Who Knows Where the Stuff Goes?

by Karoline Steavenson

If you have not watched the 20 minute video called “The Story of Stuff” by now please take a break and watch it as soon as you can. It was created by Annie Leonard.

The Story of Stuff

The message of “The Story of Stuff” is that our whole world is based on a linear model of consumption. The wealthy people of the world, and that’s most Americans, Europeans and other members of developed societies, buy things. Lots of things. Some of these things they need, but some they don’t need.

When citizens of wealthy nations finish using their stuff, or when they simply get bored with it and long for a change, they throw it out. A small percentage of it gets recycled. Most of it winds up in landfills or in the oceans.

Since most of it is not recycled what we have is a linear system that ends with billions of piles of toxic chemicals encased in trash, or billions of pounds of toxic gases released when the trash is incinerated. Leonard points out that each of us who consumes stuff has a responsibility and opportunity to end this wasteful, linear system every time we recycle.

Here are some creative ways businesses, non-profits and individuals are recycling our stuff:

Trashy Bags – The sight of tens of thousands of plastic water and ice cream bags in Ghana inspired Stuart Gold to start a business in which he and his employees fuse the bags together and sew them into handbags, backpacks, and other types of satchels.

Clothes Made From Scrap – Clothes made from recycled fabric.

Patagonia Recycled Fleece – Patagonia sells a line of clothing made from recycled plastic bottles.

Clothing Swaps – Let’s face it ladies, from a young age we have been taught to love new clothes. While we could give our old, gently worn items to thrift stores, charities, friends or family members, there is another way. MeetUp.com has several local clothing swap clubs listed on their website or you could plan a clothing swap of your own. Give away some clothes and take some clothes new to you and every one leaves happy! Beside the satisfaction of knowing you gave new life to some perfectly good clothes, you can also experience the thrill of shopping for free.

If you have some old clothes that none of your friends want, charities don’t need, or are too worn out for anyone, take them to The Goodwill or The Salvation Army. They specialize in sorting clothing. They send the rag clothing off to be recycled.

Leonard has made a few other videos entitled “The Story of Bottled Water”, “The Story of Cosmetics” and coming soon, “The Story of Electronics”.

The media often confronts us with the fact that we are all part of a global economy now. We are part of a global trash problem too.

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