Recycling In Brown Families

Global Recycling Day happens on March 18. Created in 2018 it celebrates the importance recycling plays in preserving the planet. It encourages people to think resource instead of waste when it comes to the goods around us. FATIMA MOOSA writes about how her family approaches recycling.

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Ice cream Containers

Growing up in my community, it was a commonly joked about that if you opened the freezer for ice cream you were likely to be in for an unpleasant surprise. Instead of creamy ice cream, you would probably find leftover food or masala used for cooking. The 2 litre or 5 litre ice cream containers were not to be thrown away when the ice cream’s finished. Instead, they were carefully stored in cupboards to be given a second life. Those were disappointing times – especially for kids – when we found it in the freezer. There it would be used for storing food and the like. Or it was given to the family.

In a brown household, the importance of genuine Tupperware cannot be overstated. Those things are expensive and losing one is frankly blasphemous. So it’s really not an option to given family food or baking in those. Heaven forbid the aunty loses it or doesn’t return it. That’s when the reliable ice cream container makes a reappearance. It’s usually handed over readily without worrying about getting it back. The container was also used when the nice Tupperware couldn’t be stained with the food. If you know anything about Indian food then you know the turmeric really leaves stains including in the Tupperwares. Once more the ice cream container comes to the rescue.

The ice cream container really has a long second life. It’s not only used in the kitchen. All of those little bits and pieces of things lying around the house goes into them as well. From sewing materials to buttons the ice cream container lives on. It’s so much better than spending money on fancy storage containers. With the containers, it’s free and so practical to use. It’s not only the ice cream container which has a second life span. Reusing Tupperwares includes the margarine and butter containers. Anything that can be reused will be reused. Got a disposable takeaway container – you can bet that it’s going to be rewashed and put away to be used at another time.

Always finding new uses for old things

There’s another joke that brown mums would scold you for not putting things in the right place. Meanwhile, they would be putting frozen chilies in ice cream containers, medicine in cookie jars and needles in biscuit boxes.

Writing in the Atlas Obscura, a Latin American woman wrote about she would open up the Royal Dansk Cookie container expecting to find buttery cookies and never finding them. Instead, she found wine corks her mother saved up for an art project and photos from her Communion. She even ran a survey to find out from people why the cookie tins held baubles instead of biscuits.

Wrapping paper and newspaper

Usually getting a gift means keeping it and throwing away the paper or bag in it. Not if you’re brown. The wrapping paper and gifts bags are kept together to use when giving someone else a gift. It’s not unusual to find a gift bag filled with other bags in a cupboard. Buying the newspaper in a brown household is not just buying it to read. Those pages have a long life. They are kept to be used for a number of things. This can be wrapping vegetable waste or to line the inside of the shelves. Few things have a single life including newspapers and wrapping paper.

Plastic bags

That brings me to the next thing: plastic bags. We know plastic bags are really bad. They usually end up in the oceans, drain systems, and other water sources. They are harmful to the environment including the animals and planets around those areas. Entire dams and lakes are being damaged by plastic bags. There really is no positive case to be made for why they should be used.

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In my home though and the homes of other people I know, plastics – at least – do not have a single use. If they’re given at stores with groceries or other purchases, this doesn’t signal the end of their life. Instead, they’re collected into a bunch and stored away. I am sure if you go into the kitchen of most people of colour you will find a plastic filled with other plastics. These’re used for a variety of purposes. The only point is that they don’t have a single use. Plastics are bad but we know they won’t be going away anytime soon. So we might as well reuse them instead.

Honestly, there are so many innovative ways to recycle products in the household without having to use elaborate recycling methods which are out of reach for most people. It’s also such a unifying experience at least speaking from a personal identity view. Whether you’re a brown person from South Africa, India, United States or anywhere else we all share the universal experience of reusing and recycling.

I mean, have you ever truly experience childhood trauma if you haven’t opened an ice cream container for an afternoon snack and instead found some frozen masala? It’s a beautiful shared experience and a lovely recycling habit. So happy recycling!

What unique recycling traditions do you have in your family? Tweet us @thedailyvox or comment below.

Featured image via Flickr