Recycling Twenty Five Years Ago

o the environmental restoration project signed by our Area Representative and managed by Rojas Schulz and Nelder is looking at waste management control. They are telling us that waste management ensures that garbage is lessened and the best way to do this is to REUSE as much as possible. Very true.

Did you know that we in San Pedro practiced waste management to a great extent twenty five years ago? However, I must confess that the art of reusing or recycling was not done for waste management purposes but rather due to poverty or to save a few pennies.

The condensed milk tin can was not discarded as a useless object. It was opened carefully and part of the cover was carefully folded to make a handle. This milk can was used as a dipper or even as a drinking cup.

Mother's or sister's dress, when it got old and unusable, was not discarded. It was hung from a nail in the bathroom and used as a towel. We never purchased nice towels in the 1950's. Everyone had a dress, usually of a different color so that they would not be mixed up.

There was some toilet paper on the shelves at one shop but that was only purchased by the wealthy families in San Pedro and there were only one or two. In place, the shop paper bags and newspapers or magazines were crumpled until they were as soft as possible and used as toilet paper. Others cut up old clothes and rags into square pieces and these were used as part of the toiletries.

Little pieces of cloth were never thrown away. They were cut into strips, and we used to make floor mats that were used at the entrance door or at the foot of the bed. They were very soft and elegant, we thought.

Baby bottles were not purchased at the stores, though there were some available. A pint bottle of lemonade was properly washed and a nipple was simply placed over the mouth and there you had a perfect "baba" or baby bottle. Talking about bottles, the islanders would walk down the beach and picked up strange or uncommon bottles to use them as water containers.

There were many items that drifted up the beach that were collected to be used in some way or the other. This included bottles, Styrofoam pieces, glass bottles, plastic balls, lumber, bamboo, plastic buckets and even plastic sandals. There were times when a villager would need a four or five inch nail and there was none at the store, so he would pick up a piece of lumber on the beach with used nails, and he would remove them, straighten them and reused them on the job. Ropes were never allowed to remain on the beach; they were gathered and reused on boats and dories. If a man needed a very strong rope, he might find one of those glass buoys covered with rope and he would carefully untangle the rope, throw away the glass buoy, and kept the rope. (Those glass buoys now sell for 200 dollars.

At home left over food was never thrown away. It was always warmed for the following day or days. Traditionally food stuff like jam or jelly, peanut butter, mayonnaise and olives came in round glass containers with a screw type lid. These round glass containers were recycled into very handy storage containers to store flour, sugar, salt, recado, black pepper, coconut oil, etc. The leftovers that were not fit for human consumption were fed to the hogs, dogs, chickens and rabbits.

An old piece of rubber was used on a slingshot. A discarded milk box, a sturdy one, made a valise for a fisherman going on a trip. Pig tail buckets became water cans. An empty paint bucket became the pail used at the well. A shirt was passed from older brother to younger brother.

Tin cans were opened very neatly and used as tea cups, coffee mugs or for lack of a better word, drinking vessels. Expensive biscuits came in a beautifully decorated round or rectangular metal cans. These metal cans made excellent and beautiful jewelry boxes. They were also used as organizer boxes to store thread, yarn and knitting materials.

Tin cans were also recycled into toys. I am talking of toys like caperucho, telephones, noise wheels (tin cans half filled with marbles or small stones and dragged with a string), or stilts that acted like high heels.

Old clothing like dresses were recycled into several usable items. They made absolutely fine towels for family members. Cut into small squares, they made excellent toilet paper more aptly called toilet cloth or tissue.

Let's talk about metal drums. Four of them made a fine shallow fresh water well. One drum made a good reservoir for storing rain water. One quarter of a drum cut at the bottom was used as an oven to bake bread over a fire hearth. Half a drum, the bottom half, was aptly used as a huge cooking pot to fry pork fat and skin to make crispy chicharron (pork rind).

Ashes which is normally discarded in most parts of the world was recycled years ago in San Pedro. A bucket of ashes added to five buckets of well water converted hard water into soft water that lathered like a shampoo. It was used to wash linen and soft clothing or to give one's hair a fine ‘shampooing’ .

Traditionally only a few women wore shoes; men did not. But there was a need to protect the feet when working in the bush or areas with plenty of burrs. To do this men found old rubber tires, cut them to the shape of their feet, attached some strings to it and came up with a pair of rustic sandals called "apargatas".

There are many more examples of recycling due to need, but let me end with this. All lumber which drifted to or beaches was collected by the villagers and put to good use. This lumber was used o build outdoor toilets or latrines as well as fences. Even some patio kitchens with their fire hearts were constructed with drift lumber found on our beaches.

Indeed 25 years ago, we recycled and reused everything including names, thus there were many juniors on the island. Today younger parents prefer to use the names of actors and popular singers and reuse very few things. Some young lady will use a dress once and then no more because another young lady in town has worn a similar one. Not so 25 years ago when even christening outfits and a few wedding dresses were reused. Let's reuse newspapers. Ours makes excellent paper for cleaning show windows, as good as Bounty.

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