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Eric Larson

True confessions: A plastics engineer gets personal with plastics recycling, part three

Is moving a type of recycling, wonders plastics engineer Eric Larson in part three of his saga.

The move was not something I had been planning. I had been living—and working—in the house for 10 years. Longest I had lived in one place since high school. But the new owners had new ideas for the property. So I had to move.

You may be familiar with Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant. That’s right, an organizing consultant, not an organizational consultant. She helps people organize the things in their life. One of the questions she asks about the things people own:

Does it bring you joy?

It is a beautiful question, partially inspired by the Shinto religion, that helps you understand the treasure in the things that you own, while allowing you to live your life with purpose and joy. 

As part of my move, I did some evaluation of the things in my life. I am not a collector, or a hoarder, but I do have a lot of stuff. I think most of the stuff I own brings me joy. (There might be an occasional moment where something I own is not bringing me joy, but those moments usually fade quickly.)

In my evaluation, I also considered the practical matters of my move:

Does it bring me joy?

How much joy?

How much does it weigh?

How easy is it to move?

Can it be easily replaced?

Does it have any monetary value?

I spent a few weeks on this evaluation, estimating the size and weight of things, getting quotes from movers, pondering. Then reality clicked in. I needed to move, and I needed to move now.

I quickly shifted into transition mode, with a fierce keep/sell/discard mentality.

There were lots of things I wanted to keep. All of which bring me joy. There were also things I wanted to keep, but couldn’t justify. And there were things I didn’t want any more. So I started purging. I put “for sale” ads on Craigslist and Facebook and eBay. I hosted a few garage sales. I sold some stuff. Actually, I sold a lot of stuff. And I discarded lots of things.

Some of the discards I put in the recycle bin. Here in San Diego we have curbside recycling for “recyclable material,” although I am always confused as to what is and is not “recyclable.” Some of the stuff I donated to charitable groups: Goodwill, the Salvation Army, Father Joe’s. And I gave a lot of stuff away.

There is a funny thing in the human psyche about getting something for free. You can try to sell something at whatever price, and people will argue and haggle about value to no end. But if you offer to give something away for free, people will knock themselves out to come get it.

When I give something away, I sometimes wonder if I should ask the new owners whether they will use the items wisely and responsibly, and that when they are finished with their use, if they will discard them in a sustainable, environmentally aware manner. But the simple fact is, I really don’t care. I just want to get it out of here.

On the PE film front, I’ve been continuing with my recycling efforts. This month I am collecting everything in a leftover PE film bag. It once held eight Mega Plus rolls of Charmin toilet paper. Each roll irresistibly soft.

Image courtesy Todd Lapin/flickr.

Read part four of this series.

Eric R. Larson is a mechanical engineer with over 30 years' experience in designing products made from plastics. He is the owner of Art of Mass Production, an engineering consulting company based in San Diego, CA. Products he has worked on have been used by millions of people around the world.

Larson is also moderator of the blog site, where he writes about the effective use of plastics. His most recent book is Poly and the Poopy Heads, a children’s book about plastics and the environment. It is available on Amazon.

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