“Waste not, want not” was a great favourite saying of my mother’s and it was a maxim she certainly lived by.  In our house, nothing was ever allowed to be thrown away. Old pieces of string were carefully collected and put in a box for re-use – as was any wrapping paper, especially when used for birthdays and Christmas.  We had the oldest car, the oldest cooker and fridge and throughout my childhood we only had a very small television that was never changed. If something went wrong, a repairer would be called in and it was more than his life was worth to say the item needed replacing.  If we grew out of our hand-knit woollen clothes, they would be carefully unpicked and the wool re-cycled.  Buttons were always removed and a huge button box was the result. Anything that really could not be re-used would be given to Charity.  The same went for food.  A roast chicken would be made to last a whole week, where it took various forms finally ending up as chicken stock made from the carcase, which was then made into soup.  I think the only rubbish that literally couldn’t be re-used like tins was all that went into the dustbin, but even these tins would often be washed out, re-painted and used as containers for other saved items. In the garden all fruit would be collected and usually bottled.  Apples were stored on racks in the garden shed and used throughout the winter  – by spring they were pretty wrinkled and soft inside, so had to be used in cooking, especially with the bottled fruit I remember.

How totally different from our world today.  When my own children were young I did try and emulate my mother a little, but I found I had little time to do all that she had done.  Occasionally old curtains would be cut up and made into cushion covers, but that was about it. By then if something needed replacing it was just replaced, usually cheaper than calling out a repair man.

But now I watch, with some alarm, my grandchildren throwing out and replacing their mobiles on a yearly basis, along with their laptops and any other gadget. They are not actually broken or worn out, just considered out of date!  Cars are also frequently replaced, along with all the white goods.

There is a serious side to this.  Like many others I have read and watched what our cavalier disregard for rubbish is doing to our countryside, rivers and oceans. Fly-tipping is now a common occurrence and the perpetrators are rarely tracked down and punished. Weekly trips are made to the rubbish tip and we will soon run out of landfill and then what?  There have been efforts made for us all to practice re-cycling, but in the UK we are far behind our Scandinavian neighbours.

Lately Sky News has done an excellent programme on the damage plastics are doing to our rivers and particularly the seas and oceans.  Our beaches are littered with plastic bottles which manufacturers seem to use for every form of liquid, particularly drinking water and fizzy drinks.  This plastic, apart from being unsightly, is then taken out to sea and is causing terrible and lasting damage to our marine life.

So something urgently needs to be done. At the moment it is very little – but the more publicity given to the damage this waste and particularly plastic bottles is doing –  the more the general public will be likely to take action.  It is heartening to see groups of people now collecting up the rubbish and bottles, including many school children.  In London a new shop, Bulk Market, has opened  where all its products are entirely free from plastic.  We can only hope that this initiative spreads.  There is enough damage done to our planet from climate change –     But that subject is for another day…

Talking of nothing wasted – I have just re-cycled some of my verses into a new anthology, SAINT OR MONSTER.  It will be coming out next month, so more of that in my next blog…