LARSON: Let's recycle the old-fashioned idea of recycling

Susan Larson

Susan Larson

In 1991, when the Braves made the World Series, I was subbing in a special education class. These kids could read only a few sight words and had practically no math skills.

But one of them did manage to catch me off guard.

The custodians had delivered new tables that day and I asked if I could keep the shipping boxes to recycle into giant tomahawks for the kids to celebrate the Braves' victory.

"What difference does it make if we just throw them away or turn them into tomahawks first, and then throw it away? They take up the same space in the Dumpster," a young man said.

Well, yeah, but isn't it just fun giving any and all castoffs one last chance in this world before meeting their final demise? When I was a teacher my kids made castles and pyramids out of refrigerator boxes. They made an igloo out of sheets of Styrofoam and a 10-foot replica of the Peachtree Plaza out of Baskin Robbins containers. I saved toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, Leggs eggs, you name it, for my sons' teachers and Boy Scout leaders. Everybody loved me for it.

But then things started to change. Delivery men kept their cardboard boxes to recycle for profit. Leggs eggs were phased out because they took up too much space in landfills. The health department declared used ice cream containers to be a health hazard.

Then the curriculum became more standardized. Craft projects consisted of purchased kits with pre-cut shapes that fulfilled AKS objectives. And teachers became busier and busier preparing their students for tests and didn't have time for cutesy little craft projects anyway.

My teacher friends got to the point where they actually requested me not to burden them with my junk anymore. They said dealing with it, and knowing they'd never get to use it anyway, was just one more hassle. And besides, it made them feel guilty when they eventually threw it away.

But a few weeks ago I thought I'd traveled back in time when I saw a list of items our church educational director was asking us to save for Vacation Bible School: oatmeal containers, tissue boxes, cottage cheese containers, egg cartons. I haven't seen a request like that in years. Then I got to thinking. Maybe other people out there want to do some old-fashioned creative recycling projects as well.

So here's what I'll do. If your church, summer camp or Scout troop wants to give some toilet paper rolls, coffee cans, milk jugs or any other cast-offs one more chance to lead a meaningful and purposeful life, send me your requests. I'll recycle as many of them as I can through a future column. But love me or not, I get first dibs on the oatmeal boxes.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.