win the much sought-after title of Recycling Queen.

It pains me to toss away or send to recycling the containers that we get at the market or take-away restaurants. They are perfectly good, could be cleaned, and hung outside to dry. Maybe we could make our own roadside exhibit, The Largest Stack of Plastic. I’m sure it would be a hit.

Do you have a memory of some long-ago recycling material? Mention it here!

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