Recycling or Repurposing for a Brighter Future

The throw-away society has cost us dearly, and now we begin a process of reclaiming products for a cleaner future.

Dr. Patricia Farrell
4 min readDec 16, 2020


Photo by Nick Fewings

Thanks to my mother, not a single cardboard box has found its way back into society. We receive gifts in boxes from stores that went out of business twenty years ago. — Erma Bombeck

Pop quiz time: Which is better, recycling, or repurposing? I’ll give you five minutes to think of your answer and write it down.

In disposable societies worldwide, buy, use and toss would seem to be the mantra used by too many. We dispose of things. Our garbage cans of blue and grey line driveways where they are waiting to be picked up by the recycling trucks.

The average American produces 1,704 pounds of garbage per year, roughly three times the global average, according to a new report by the research firm Verisk Maplecroft.

Across 194 countries, the researchers found that the world produces 2.3 billion tons of municipal solid waste each year, which is enough to fill 822,000 Olympic-sized pools. Of this waste, just 16% is recycled, while 46% is disposed of unsustainably in ways that harm the environment.

Photo by Meritt Thomas

What Really Happens to Our Waste

Waste from the US is sent, usually, to recycling centers. There, it is turned into products we can reuse like sneakers or roadway materials, and what a relief that must be for everyone.

This is not the experience of Nguyễn Thị Hồng Thắm, a 60-year-old Vietnamese mother of seven, living amid piles of grimy American plastic on the outskirts of Hanoi. Outside her home, the sun beats down on a Cheetos bag; aisle markers from a Walmart store; and a plastic bag from ShopRite, a chain of supermarkets in New Jersey, bearing a message urging people to recycle…



Dr. Patricia Farrell

Dr. Farrell is a psychologist, consultant, author, interested in flash fiction writing (, and health.