Recycling is a part of our everyday life. We wash out our plastic and glass containers and throw those countless paper advertisements into the recycling bin. Water bottles, juice bottles, and pizza boxes sometimes bring the heap to the top of my bin! (My housemates contribute a lot to this recycling bonanza.) But before we started practicing what we know as recycling, we were already reusing and repurposing in a major way. So many of us remember the milk bottles that were rinsed out and sent back with the milkman to be sanitized and reused indefinitely. Our soft drink bottles were also reused. Clothes were handed down to younger brothers and sisters, furniture was passed on to relatives or friends just starting out. Everything possible that could still be used was passed on.
In still earlier times, a common form of recycling was the re-use of material in the stitching of quilts. Scraps left over from making dresses were set aside to be sewn together in blocks approximately eight square inches in size. These blocks were then stitched together to form colorful quilts which in turn were used as attractive bed covers.
Can you imagine even pages of print being reused? In medieval times, writing was done on sheets of vellum which were made from the hides of sheep, cattle, or goats. It was a laborious process to prepare the animal skins to be clean, flat, and suitable for being written on. One shortcut was to reuse old pieces of vellum whose writing was no longer valued. The sheet of vellum would be scraped and smoothed so that it could be written on again. This reused vellum is now called a palimpsest.
So when we recycle our used items, we are following an honored tradition. Come participate in our own exchange of gently used goods at our next IN Day, themed “Toys, Books, and Small Household Items Exchange”, Thursday, March 19, 1:30-3:00 at Zion Lutheran Church.