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Waste Is Woeful - Trash and Weeds

By Amelia Young for BCN #135

May 18, 2021


Weeds : Plants :: Trash : Materials

Hey buds! Spring has SPRUNG, huh? As local flora show off their petals, half of me wants to don my fanciest frock, and the other half wants to swan dive straight into the DIRT.

**Flower Feelings**

I'm much more of a builder than a gardener, though. When I'm watering my houseplants I'm usually ruminating on woodworking, plastics, and adhesives (while fretting I'll kill these strange, green lifeforms).

This approach to plant care has some benefits, though. For one, I've noticed that weeds and trash are basically the same thing.

Maybe that's obvious, but hear me out. "Weeds" don't exist, biologically speaking. It's a word my culture uses to separate the plants it values from the plants it doesn't. Some "weeds" can hurt people, like poison ivy. Others, like phragmites reeds, choke out native species and harm ecosystems. Still others like dandelions are non-native to this area but mostly harmless, and can be used for food and medicine. And milkweed is native to the Americas and absolutely essential for monarch butterflies, but it's often treated like a weed because it grows quickly and "invades" people's gardens.

The main thing all "weeds" have in common is that people want to remove them.

I think trash is the same, but for materials. Bubble wrap, tissues, and old shoes have very different makeup and functions, but we call them all "trash" and put them in the same garbage bin. "Trash" means materials and objects that we don't want or find useful.

This doesn't mean they aren't useful, though. The internet is overflowing with "upcycling" tutorials for anything a Youtuber can get their hands on. Yes, lots of these videos are stupid, and best enjoyed with popcorn and creative cursing. Some of them are really good though. Did you know you can heat-fuse mylar (the reflective plastic in many snack bags and balloons) with a clothes iron? And that you can then use it to make a solar cooker?

Why do we dump and destroy so much useable stuff?

I'm not advocating for plastics. Plastics are HARMFUL and companies need to stop producing them NOW. I just think the entire concept of "trash" might be part of the problem. If our society valued the things we throw out for what they can do, maybe we wouldn't have a waste crisis to begin with.

Billions of dollars are spent by corporate lobbyists to retain our *garbage system*. However, ordinary people can still resist it. If you're an artist or maker, why not use trash as source material? Curbside couches can be skinned for leather. Recycling bins offer paper and cardboard for bookbinding. I once talked my local yacht club into giving me yards and yards of white shrink wrap for making drums.

Trash is tragic but it's free, and a handcrafted wallet is much better than greenhouse gases from waste incineration.

- Amelia


Check out all the art and columns of May's Boston Compass at



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